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Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash/ Cryptonomicon

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  • Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash/ Cryptonomicon

    This guy was recommended to me while waiting in line to meet Mike at Dark Carnival in "Sisiter San Fransisco."

    Snow Crash
    Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison--a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.

    In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he's a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that's striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about Infocalypse. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so'll recognize it immediately.

    Great look into the future with ancient Sumerian reference, etc.

    \"No, I think Space is a dimension of Time. My theory is that Time is a field and that Space exists as an aspect of Time.\" Michael Moorcock

    \"All I know about anything is \"I wasn\'t. I am. I will not be.\" Michael Moorcock

  • #2
    I've not re-read Snow Crash since it came out - it was very enjoyable then but it was pretty much heavy satire (along the line of the main characters name) in a Gibson/Sterling cyber-punk world. It was a very fast read.

    I'd say he got good, as in 'books I would read again' with The Diamond Age (which is sort of Steam-punk - imagining a future of nano-technology combined with a return to Victorian morals).

    After that he sort of ditched SF for historical novels and got better - he's not working in other peoples shadows so much : 'Cryptonomicon' has some good Catch 22 style farce, while covering some quite deep issues (having cracked the enemies code, do you act on information and reveal you have cracked it?).

    There are also strong links to his later 'Baroque Cycle' (several characters are ancestors of others, there are similar themes - the Anglo / German intellectual rivalry being one) - which is a good few months reading. The first volume is pretty much a history book to get you up to speed with the era, but the second two move along at a far faster pace.

    The main criticism to be made of all his books is that he can't write women. Actually, maybe he can't do people . . but he does do good ideas, plot and jokes.


    • #3
      How does Cryptonomicon compare to, say, the average Bruce Sterling novel?

      For context, I think Sterling addresses some very interesting issues, but he is also very much a techno-geek (not a judgement, by the way), which has distracted me from time to time while I read his fiction. Having said that, some of that glee is what makes his writing interesting-- at least if I'm in the mood for something pretty light disguised as "big idea" reading.

      Just curious.


      • #4
        Replace techno-geek with history-geek? I think he is much more interested in politics than technology - his future novels have really been more interested in societies (Snow Crash is an imagining of a world where corporations have replaced nation states - and vice versa - i.e. Italy and China as franchised zones in cities - I think it stems from the same concerns re. corporations and branding that were becoming politically fashionable at the time. The Diamond Age is an extrapolation of an absolute technocracy - with the technocrats as a new ruling class, and the revolutionary over-turning of that society). He is guilty of info-dumping.


        • #5
          Thanks, Jules. I like to know what I may be starting before I even open one of those big doorstopper books. The premise sounds interesting, and seems a little different than I had read in our local paper's review, which also characterized Stephenson as an anti-humanity (or at the very least anti-humanist) writer. That characterization doesn't seem to fit.


          • #6
            I read "Snowcrash" when it was first released and thought it was great, though the ending was rushed and pretty unsatisfactory. His next one, "The Diamond Age" I also enjoyed (even down to its almost "Final Programme" ending) but again ran out of steam in the resolution.

            Then came "Cryptonomicon" which I bought in hardback with high hopes immediately on release.

            My review on Amazon went as follows:

            "Buried within this decidely average novel (if you could give 1/2 stars it would have qualified for 2.5, but it won't make it to 3) is quite a reasonable story with some hallucinogenic writing that borders on Melville.

            Unfortunately this whale flounders in a sea of lost opportunities. Bobby Shaftoe's haiku is ends up as a piffling plot device; Waterhouse's vision of the burning Hindenburg becomes an irrelevancy; the political, economic and moral issues regarding the deployment of a datahaven remain unexplored and ignored.

            And the ending. Well, why worry about trying to write the ending to a book if you can flag that there will be a sequel (particularly when endings are not your strength....). Smells like a cop out to me....

            Having said that, the book does have some great moments (though most of them involve Goto Dengo) and the numerous asides are often witty and entertaining. But the lack of a serious editor to inflict some discipline upon the text means that the finished product is flabby and slothful and way to self-indulgent for its, or the author's own good."

            I may re-read it if I ever get the time, which may revise my opinion but.... so many books, so few bus trips....
            Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.


            • #7
              He might be anti-humanity (whatever that may mean) in that he seems more interested in the history of ideas than people - as said, characterisation isn't a strong point.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jules
                He is guilty of info-dumping.

                I gave up reading Snow Crash, throwing the book across the room with a might cry of "this is very way in which a book should not be written."


                Oh, and it's nice to see you all again!


                • #9
                  I've always felt that his biggest problem is an inability to write endings. Plotlines aren't so much finished as abandoned.


                  • #10
                    Snowcrash is one of my favourite books ever. Even if, yeah, the end is a bit rushed. But the plot is just so... perfect. I love adrenaline-packed stories.