Thoughts on Snow Crash By Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash, written in ’92 by Neal Stephenson is a whirlwind tour through a vision of a future Earth. The cultural and political environment sets the scene for a novel with where order and chaos are entwined, with many fractions having their own law and agenda. With new technologies detailed on almost every page, there’s plenty to keep those imaginative juices flowing throughout the read. Throw in a plot line underpinned by Sumerian and Biblical myth, linguistics and semiotics and a dash of computer basics, and you’ve got yourself a whole load of information to upload.

The technological advances are simple enough to grasp, are well written and appear throughout the text, but the mythic references are largely covered in single chapters which can make the complex connections a little hard to digest for those new to the fields discussed. It feels as though Stephenson did the research for specific chapters, and specific conversations, such as between Hiro and the Librarian and later Hiro, Uncle Enzo and Ng in case he reader didn’t quite get it the first time round. This does seem to separate the reasons for the action from the action itself, making it very easy to forget the high stakes.

The characters are rather two-dimensional, supported by their technologies. If the futuristic tech was stripped away, there wouldn’t be much left of our main characters, especially Hiro who is ‘the hacker’ and not much else. Y.T has more substance, but more often than not is portrayed as a cocky teenager. Other characters are introduced as dropped at will, such as Y.T’s mother who is ditched in a painful polygraph test only to be mentioned at the novels close when Y.T needs a lift home.

The alternate reality, or Metaverse, where many of the characters reside throughout the text is well described and easily imagined. Although I do appreciate that reading this 11 years after its publication I have the benefit of media releases such as the Matrix Trilogy and gaming developments such as Second Life.
The book is an enjoyable read, with plenty of fights, a dash of sex and a whole heap of futuristic tech. There are many comical puns, mechanical dog musings, and creative character names to keep the reader going, including the name of the protagonist – Hiro Protagonist. Overall I do feel the novel ended rather suddenly, with many loose ends. The characters are only constructed through the technologies they use, one exception to this could be Raven, but his character is only explored in any depth towards the end, just before he is killed off.
Snow Crash is a fun read with interested themes; but lacks the characterisation which makes a reader care about their fates.