Snow Crash

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Have you ever heard of the word avatar?  Not the movie, or the TV show but in a video game, or on a computer where you have  “your avatar”?  Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is what popularized the concept and that is one of the least spectacular parts of this book.  This book is a partly dystopic, and frankly realistic, view of America and part Science Fiction.  Oh and it throws in ancient Sumerian language and mythology for fun.  Writing about it like that makes it seem random and disjointed but it is smooth sailing from beginning to end.  

I’ll let our LBPH catalog give you a synopsis:  Hiro Protagonist, swordsman and freelance hacker, delivers pizzas for a Mafia-owned distributor until he loses his job.  Broke and unemployed, Hiro visits the virtual-reality realm known as the Metaverse.  There he encounters “snow crash”, a computer virus and designer drug capable of destroying  systems and users.  Strong language.  

Yep, the Mafia runs the Pizza.  The American Government has been reduced to some really kind of creepy office parks and the postal service.  Corporations are everything and money makes the world go around.  Racism has become codified through the housing complex you live in.  The only free place is the Metaverse, where everyone is equal and money can get you whatever digital experience you want.  Which now includes the drug Snow Crash, which the plot revolves around.  

Hiro Protagonist, wonder what he is to the novel, lives as a knowledge gatherer.  His sometimes business partner, Y.T. has her own weirdness.  She changes from running packages on the freeway, riding a skateboard, to a schoolgirl to hide her job from her mom.  

This book defines Cyber Punk for me.  It is an amazing demonstration of Neal Stephenson’s skills while not being nearly as long as his other books.  It also has its prophetic portions, covering the problems of protecting oneself on the internet and what happens when one man owns so much of the media.