Reviews of Snow Crash (1992)
Review by polarisdib (2009-07-03)
Well, so I was going to finish up with later Stephenson before turning towards earlier Stephenson, but finding myself unable to discuss Stephenson at all without this book getting mentioned by the other party (or the other party not knowing who Stephenson is, the other extreme), and getting a direct recommendation for it from another led me to burn through it the past couple of days. Some thoughts:
I can see why this stands out as one of his more popular books (well, okay, his most popular book). It's because it's cool. It has a gripping pace, bad ass characters (word usage Stephenson, not mine), and an insane Aleut. It has hackers, skaters, mobsters, and programmers against rednecks, televangelists, and hints of the government. It has a post-US anarchic society. It has ancient Sumerian myth. What's not to like?
I do see Stephenson filling into his broader stylistic ideas, that being basically that Stephenson will find himself intrigued by something and then research the subject to the ends of its teeth, then turn it into a story, something he's adept at but which is always risky because some topics interest some people more than others. He thinks nothing of going off into strange territory, which is amazing his risk taking, but sometimes doesn't do much for holding the pacing. That's why everyone likes this book the best--he maintains the pacing. However, it didn't mesh as well with my personal interests as Cryptonomicon did. It's a personal taste thing.
There was also a little bit too much of him trying to fit everything into his digital computer mentality to some very strange results. One that sticks out is when he interprets a plate featuring a circle with a line through it from Sumeria as "a man holding a one and a zero." Except that in the same book, it is described that Sumerian language was completely and spontaneously lost in Babel, and with it the simplified cuniform script--plus it's a little absurd to imagine that the one and the zero were the same character as the form it has today. Aspects like that stuck out a little more for me this time than others. But he's not nearly as obnoxious about it as, for instance, Dan Brown, and I like some of the ways in which he was able to actually cite sources within the text (he talks about that in his Afterword, about how fiction books don't have bibliographies, but I think they might as well, in my humble opinion).
The characters were fun and interesting, too. Hiro eventually got a little flat, but YT stands out as one character destined to live on skating through our pop culture consciousness. Can't say I minded Raven much, either.
So definitely worth the time. Of course, it's the linguistic elements that stuck out the most for me, and this book had some pretty striking examples of word-play. I liked looking into the whole Babel issue further, and the idea of language as viral was pretty sweet stuff, too.
Review by walkingdead (2008-06-18)
My favorite part of this book was when Stephenson said that cutting the arteries in someones legs was like "slicing the bottom out of a Styrofoam cup." If you liked that metaphor, you'll like Snow Crash. The Sumerian bits got a tad confusing, but it was all explained and wrapped up in the end. All in all, a great read for fans of video games.
Review by kadambi (2006-03-07)
They say Snow Crash is a "Mind altering romp through future America so outrageous, so bizzare...". It is true except for the bizzare part, for this book represents one of the boldest imaginations of the future human society.
Snow Crash stands out in depicting a future that clearly defies the stale scifi stereotype (Other others usually depict future ruled by a brutal dictatorship or a benign king/duke/emporer).
It is a near perfect objectivist/libertarian future, where the goverment is by and large rendered meaningless (as it should be) and everything has been taken over by private enterprises. It should therefore come as no surprise that such a society is not bizzare but "most natural". That represents the genius of Stephenson's work.
Yet in this future is a raft which probably is a metaphor (built on Sumerien myth) of the current society of zombies ("me") controlled by the "en" (government, religion, virus, take your pick).
Extremely fast paced (right from the depiction of the world's greatest Pizza delivery scene), Snow Crash defies convention, introduces bold new concepts and keeps you engrossed.
Definately one of the most incredible achievements of our times. Read it, reread it. Its fun and hugely entertaining. (9/10).
Review by hammerstein (2004-05-28)
I've just this second finished the book and have to agree wholeheartedly with the reviewer before me (clong). The book is very well written, well paced and full of memorable and consistent (if a little trite) characterisation. However, it just didn't quite push all the right buttons.
The book contains many many crescendos that seem to fizzle out and go nowhere, most disapointingly at the end. I was looking for the next chapter and all there was left to read were the acknowledgements.
That being said, the story is ingenious, well worth reading the novel for and has obviously been extensively researched.
It is a compelling read, the only let down being a poor finale.
Review by clong (2003-12-18)
Snow Crash is a highly entertaining and imaginitive book that I would recommend, but it suffers from poorly written ending. The first three quarters of the book are very readible; the last quarter (from the point they get to the raft) feels contrived, and discontinuous. The whole Raven/YT episode on the raft makes no sense. The final climactic scene is poorly set up and relies on some almost juvenile plot devices. Enjoy it, but don't think too much about it (and I'm not talking about the "willing suspension of disbelief" that any fantasy/sci-fi reader should give to the Sumerian mythology stuff).
Review by Beaver (2003-10-28)
Snow Crash is a cool sci-fi novel that is chock-full of ideas. Stephenson has many interesting ideas on future concepts like the importance of information, city-states and businesses, and the metaverse (virtual reality) vs reality. The story mixes in Sumerian myth, religion and language and relates them all to the parallels with computers / programming / technology / viruses. Snow Crash is very ambitious with bold ideas, but at times resorts to a spewing of theories, albeit interesting ones. The theories are somewhat implausible, but fun nonetheless. The plot keeps you guessing, but sometimes there is a little too much exposition in the revealing, kind of a deus ex machina (literally, with the Librarian). Overall, it was a fun, thrilling ride. I wish it would have continued rather than ending kind of abruptly. 9/10
Review by Avarith (2003-07-31)
My first impression of this book: so hip that it hurts. This book cuts you. (Yeah, I'm being overly dramatic - but I swear, this is what I thought about 50 pages in.) But the style grows on you. It's fast paced, it's fun, it's futuristic. Plus, it's got lots of fun and interesting theoretical stuff involved. Though sometimes the drop from constant action traveling at the speed of sound, to long discussions centering around hypotheticals was a bit - jarring? rough? of a comedown? I don't know - while I enjoyed both types, I might have preferred a bit more of a transition between. (And the end, while workable and very much enjoyable and of a piece with the rest of the book, felt a bit as if he didn't quite know what to do with some of the characters. Fun ending line, though.) I love his version of America. Scary that I can almost see it working
Review by alito (2003-03-12)
Improbable plot explained in long monologues, far-fetched semiotic speculations, ridiculous metaverse interactions. Cypherpunk, 80s style. Still, a light, fan read (nothing more, nothing less).
Review by E-Tigger (2003-03-10)
The end becomes a little bit bizarre when placed in context with the rest of the book's cyberpunk perspective, but still well done.
Review by kevin42 (2003-03-09)
It took me a while to get past the writing in this book. At first it drove me crazy. If this happens to you though, stick with it. This is a book that is just plain fun. By the time you finish the book, you will be looking for more books written with the same style as this one.
Review by slink (2003-03-09)
A truly outstanding cyberpunk novel. Funny, gripping, inventive.
It's thoroughly impossible to put down. And it features one of the finest endings of any book, ever!
One warning, ever read the raft section, on a ferry in force 7 gales. It's not conducive to a nice night!
Review by sTalking_Goat (2003-03-08)
Snow Crash is SO cyber-punk it's post cyber-punk. Re-read that last line and then let it sink in. <br><br>The only complaint about this book I've heard from fans of the genre is that its cliched. Um...Duh! Its a satire. Stephenson took every single maxim and standard from the cyberpunk written in the decade before, dipped it in Mutagenic Goo and bombarded it with Gamma radiation. The result is a satire of a genre thats a satire of the information age. A Meta-Satire if you will. And even with all of that going on he's still managed to throw some pretty heavy stuff about the ancient world in there. Truly an entertaining read.
Review by lmagarga (2003-03-08)
One of the most interesting, original ideas for a novel ever. The writing and characterization are excellent as well, culminating in a riveting, fast paced read that should please even the most jaded SF fan.
Review by MAD-ness (2003-03-08)
A tongue-in-cheek whirlwind of a cyber-punk story with larger than life characters, a furiously paced and fantastic plot and an overdose of style, imagination and action.
As a result of the focus upon a 'virtual world,' comparisons with Gibson's Neuromancer are inevitable. Stephenson's Metaverse is far more hip, vivid and exciting than Gibson's virtual worlds were but Stephenson was able to stand upon the shoulders of giants.
If you are looking for the gritty, thriller/mystery type of novel that Gibson has made a career or writing, you won't find it here. If you are looking for the most accurate and detailed vision of a virtual reality world then you should read Tad William's Otherland. However, if you are looking for a fast-paced, entertaining, exciting, energetic novel that so is packed full of style and fresh ideas that they ooze off of the page then Snow Crash is definitely up your alley.
Review by flagman (2003-03-08)
Snow Crash is an excellent novel that challenges you to read it in one sitting. The frantic pacing of the story, fantastic characters and a fascinating look into ancient history all combine to make it a cyberpunk must-read.