I don’t talk about sci-fi on this blog a lot. But, when I do, it’s usually negative.
You know, I just haven’t read a ton of science fiction in my day–or at least what might be considered “true science fiction.” And the sci-fi I have read…well, Neuromancer. And, well, I bashed Snow Crash in my review last week.
When I look back on Neuromancer, I honestly think I didn’t rate it low enough in my meaningless rankings–probably should be somewhere closer to the Mrs. Dalloway range. But there you go.
And Snow Crash had such potential. But it was like a marathon runner who’s leading the race after 5 miles, then tears his ACL.
All that said, I realize I have skewed views on science fiction. And the two books from the Time list (Neuromancer and Snow Crash) aren’t helping my biased viewpoint.
Snow Crash reminds me a lot of a typical Saturday Night Live episode.
If you know the SNL formula, they start with the strongest skits first. Since the show airs at 11:30 eastern time in the U.S., they schedule the funniest stuff at the beginning, hoping to keep as many viewers for as long as possible.
Around 12:45 a.m., though, and some might argue that it happens much earlier, the stinker skits come out on stage. These aren’t near as funny. They’re sometimes awkward. And, as you sit on the couch while not laughing, you ask yourself, Why did Chris Rock ever leave SNL?
That, in a nutshell, is Snow Crash.
For about 100 pages, I was in love with this book.
Passages like the following jumped off the page:
If you’ve watched Office Space, or The Office for that matter, and read 1984, then you’ll hopefully follow this post.
This passage from Snow Crash is what happens if Big Brother invaded Initech. What we have here is a memo that the federal government sent to its employees–one of whom is the mother of a main character (Y.T.). I know it’s long, but stick with it.
Sure, my 53rd book from the Time list is Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
You might know that. Or maybe you don’t.
But what the heck is a “snow crash,” and how does it relate to this novel?
Great question! I never thought you would ask.
Neal Stephenson explains the term like this in his essay In the Beginning… was the Command Line: “When the computer crashed and wrote gibberish into the bitmap, the result was something that looked vaguely like static on a broken television set—a ‘snow crash’ ”.
The result might look something like what you see in the featured image.
In the novel, the “snow crash” is more than just a computer issue. It’s a drug that is being circulated in the “metaverse”—think World of Warcraft but with just people, not orcs—and will jack up both your computer and your brain.
Wasn’t there a horror film with this concept? You watch a video with a bunch of freaky images and you die a few days later? I wonder if they pulled that from Snow Crash.
I have seen a terrible book cover, and it is Snow Crash.
What is up with this thing?
I know it was 1992, but was graphics software really that bad? This is a book about advanced technology and the internet, and this is the best we can do with a cover?
A cover that looks like something I might have made in my 10th grade graphic arts class?
Let’s examine. There’s a real guy, not a graphic from what I can tell, running down a hall of some sort toward a light, an open doorway. He’s surrounded by some sort of programming code. How fancy.
Now, maybe I’m missing something here. Since Snow Crash is a kind-of over-the-top parody of the cyberpunk science fiction genre, maybe this cover is a little bit of a parody in itself. Maybe it’s purposefully bad?
But why would a publisher do that? Most readers won’t have any idea of what the book’s about, so this cover would be their first impression. Would they get it? Am I not getting it?
Am I like the Chinese paper that thought this article from The Onion about Kim Jon-Un being named the world’s sexiest man was actually true? I love The Onion. Please tell me I’m not misunderstanding The Onion?
And why am I asking so many questions?
Was this cover inspired by the Six Million Dollar Man?
Snow Crash has a strong opening. Whether or not the rest of the novel is good, I can’t say. But I will say that the first 50 pages were outstanding.
The setting is a futuristic society. The main character’s name is pretty awesome: “Hiro Protagonist.” His job? He’s a hacker and pizza delivery driver known as “The Deliverator.”
The pizza delivery company that The Deliverator works for is owned by the mafia–led by a guy named Uncle Enzo. If a driver delivers the pizza late–over 30 minutes–they die. Literally.
Here’s the passage from the book that explains it:
Here’s how the Wikipedia entry to Snow Crash opens:
“Snow Crash is Neal Stephenson’s third novel, published in 1992. Like many of Stephenson’s other novels it covers history, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, memetics, and philosophy.”
Um, okay. It sounds like Bill Bryson might have been thinking of Snow Crash when he wrote A Short History Of Nearly Everything.
I’ve been told that I’ll enjoy Snow Crash—which is my second foray into science fiction on the list—much more than Neuromancer. Let’s hope so, because that bar is pretty low.
The good news is that I’m 30ish pages into the book, and I’m loving it so far. The main character’s name is “Hiro Protagonist.” How can you not love that?
Anyway, here’s a little about Snow Crash and its author, Neal Stephenson: