Snow Crash is a book as old as I am. Cyberpunk is a genre noted for capturing a certain zeitgeist, the ennui of the late 20th century measuring up the anxieties and hopes of the digital explosion. We’re about three decades late for it.
I find myself hooked with the first paragraph.
Teenage rebellion. High-speed, high-octane identity crisis. Swords. It plugs straight into adrenaline and plenty of it.
Stephenson has a curious way of making everything fit together. What starts as flavor winds up being critically important. The absurd becomes meaningful, and the meaningful becomes sublime. Complexities fall apart as they go from difficult to familiar, but never get repeated to the point of falling apart.
The prose is divine.
A lot of people forget what cyberpunk is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be glass knives, atom bombs, and crossing five corporate-states’ borders in a single mile of travel. Stephenson’s world comes across as crazy because you can do anything in cyberpunk–anything but live in a perfect world. Hiro Protagonist and his motley crew have to make due with that.
If you want something tame, Snow Crash won’t offer that. It’s raw, bleeding edge, even after so much time.
And it feels true. True in the same way that one can look back at Heinlein or Aasimov or Dick and see a future that could have been. True in the same way that you’d be just as mad as the characters are. True in the sense that the universe comes together that way sometimes.
The one weakness is trying to pull everything together like that. Some of the parts are a little cerebral. Without spoiling the plot, there are parts of the book that feel like reading a museum exhibit. Decent museum exhibits, but it’s still a slow-down.
The ending is thrilling, but more viscerally than intellectually. There’s a twist, and there’s a knock-down drag-out slugfest. A lot of people die, but mostly the bad guys.
And in the end, the world’s not perfect, but it’s a little bit better.
Find it: Amazon affiliate link. I got the Kindle edition, didn’t have any issues with it.
Rating: 5 Rat Things out of 5.
For the kids: No. Definitely not. Extreme violence. Extreme language. Sex. All the things, and straight up to eleven.
Who will enjoy it?
Action fans, cyberpunk junkies, sci-fi types who can deal with the mess of the used future. It’s a somewhat difficult and long read. You’ll want to be able to tolerate info-dumps, but most of the info-dumps are entertaining if you’ve got the right vibes going. Just be forewarned that it blends the action with lulls.