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nkunka

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I like big books.

Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book)

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson Where to even begin with Snow Crash? I guess the first thing that came to mind when I finished reading was, why did I put Stephenson off for so long? This is one of those genre-busting novels that, no matter how you try and describe it, in all sincerity, comes off sounding really lame (like the Dark Tower). Such things need to be experienced first-hand. I mean, if I were to tell you that Snow Crash is the story of Hiro Protagonist, a sword-carrying pizza delivery dude in the 21st century who unravels a computer virus linked to a Sumerian myth with his skateboard-riding fifteen year old partner in an anarcho-capitalistic world and throughout an online reality called the metaverse, and moreover, if I told you that such a cerebral cyber-punk parody is witty, funny, intense, and incredibly smart in its blend of linguistics, cultural anthropology, neurology, and info-tech savvy, you'd definitely look at me like I'm crazy. But it is! It's so, so good.

Stephenson is crazy smart and I literally did a double-take when I checked the publication date of this book. The man basically describes mmos and what we expect of the internet today in 1992. The narrative is smooth, the dialogue crisp, the characters interesting (if not entirely round), and the story compelling. Stephenson has a mastery of pacing that keeps this book engaging on a number of fronts. He manages to interweave long historical, philosophical discussions that are basically applications of Dawkin's cultural meme ideas and biological pathology with philosophy and evolutionary science in smart and inventive ways with intense action scenes involving dueling samurai and wild motorcycle chases at 50,000 miles an hour. For one reason or another, whether its compelling your baser desires for things blowing up or your more refined and civilized brain that requires a smart new synthesis of ideas, Stephenson delivers.

Anyway, whole tomes have been written on Snow Crash so I won't bore you with a cultural analysis. What I found compelling and fresh was Stephenson's core idea that ideas have lives of their own. They infect the mind, like a virus, and especially when it comes to language, there is evidence to support that the brain physically changes in response to patterns that are imposed upon it from the outside. The parallels to the machine world have been made before, but I think in retrospect, especially given the book's publication date, Snow Crash deserves credit as the progenitor of the mind-body(machine) duality in modern science fiction. What if, the mind, like a computer, could be hacked and reprogrammed? It's a brilliant idea and given the explication and rumination it deserves without becoming a rambling bit of academic psycho-neurology.

This book has definitely convinced me it's worth the time to read Stephenson's more massive and more well-known works Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle.