I turned to a sci-fi orientated subreddit to help me decide on which book to read next. I very much wanted to finally take on Neal Stephenson’s work and people tend to have a strong opinion about him, so I wanted to make sure I was introduced to his writing with the right book. Settling on Snow Crash, I remember wincing slightly when I found out the name of the heroic protagonist Hiro Protagonist. It took me about two pages into the book to understand Stephenson’s choice and happily settle with his unequivocal satire and sarcasm.
“Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing—is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”
Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?”
Snow Crash sometimes feels like a mishmash of big but disparate ideas. It makes for a rather rough ride and I understand how it can addle people who want answers to initial questions before moving on to subsequent ones. Written over 25 years ago, it comes as no surprise that aspects of Stephenson’s vision back then are outdated now—though not for the ‘pay ¥200 extra for a twenty-minute delivery or else receive a free pizza voucher’ here in Japan that became an option shortly before I started reading Snow Crash and which could very much be a precursor to the book’s CosaNostra Pizza thirty-minute deadline—but it never undermined my immersion. He weaves his tale and stitches together the power of language, computer science and an ancient religious conspiracy with a cyberpunk post-truth world, and a vastly potential virtual world which—much like the OASIS—still sparks my escapist imagination on a daily basis. However, there are a few loose threads and the ends are not woven in as tightly and securely as I would have liked.
Originally, Stephenson planned to bring Snow Crash as a graphic novel with the help of an artist, which I was not aware of until I read the acknowledgments at the end. It made a lot of sense to me; the way the story was written and how it progressed very much reminded me of a generally fast-paced comic minus the notorious information dumps Stephenson has a penchant for. Luckily most of the latter related to subjects and topics I am interested in. I am somewhat familiar with ancient Mesopotamia and its pantheon—I still name my game characters after Sumerian and Babylonian goddesses—and I am interested in both linguistics and coding. Suffice to say, Snow Crash seemed like the perfect match for me.
Fascinating as the world depicted is with its franchises, burbclave—sovereign micro-states really—and the Metaverse, I felt like there were some shortcomings as the book reached its apotheosis. With its elaborate and inventive ideas, Snow Crash has an immense potential, but instead of coming together in a satisfying way, while it did not really fell apart completely, it did somewhat crash.
Regardless, if I could, would I order pizza from the mafia in Reality and spend time in the Metaverse with my perfectly coded beautiful avatar and wield a katana and wakizashi if anyone gets in my way or antagonises me? Yes. Yes, I very much would.
We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban legends. Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information.