My much delayed return to reviewing is finally upon us! And by us I am, of course, referring to the 3 bored people and an alpaca named Joe that was mistakenly left near a computer that will see what I am doing here. All joking aside it has been a long road back to productivity. Mental and physical health should not be problematic at the same time but I seem to be getting things back under control so let’s get back to pretending I am a functional adult shall we?
My return review is Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. Now I have heard this book mentioned many times over the years but I just never really heard anything that made me want to read it. Part of that is that I have to be in the right mood for scifi in general and the other part of that is that people have done a terrible job selling it to me. Charles Phipps – author of about 1000 books and probably a few more by the time I finish this review – spent an evening sharing bits and pieces of the writing with me. I ordered the book that night.
Let’s start with the synopsis shall we?
“In reality, Hiro Protagonist (I should hate this name but I can’t) delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc. (This covers the first two chapters), but in the Metaverse (Like the internet but punkier) he’s a warrior prince (hacker with a sword). Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere (one hacker), he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. (Everything bolded is in the last quarter of the book)”
Wow… that synopsis blows goats for money. Just awful. Could not do a worse job telling you anything interesting or useful about the book. It literally tells you the main character’s name, his job for the first two chapters, and then the eventual plot direction for the last fourth of the book. No hint as to the tone of the book or the world or anything worthwhile. Plus the word “infocalypse” engenders a sharp and fiery rage in me usually reserved for news segments about politicians.
Once you get past the shitty synopsis there is a lot to enjoy in Snow Crash. Vibrant characters, excellent world building, socially conscious satire, clever writing, and surprisingly entertaining conversations about Sumerian myth (too bad that last part turns into a huge shitfest at the end of the book but I’m getting ahead of myself there). So much of this book is an absolute joy to read. From stimulating conversations drawing connections between myth and hacking to swordfights in virtual clubs to the most amazing pizza delivery sequence of all time.
Seriously. I would read an entire novel about the pizza delivering adventures of the Deliverator and CosaNostra Pizza. It was the idea for a Shadowrun campaign I never knew I needed. It is the cyberpunk Ninja Burger – and if you don’t recognize those two things look them up. They are both awesome.
Know what else is awesome? The main characters. Hiro Protagonist – hacker, swordsman, and Deliverator – and Y.T. – precocious 15 year old courier who rides a high tech skateboard and drifts off of traffic using a magnetic grappling harpoon. Both of them ooze personality till the setting drips with it. Coloring everything with it like sarcastic, jaded paint. And it’s not just the main characters who stand out. Uncle Enzo of CosoNostra Pizza fame or Vic of the unspecified last name and affinity for sniping or Raven of the insane murderousness, way with women, and nuke strapped to his motorcycle.
The writing is just as vivid as the personalties involved but rather than talk about it I am just going to share one of the most amusing bits of wordsmithing I have ever read:
“Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my.family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken.”
There is so much more that I could go on about. I could gush all over the satire built into the very fabric of the world or ramble about the parallels drawn between myth and modernity. However these things are better experienced than described. An experience that should have left me loving this book with all my withered, black heart – but it didn’t. I want to love this book. I almost feel bad for not loving it. It shines so brightly throughout most of the book. Imaginative and quirky and well thought out.
And then I got to the last 25% of the book.
God damn it. The quirky, imaginative, and well thought out story turns into a Michael Bay film that throws bullshit at you faster than you can follow. Everything is solved with swords and bullets and chase sequences. Major plot elements get hand waved or seemingly forgotten. Deus Ex Machinas – Canis Ex Machina really – make an appearance. Minor characters suddenly become major characters. The main mystery of the book goes full fantasy. It is a shitshow.
What the fuck happened? Did Stephenson run out of time? Did the publisher lose the last fourth and asked whatever monkey was closest to finish it up? Did the author suffer a stroke? Do too many drugs? Not enough drugs? The ending literally left me speechless. It was so much worse than the rest of the book. Not enough to make me hate the book or even regret reading the book but enough to make sure that I could not love it.
All that being said I still recommend the book. Pick it up. Give it a read. Especially if you like cyberpunk (and if you like cyberpunk head over to my story post Code Black and the Amateur Mistake to read my attempt at writing cyberpunk). If you enjoyed my review let me know. Comment, like, and share.