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Snow Crash

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the yet-more-neal dept.

The Internet 222

chromatic has continued our trend of reviewing ever Neal Stephenson book ever written, with this weeks subject being Snow Crash. A book that has Sumeria, the USS Enterprise, and the Metaverse - what more could you ask for? Follow the link (white rabbit) below to read more.

The Rundown.

Snow Crash is a well-crafted, tongue-in-cheek romp through a near-future America so familar, one expects to see its characters chasing each other down the street.

Set mostly in geographic California with arterial highways delivering consumers to the fast food, faster shopping, and even small country franchises, a very modern, ancient Sumerian virus is turning hackers and non-hackers alike into tongue-speaking refugees.

Throw in the Metaverse, Stephenson's version of the global information structure. A three-dimensional audio and visual hallucination built around the mystical powers-of-two, cartoon physics rule the day. Rent a cheap avatar for a stroll down the main street. Ride your motorcycle at 300 km/h and bounce harmlessly off of a 20-mile square building. Just don't read the scroll held by the Bland Angel of Judgment.

Further complicating matters is a slew of divergent and entertaining characters. Your guide through this journey is the unlikely Hiro Protagonist (no, really!), a once and future hacker wonderboy who took off before the IPO and now delivers pizza for the Mafia (thirty minutes or less or you're fired). Joining him is the ever resourceful Y.T., a teenaged Kourier skateboarding her way through traffic by harpooning cars.

Want more? How about the surprisingly boyish Uncle Enzo, head of aformentioned Mafia, or L. Bob Rife, fantastically wealthy crank, founding funder of Rife Bible College and current owner of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. Perhaps you'd like to meet Mr. Lee, proprietor of Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong Franchise, or stop to pet Rat Thing, a supersonic isotope-powered cybernetic pit bull. Pushing forward the plot is a Metaverse librarian and Raven, a one-man killing machine and nuclear power.

Sounds serious? Perhaps. Complicated? Enjoyably so.

What's good?

The writing is crystal clear and very descriptive. Stephenson never gets lost in the details, and is as comfortable relating various myths about Babel as technical descriptions of the Graveyard Daemons cleaning up unfortunate Metaverse corpses. They fit together into an interesting, if complicated puzzle. He's also highly creative and well-researched, much like Neil Gaiman. It would take a serious student of a particular field to spot an error in his work (except for the strange 'Built-In Operating System' acronym).

What's not so good?

There's one piece of the backstory (concerning the parentage of a couple of characters) which is a little too convenient... it makes the story more effective, but it was an obvious dramatic advice. The ending might leave some readers a cold. Frankly, it's quick. Very quick. All of the pieces had been in place for a hundred pages (no MacGuffin here), but it's still a surprise. Stephenson is better at creating a believable yet outrageous world and populating it with appropriate characters than he is at telling an airtight story. Don't be fooled -- he's no slouch in the story department, but the draw of "Snow Crash" is Stephenson's fertile imagination. All things considered, these are very small nitpicks.

What's to think about when you finish?

This is a story about dualities. There's a reason for the 'powers of two' lecture early on. The obvious schism is the organized technocracy of the Metaverse contrasted with the hyperinflationary franchised real world.

Pit Hiro against Raven. One reluctantly saves the world he helped create, the other seeks to destroy the world that created him. How about Uncle Enzo versus Rife? Ng and Rat Thing? YT and ... well, everybody else.

The Conclusion.

Given the quality and density of Snow Crash, it's easy to recommend this work as a defining piece of SF. If you consider yourself a serious cyberpunk fan, hacker, or geek, you ought to feel guilty until you read it.

Note: as with most cyberpunk pieces, Snow Crash contains quite a bit of harsh language, some violence, and one sexual encounter. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thanks to Chilli for additional insights during this review.

Pick this book at Amazon.

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Niel should read more smut. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602323)

Niel can't write sex scenes to save his life. Snow Crash had one of the most unerotic ones that I had ever read.

You will have to consider the time difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602327)

Neuromancer came out in 83 i think.
Gibson was in his day a true innovator. Like the tech he described in his books was things people has tried to mimic in VR-labs since then. Hmm... where did the term "cyberspace" come from :)

Stephenson just extrapolated from the tech we had in 93/94 when he created his "Metaverse". However, the Metaverse is a great analogy to todays internet (something nice created by geeks -> something mainly used for play and worthless entertainment (girls eating scorpions anyone?)), Stephenson should have kudos for it.

Cryptonomicon UK (Re:Origins of Snow Crash) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602330)

The UK Paperback edition of Cryptonomicon is out. I got mine last Friday (Oct 16th) (Really must log on sometime.. Fed up of being AC)

Brin just a churner nowadays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602336)

At least he had the decency to apologize for not tying up the threads in his last book (infinitys shore? well the third book in the last uplift trilogy at least) which truly sucked on all levels.

Bujold though is the only sf-author I've read that's managed to keep a universe fresh for more than 3 books. And she manages to be funny as well. Universes with all-gay-men planets and empires controlled by genetically engineered uber-chicks is funny, torturing of main characters is also funny.
Does anyone know if Mark gets tortured some more in the newest book. That would be great :)

8.5-9.0 is more realistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602337)

While I read the book and enjoyed it very much, I can't give it more than a 9. The story line itself was very enjoyable and solidly written. You could tell that there was alot of reasearch was done and presented well. The descriptions of the metaverse was pleasantly suprising and well thought out. The ending left something to be desired. I felt like I had eaten an excellent surf and turf dinner with all the trimmings and delightful wine, but the desert was a small bowl of lemon-lime jello.

Re:Origins of Snow Crash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602338)

The little touches - such as tattooing 'Poor Impulse Control' on the foreheads of violent criminals - are superb
Actually, this is a direct lift from a Franz Kafka story (called the Penile Colony if I remember) in which prisoners get the name of their crime carved into their bodies by a big machine. Kafka needs to be on any well-read geek's bookshelf.

interview != good_idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602339)

No, not that I wouldn't *love* to see an interview. He's an engaging, intelligent, and interesting man in many aspects, and he has an integrity and a blatant honesty that really allows you a chance to see how much of a hacker he really is.

So let's put that in perspective-- when you're working on a nice piece of code, do you want to put down everything you're doing to answer a bunch of questions that you've been asked before (albeit insightful ones). Neal Stephenson has said that he prefers to simply work for long, uninterrupted periods of time. Interruptions, be they as trivial as e-mail, or as major as that huge book tour this past summer, only make it tougher for him to write. A Slashdot interview, while flattering (I'm sure), would be more or less an interruption.

Let Mr. Stephenson have some time. Maybe when he's finished with his next book (which is supposed to be the next in the series that Cryptonomicon started), he'll have some time before he starts again. But until then, let him work-- I guarantee you, his results are worth it!

Just my $0.02

Re:Am I the only one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602343)

No, you're not the only one. Even though I've only read snowcrash, I guess I'm not really a fan of his work. Maybe cryptonomicon is better, maybe it's not, I'm just not anxious enough to find out. I found the style of the novel so contrived to think that maybe it was all a big joke. It's as if he wrote the book to see how many people would rant and rave about it, only he's snickering in derision behind their backs at the same time. In short, the novel was nothing more than a testosterone laden hollywood action movie script waiting to happen. Even if the scientific background of the story is excellent, it's buried in a sludge pile of writing so peurile I have difficulty feeling awed by it. I guess it was intended to be a graphic novel, and in that context, I can understand where it got it's setting, theme, and mood from, not to mention the crappy writing. He should've continued with the graphic portion as that would have been a better vehicle for this sort of thing. I would like to recommend Tad Williams' "Otherland: City of Golden Shadow" to those looking for a slightly more literary novel, even if it's concepts aren't as innovative. It has better pacing, more mystery, better, more realistic characters, and excellent writing. But that's just MHO, of course. :-)

Re:Am I the only one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602344)

No, you're not the only one. Even though I've only read snowcrash, I guess I'm not really a fan of his work. Maybe cryptonomicon is better, maybe it's not, I'm just not anxious enough to find out.

I found the style of the novel so contrived to think that maybe it was all a big joke. It's as if he wrote the book to see how many people would rant and rave about it, only he's snickering in derision behind their backs at the same time. In short, the novel was nothing more than a testosterone laden hollywood action movie script waiting to happen.

Even if the scientific background of the story is excellent, it's buried in a sludge pile of writing so peurile I have difficulty feeling awed by it. I guess it was intended to be a graphic novel, and in that context, I can understand where it got it's setting, theme, and mood from, not to mention the crappy writing. He should've continued with the graphic portion as that would have been a better vehicle for this sort of thing.

I would like to recommend Tad Williams' "Otherland: City of Golden Shadow" to those looking for a slightly more literary novel, even if it's concepts aren't as innovative. It has better pacing, more mystery, better, more realistic characters, and excellent writing. But that's just MHO, of course. :-)

For french people out there ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1602345)

The translated title is "Le samouraï virtuel", and it's definetly worth a read ...

Re:more must-reads (1)

Phil Gregory (1042) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602356)

I'd also recommend some Heinlein. Preferably some of his earlier works, before he got too preachy. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was quite good. Stranger in a Strange Land and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls would also be good choices.

--Phil (Maybe some E.E. Smith? Or is he too dated now?)

Re:YT and Mrs Matheson (1)

Phil Gregory (1042) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602357)

ccording to Neal, Diamond Age and Snow Crash are not in the same universe at all. He stated further that any similarity is just due to the coincidence of the both novels having the same author.
Think of it as an easter egg for the astute reader.

--Phil (Much like the Doom marine hidden in Duke Nukem.)

Re:Am I the only one (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602367)

Snow crash was a fun book, a light read, with an absolutely silly ending. I gave my copy away when I finished with it... Other people seem to enjoy the book a lot more than I did.

You're not the only one who dislikes Stephenson's writing.

Re:Snow Crash... (1)

mischief (6270) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602376)

You should definitely pick it up. There isn't a book by Neal Stephenson that even remotely sucks.


Hard Fiction (1)

mischief (6270) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602377)

What I like about Stephenson's books are the fact that they're all based around fact. In all the books I've read of his he goes off onto huge tangents discussing the subject matter of the book. In Snow Crash, there's a 50-odd page section in the middle that explains loads of theory about language, where it originated from, etc etc. Zodiac has all sorts of facts about chemicals and what they actually do to the soil, how they affect the environment and so on. When he wrote the 40,000 word (is that right?) essay on why the background of Cryptonomicon, that was another example of how he fills out his work with fact, extrapolating on what's actually happened to create an interesting story. Great stuff.

Hard fiction rocks.


Voice of dissent (1)

jimhill (7277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602378)

This review is well-timed, as I just finished "Snow Crash" last night. It was an act of will to do so and had I not ponied up six-ninety-nine and tax for the book, I would likely not have read past the halfway point or so.

Stephenson's Metaverse is a pretty keen idea, but I've never been a big fan of VR-world writing. If (for example) the computing power required to render Mr. Ng's smoke rings is so immense that it bears mentioning, then the odds that Hiro can code up SnowSearch and graveyard daemons and an invisible avatar in an afternoon (and get them written bug-free, no less) are awful damn slim. Further, the Big Chase Scene at the end: given that Hiro can go through stuff by poking it with his katana (as per his entry into Rife's cube), then why the hell doesn't he just mount the damn thing on the front of his bike and run Raven down? Why the "Oh, I might run into something and stop and then I'll lose him and oh, the humanity!"?

This isn't a counter-review by any means; I just found myself reading accolade after accolade and had to ask "Didn't anyone else see that the emperor has no clothes?"

Re:Implicit logic? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602379)

Even the best minds only know a fraction of what it could know.


Re:This book changed my life (1)

flanker (12275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602385)

Ask Neil Stephenson is a great idea!

I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and very much enjoyed it (I'm into the Diamond Age now). The virus stuff was a bit of a stretch I thought. Though there was plenty of excellent history that took you from Eden forward (it was obvious that this was the central theme that the novel was crafted around), the crisis the characters deal with in the book seemed loosely tacked on to this solid core idea. There seemed to be a couple of different (related?) viruses going on, plus some sort of meta-virus. While Neil really blows you out of the water with his interpretations of the future and his often amusing style, I thought he could have sewn together the storyline a bit better. My feeling at the end was that of

  1. Neil's brother spends many years at university studying ancient civilizations and the various Fall from Eden variations shared by them.
  2. Neil and his brother get drunk in a bar one night and his brother starts going on about it.
  3. Neil remembers much of it the next day and when he gets home has his brother mail him some notes
  4. Neil uses said notes as the librarian's script and cobbles together his rocking world around them.

Re:Neal (1)

LuckyStarr (12445) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602386)

try "the practice effect" which is a
standalone novel, or "startide rising"
which belongs to the "uplift"-storyline.

i would recommend "the practice effect".

Re:Zodiac (1)

Weasel Boy (13855) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602388)

Zodiac: [Eco]
There's a lot of good chemistry in this book. Oh, some bad chemistry too. Set circa 1990, most of what happens in this book is delightfully (or chillingly) fealible. Protagonist is about the same caliber as the one in Snow Crash. Lots of chasing around. Doesn't end abruptly.

huh (1)

miscellaneous (14183) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602389)

You forgot to mention the 'Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind' undercurrent that runs through this novel, a very interesting play on a very ineresting (if possibly slightly wacky-sounding) theory. It's a much more subtle take on it than was found in The Big U.

[btw -- if NS reads this: The Big U. wasn't a bad book at all. Cheel, Winstohn.]

Also, I think Stephenson does a better job of evoking the feel of ``cyberspace'' than Gibson ever did. Not that I think Gibson sucks, but I think in this particular aspect, Stephenson is more on-the-ball.

Just to throw some random stuff in here, I think Shirow did a better job than Gibson at that whole 'what does it mean to be human' thing.

Re:You will have to consider the time difference (1)

miscellaneous (14183) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602390)

hmmmmm....good point.

Re:Neal (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602394)

The Practise Effect is the nearest Brin has come to a comedic novel; it is quite funny. Generally, though, I suggest Glory Road, The Uplift War or The Postman (great book, shite, shite film).

Neal (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602395)

Good ol' Neal seems to be flavour of the month around here; this is -- what? -- the third review in recent times?
Not that that's a bad thing; back in my previous existence as an SF bookseller, Snow Crash was one I consistently recommended as the coolest of the cool (third only to David Brin and Lois McMaster Bujold).
Just a resounding agreement: Snow Crash is cool. In fact, it's still my favourit Stephenson book.

Re:Implicit logic? (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602397)

where's the central repository for "Stuff to read" for your typical net.geek
That's handy; a chance to plug my page.
I'm working on such a thing at the moment. It gets added to every time I think of a cool book, and reviews of some/all will follow when I can be sufficiently arsed.
For the moment, check out this [] .

My experience (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602398)

I first starting reading snow crash on a business flight 3 years ago. My roomate at the time handed me his worn copy and suggested I read it. I almost missed getting off my plane that day. I was so wrapped up in the book. The amazing thing is how any of Stephenson's descriptions are becoming reality. I don't know if it fits to call him visionary but you can see the ZDTV Big Thinkers interview with him here [] One of the high points of that show on zdtv IMHO.
"We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece

Re:Best Part of Snow Crash (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602399)

At least a pizza guy who could carry a big ass sword around ;)
"We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece

Re:William Gibson books... (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602400)

ahhh come on..the matrix wasn't that bad.
"We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece

Re:more must-reads (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602401)

Don't forget Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and Long Dark Teatime of the soul. Both are great reads in his same vien of humor. "Character discovers there is indeed a horse in the washroom and decides it might be best to have that spot of brandy afterall" To paraphrase.
"We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece

Avatars (1)

drox (18559) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602402)

If I remember correctly, this book coined the term "avatar" as used in a virtual world.

The word Avatar is a lot older than that. It somes from, IIRC, Sanskrit, and was the term used for the bodies that the gods used when they wanted to walk around and interact with mere mortals.

Even within VR, the word avatar is older than Snow Crash. It was in use in MUDs long before.

Re:Neil's story endings (1)

jsparkes (20001) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602404)

I've always hated movies based on Stephen King books since the endings were always so terrible. I sat through the entire mini-series of "The Stand" for one of the worst letdowns of my life.

I think Neal's endings are even worse.

The all time worst was "The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul". I've read that Douglas Adams finished it in a taxi on the way to the airport for a vacation. Apparently he was waay overdue with it...

Re:Bujold (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602405)

Well, Lois McMaster Bujold never CLAIMED to be a techie: she's admitted that most of her science is wave-of-the-hand for plot devices. She seems to have a better background in the life sciences, but still mostly at the informed layman level.
Still, I think Miles Vorkosigan would read Slashdot. . .and if he didn't, his clone-brother Mark WOULD. . . .

Re:Neal (1)

Jim Morash (20750) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602407)

A book by Brin that's both preachy and interesting is The Transparent Society, which I'm now reading for the second time to make a bit more sense of it.
Highly recommend it.

Re:Did you know... (1)

Curgoth (28780) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602415)

If I remember correctly, this book coined the term "avatar" as used in a virtual world. Yet another example of why we should all bow down and worship Neal Stephanson... ;)

Actually, IIRC, my copy of Snow Crash has an author's note where Stephenson credits some on-line world (the name of which I don't recall) for coining the term avatar.
Dream well...

Re:Further thoughts on Snow Crash (1)

Awel (28821) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602416)

Now, if only Stephenson could learn to end a novel properly, without having to resort to the #&$^ showdown between the forces of Good and Evil...

It`s not the showdown so much as the fact that he doesn`t seem to want to deal with aftermath. Most stories have a climax, and then let you down gently before opening the door and letting you out into the real world. It1`s not a matter of tying up loose ends - I tend to like some to be left hanging so that you can imagine what happened next - but a matter of winding down after the climax. Yes, it`s very hackneyed: almost all films and books do it. But there`s a reason for that, and that`s that it`s structurally required in order for it to feel finished. Perhaps the lack of it here ss related to the fact that it was originally conceived as a graphical novel, where the rules are to some extent different.

Stephenson vs. Sterling (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602417)

I find it interesting that Sterling doesn't seem to have much of a following on Slashdot. His interview can be partially blamed on the lack of good questions.

I've read Stephenson's Zodiac, SnowCrash, and The Diamond Age, and they were all great fun, but I don't think any of them have the kind of insight that Sterling's work has.

Is the interest in Stephenson because he has a background in programming? Or has Sterling turned people off with his recent focus on environmental issues?

Re:Implicit logic? + Rudy Rucker's Boppers + .. (1)

zptdooda (28851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602418)

Orson Scott Card & Dan Simmons are good, yes - I didn't know "The Rise of Endymion" was out - thanks. All these series are hard to keep track of. I usually resort to polling the bookstore shelves, but interrupt-driven works well when there are enough people around with like interests like here.

Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is great and/although strange.

Rudy Rucker has some zany books with great ideas. Some good ones were : Software Wetware, Freeware. Fast reads, enjoyable reading and out there. AI with forced evolution.

"The Difference Engine" by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling was excellent. What would have happened if Charles Babbage's difference engine was actually built and the information age hit us 150 years early?

Re:Origins of Snow Crash (1)

henley (29988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602420)

One thing that might interest those that have read it is that the opening of the book was originally a short story and quite a comic one at that

Aha! THANK YOU. I've wondered about that because although in my mind it's one of the finest "scene-setters" I've ever read, it's so obviously distinct from the actual plot of the book.

For those who haven't read this book yet (RUN, do not walk, to Amazon now), the background, premise and pacing of this first chapter is a superb piece of writing. To me it's slightly better written than the rest of the book, although that's hardly a criticism. With a fairly silly, throwaway little sub-plot (pizza delivery for the Cyberpunk age), Neal manages to cram in - seamlessly - an enormous amount of background information on the way *his* universe is working (with a fairly subtle sense of humour, too). Before leading into the book proper, if you will.

I've read an awful lot of S.F this year, across a fairly good cross-section of the genre, and "Snow Crash" is probably the best of the bunch for me.

If only they'd release "Cryptonomicon" on this side of the pond a little sooner... Lucky my wife is going to Florida in 2 weeks :-)


Excellent book (1)

cluke (30394) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602421)

It's an excellent book, I'd certainly recommend to any sci-fi fan. It's also especially geared towards hackers - it's rare to see a popular work that is actually accurate about technical subjects.

His piece in which he waxes lyrical about the various powers of 2 (really!) will certainly strike a chord with hackers.

Hey, I like Built-In Operating System (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602429)

Hey, I like Built-In Operating System. It's a heck of a lot catchier than Basic I/O System.

None of Stephenson's books have an ending (1)

edremy (36408) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602430)

Snow Crash has an epic, book-length ending compared to most of Stephenson's books. Compare The Diamond Age, where it was clear that he had no idea how to end the book and simply stopped writing when he got bored. Cryptonomicon isn't much better, nor is Zodiac.

Still a great boook nonetheless: I just wish that he'd think the entire novel, including the ending, through before writing.

Re:William Gibson books... (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602435)

Yeah, that's true. I was surprised throughout the three of his books that I liked, that the same characters were in there over and over. I suppose I'll have to track down Count Zero one day. But yes, that's right, they are all alike come to think of it...hmm...perhaps he has this realized world in his head but can't bring it out on paper.

OTOH, I found the novelization of TRON in a used bookstore the other day for $1.50. It was incredibly good, I liked the book adaption a whole lot better than the movie!

Re:Tron (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602436)

Hmm, I'll have to go home and check it out. It had a colour insert from the movie. The reason that I picked it up (mostly) was that it was a UK paperback...hey, send me an e ( and maybe I can lend it to you if you like.

Re:William Gibson books... (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602437)

I liked Neuromancer, Burning Chrome (the best, I think!) and Mona Lisa Overdrive, but I really, really hated Idoru. It got a lot of good press, but when I read it (I skipped to the ending after more than halfway through) it seemed so *incredibly boring*. I could see how eventually the two characters were going to meet up in alternating chapters, but it was so long and drawn out. Possibly the best part was the Japanese sex hotel :-) Was I missing something? It seemed like such a drag after reading the three above.

Odd coupling (warning: book spoiler) (1)

wct (45593) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602438)

Did anyone else think it was strange how YT (mmmm...) and Raven paired up? I mean, she didn't recognize him as the ultraviolent guy she was trailing from the grunge concert? I thought that was stretching the credibility a fair bit, more so than the parentage thing and bits of the ending.

Important book (1)

dgoodman (51656) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602442)

When I first found /., i was surprised by the shear number of stephensen fans; in fact its been really encouraging to me. I became a fan in a manner that i suspect follows a pattern: a friend who reads every piece of sci-fi pulp under the sun comes to you one day recommending snow crash. reluctantly, you take the book, and get around to reading it a few weeks later. the next day the book is finished and you are a transformed person, not to mention a rabid stephensen fanatic.

there are too many good ideas in that book to ignore, and i know im not the only one to think that. i've been gathering parts to build my own gargoyle suit (on a budget of nada) for four years now. i want my own librarian.
and so do you.

Re:Niel should read more smut. (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602444)

Maybe that was the point.

The point of writing a sex scene, for some writers, is to provide a dramatic point to move the story forward (in this case, so Raven can... Uugh, I'd rather not think about it!), and not provide teenagers with a quick and easy jerking fantasy...

Oh, for the last time...

It's Neal.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Learn to spell, people! (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602445)

The name is Neal, not Neil. Niel is far off. Bob is downright out there.

It says so right up there in the review...

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Origins of Snow Crash (1)

bakert (57600) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602446)

I think Snow Crash is an excellent novel. The little touches - such as tattooing 'Poor Impulse Control' on the foreheads of violent criminals - are superb.

One thing that might interest those that have read it is that the opening of the book was originally a short story and quite a comic one at that (calling the main character Hiro Protagonist and making him a 'Pizza Deliverator', the mafia involvement, etc.) and to me there seems to me to be a tension between that opening and the eventual direction of the book (overall a serious novel).

It doesn't stop it being an excellent book but I thought I'd share as it made me go, "Oh, of course" when I heard it.

Other Stephenson material in Wired, etc. (1)

epsilonboy (58233) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602452)

For those who are becoming addicted to Neal Stephenson's writing, like me, there are several lengthy pieces of his in the Wired magazine archives [] , dating from 1994 and 1996. There are also links to the many pieces that Wired has mentioned him in.

In addition to that, as a number of /. readers may know, In The Beginning There Was the Command Line [] , an essay of his that had an article on /. a while back, will be published in a book form [] November 9 according to amazon.

All in all, great review. I was very happy to see someone else associating Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman in some way.


"I need a .sig quote that's better than this!"

Re:William Gibson books... (1)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602456)

The Johnny Mnemonic short story, which is a pre-cursor to Neuromancer, was excellent. The movie of course was horrible, as is anything Keannu touches. I actually preferred Johnny Mnemonic to Neuromancer.

Re:Did you know... (1)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602457)

True, Stephenson did attempt to create the term, and possibly the concept, avatar, but he found that work was being done in this area while he was putting the novel together.

Re:Hey, I like Built-In Operating System (1)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602458)

Stephenson admits that his expansion of BIOS was a gaffe and was actually pointed out to him by either and editor or a peer reviewer but he opted to stick with his version in the novel anyway.

Re:What about the mythology? (1)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602461)

I agree with your take on the Sumerian mythology. It was such an integral part of the story and was obviously well researched. The trick was getting the information to the reader in an interesting way and his utilization of the Librarian was a master stroke.

Fantastic Piece of Art (1)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602465)

Snow Crash was the first hyped Sci-Fi cyberpunk novel that I felt actually merited such high acclaim. I anticipate reading more of Stephenson's works.

Someone posted an earlier comment indicating that the first part of the book that dwelled on the pizza delivery angle was originally released as a short story. That makes a lot of sense when I look back now. I don't recall laughing so hard while reading any of Gibson's works. It seems as though Stephenson's prose is not forced and does not take itself as seriously as Gibson's work does. Maybe that's why I prefer Stephenson.

I could go on for hours about this book but since I'm at work and I feel compelled to at least work for an hour today I will have to do so at another time. I would like to point you people out to the funniest line from the book though. It occurs at a beginning of a chapter around page 272 or so (sorry...didn't bring book to work). It occurs after Hiro has gotten his first sobering view of Raven. I will paraphrase (perhaps horribly):

Every man up until he is 25 harbors the illusion that given the right set of circumstances he very well could be the baddest motherfucker alive.

I laughed my ass off after reading that because it is so indicative of the male pyschology!

Hiro then goes on to say that Raven has thusly ruined that illusion for him. Now that I think about it, I've thoroughly mangled that line. Oh well. Pick up the book to get the correct treatment.

Re:Implicit logic? (1)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602466)

Why do you need to be told what to read? Isn't that what your mind is there for?

Take a chance. Peruse the bookstore (virtual or real) and pick up something that you think may be interesting. If it isn't, pick up something else.

I understand that most people who reside in the /. forums are quite techy, but I would hope that most of you have interests in other things as well.

Bujold (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602470)

Bujold's books are very good space opera, but they don't really have anything in particular to do with tech stuff. It is all your basic spaceships and death-ray stuff. That's not a knock, they're great books, but they don't obviously fit into the "geeky" category the way Stephenson's books do.

Re:Implicit logic? (1)

shawnhargreaves (66193) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602471)

A good question for "Ask Slashdot", perhaps...

Off the top of my head:

Everything by Vernor Vinge ("Across Realtime", "A Fire Upon the Deep", and A Deepness in the Sky").

Dan Simmons Hyperion Cantos (at least the first two books, which are "Hyperion" and "The Fall of Hyperion", I also recommend the later pair which are "Endymion" and "The Rise of Endymion", but these are perhaps less obviously geeky).

All books by David Zindell ("Neverness", "The Broken God", "The Wild", and "War in Heaven").

Apart from "Ender's Game" and Neil Stephenson, these three authors are my top must-reads for anyone of an even remotely geeky temperament...

Re:Neal (1)

zorgon (66258) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602472)

I'm not familiar with Lois McMaster Bujold's work, would you be willing to write a review or two? And I have to be surprised that Brin is found to be cooler than Stephenson (but this means the sf-reading community in general is less geeky than the /. community, no surprises there).

What cracked me up... (1)

Rabbins (70965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602477)

Was learning that his private yacht, was the USS Enterprise.

Great Book (1)

Eponymous, Showered (73818) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602479)

I read this years ago, not knowing much of anything at all about it. Not even sure where I heard of it. It just had to be read. His eclectecism reminds me of Tom Robbins. I wonder what Robbins would be like if he wrote cyberpunk.

Neal's books (1)

G27 Radio (78394) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602482)

I read Snowcrash a couple years ago, then Diamond Age more recently. And finally I broke down and bought Cryptonomicon (still in hardcover) which I just finished reading. I have Zodiac lying around somewhere but my head needs some rest after reading Crypto.

Anyway, just wanted compare his books that I've read:

Snow Crash: [Net]
It was fun, lots of interesting ideas about the Metaverse. The writing style was a little wierd -- IIRC Snow Crash was intended to be a work of interactive fiction but Neal ended up making it into a book instead. Thus a lot of writing in the present tense.

Diamond Age: [Nanotech]
This one was my favorite. I liked the idea of a book/nanotech computer created to teach as well invite change into the world. In a sense Diamond Age is the book [primer] in the book. Lots of fun and cool ideas. This one also seems to end too abruptly (as did Snowcrash.)

Cryptomonicon: [Crypto]
Not only was this one long, but it was some really heavy reading. Lots of math and stuff (even some Perl code in there--no sh*t.) I'll never figure out why he refers to Linux as "Finux" yet feels free to call Windows "Windows." I didn't find this one as much fun as the other two, but on the other hand it was very educational. Certainly a worthy read at any rate.

Unless you're really into the heavy stuff, I'd recommend reading Snowcrash and Diamond Age first. If I wasn't already "broken in" by reading those, I'm not sure I would've gotten as much out of Cryptomonicon.

?syntax error

William Gibson books... (1)

Rexifer (81021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602484)

I'm glad to see that Neil has been getting attention from the /. crowd since the Cryptonomicon release... I was wondering, since the new William Gibson book "All Tomorrow's Parties" is coming out this month, are we going to see some more in depth reviews of his work, too? He's got to be my all time favorite author, although I think his latest books aren't as sharp as the original Sprawl trilogy. Or, admittedly, some of Neil's. :)

Tron (1)

Rexifer (81021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602485)

I'd heard that this was good. I'd read a while back (In "Dealers of Lightening") that Alan Kay, who helped father small things like the GUI and Smalltalk at PARC, provided feedback for the screenplay (which was dumbed down Disney) and the novel. I'd be curious to pick it up for that reason alone, if it were still in print.

specture vr bundle (1)

heh2k (84254) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602487)

years ago, i bought specture(sp) vr and a paperback copy of snow crash was inside. i'm glad it was bundled and i'm glad i read it. it's definetly a good book and is pretty humurous at times, especially in the beginning.

bottom line: if you're looking for a good book to read, this is it.

Snow Crash... (1)

smoondog (85133) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602488)

Sounds pretty good, perhaps I'll pick it up. There is so much junk in this genre it is really hard to know what to get.

-- Moondog

Well, now, isn't this seredipidous (1)

H0ek (86256) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602489)

So what book did I just order and start reading last night. I also ordered The Diamond Age so I suppose I won't be disappointed there, either.

Really, the reason I ordered this book was a reference to it on an obscure web page. Rather than happen across pages like that, I would like to see a page that allows tech-types to review books. It's really hard to look at Amazon's® reviews and try to weed out the <WHINE>"Gee, this was too wierd for me."</WHINE> comments.

Did you know... (1)

Keelor (95571) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602497)

If I remember correctly, this book coined the term "avatar" as used in a virtual world. Yet another example of why we should all bow down and worship Neal Stephanson... ;)

On another note, it's interest that Stephanson chose cable as the medium for the metaverse. At the time of this writing--long before the average person knew about the 'net, and LONG before the cable companies were interested in it--he took the leap of faith the the cable infrastructure would be an appropriate medium for a virtual world. This is especially interesting considering the recent possibility that cable will come to dominate the net. Just a thought.


The gift of analogy. (1)

Murmer (96505) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602499)

This is Stephenson's strongest point as a writer. From the first page of Snow Crash, with the description of Hiro's bulletproof outfit ("A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly-napalmed forest") I was hooked.

A lot of the imagery in Snow Crash will really stick with you, because the analogies Stephenson uses are so bang-on accurate.

Oh, and I really, really want that car he starts off with. Oh, yah.


Re:Did you know... (1)

hazydave (96747) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602500)

"Avatar" appeared in the Habitat system (, in '85 or '86, before Snow Crash was published ('91 or '92). Habitat died in the USA, but apparently enjoys some continued existance in Japan. I think the term, as used in Habitat, was coined by Chip Morningstar.

Re:Best Part of Snow Crash (1)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602502)

One of the best written opening chapters I've ever read.

Re:Implicit logic? (1)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602503)

Didn't you get the Official Hacker Reading List along with your Cap'n Crunch decoder ring and the bandaid for your glasses ?

"Stuff to read" lists are an impossibly pompous notion. No worthwhile group would try to impose them, other than to reinforce some self-selecting clique of "People who read the right books / listen to the right music / wear the right clothes". Read Katz' Columbine High pieces for an indication of where that leads us.

Rather than studying a list, why not try to find some people of similar interests and read what they're reading ? When one of you finds a new author, spread the word.

Snow Crash is good, but I'm sure it's not a patch on a book to be published in the next couple of years by a writer none of us have yet heard of. Don't pick your reading from a static list, instead try and widen your catchment area. Thomas Moore was probably the last person who had the chance to read all the worthwhile books then available - these days we're all filter-feeders swimming through an ocean, catching a bare fraction of what's worth having. Work on this filter network and make it a communal effort. Maybe Slashdot is just the place to do it.

I have a friend who decided, around a decade ago, just what he wanted to read. He now owns more books than anyone else I know (and that's a lot) and is far less well read than most. Only things on his "list of interest" ever make it onto the shelves and nothing new ever changes there. It's like the library in "The Name of The Rose", only those texts by the ancient masters are deemed acceptable of study. He's even become an incredibly dull person to talk to, because every concept kicking around his head can be traced to a book on those shelves, and that's still only a small pool of what the world has to offer. This is a very bad way to choose your reading material.

OK, I give in. Most of the stuff the others have recommended, and Greg Egan for my personal pick.

Re:Neal (1)

Life Blood (100124) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602504)

I'm not a big Brin fan. I've heard interesting ideas from his books, but the only novel of his I've read was Earth and I found it too preachy with too little focus in the narrative.

Re: This book changed my life (1)

swdunlop (103066) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602505)

Personally, neither Cryptonomicon or Snow Crash really changed my life.. Frankly, Snow Crash wasn't too applicable to the world at hand, and felt more like a bit of satire, especially at the beginning, where Stepheson explained the natural evolution of Franchises into governments. (Don't get me wrong.. I'm a sucker for social parody.)

I think his earlier book, Zodiac, had more impact on the way I live.. Especially since, for quite some time, I lived in Boston, and saw/smelled the Charles for myself. Now I try to pay a little closer attention to my impact on the world around me, and try not to waste my time on many of the more futile 'green' gestures. (Paper vs. Plastic, anyone? Paper plants dump far more toxic chemicals into our water table than plastic manufacturers.. And it takes less energy to recycle plastic.)

Everyone listens to Reason (1)

osterby (104420) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602506)

Snow Crash is more cartoony than Cryptonomicon. I really enjoyed his treatment of the unchecked growth of strip mall culture. He brings it up as the "loglo" that lights the steets.

Paraphrasing: There are only four things that Americans do better than anyone else: music, movies, microcode and high-speed pizza delivery.

There's nothing terribly secret about where the plot is heading, but it's not the kind of book where suspense is important. It's an enjoyable but quick read.

Listen to Reason, you ought to read it.

more must-reads (2)

Groucho (1038) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602512)

You're right, we need a central repository.

More must-reads in no particular order:

Naked Lunch

Asimov's (?) "before the golden age" collections if you can find them.

Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven, also his short stories

Hitchhikers series by Doug Adams

the Dangerous Visions anthologies

Titan, Wizard and Demon by John Varley

Philip K. Dick (especially Ubik and Valis)

Lovecraft (all of it if possible)

Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories (possibly the only _good_ fantasy ever written)

Godel Escher Bach

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins

1984 and Animal Farm

as many Robert Sheckley stories as you can find


Re:Am I the only one (2)

Nygard (3896) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602514)

"Slashdot" as such doesn't review the books. Slashdot readers do. If you would like to see another author considered here, by all means, submit a review.

I mean, I do like NS, but I've already read these. I'd love to hear about other authors that I might want to read!

Out Gibsons Gibson! (2)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602515)

I have very little interest in SF writing usually, but this book is very much an exception. I came across it by way of a media student living in my house years ago. He got sent the book as a review copy when it came out and recomended it to me - and the old line about not being able to put it down is certainly true in Snow Crash's case.

I've yet to read any of his more recent works, but this one gets a definite ten out of ten.

Chris Wareham

First half tripe, second half satisfying ... (2)

ian stevens (5465) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602516)

I read this book after everyone I knew and respected was giving it rave reviews and labelled it as "a must read". I recally reading the first few chapters and wondering what the big deal was. The writing is very pedestrian and not at all what I've come to expect from the "best-of-the-best" in any genre. I found the ideas presented in the first half of Snowcrash pretty tame and almost of a "this is cool and so I'm going to write about it just to be cool" variety. Much of what in the first half just seemed like the meanderings of a juvenile writer who thought that cyberpunk was hip and wanted to delve into it. Mind you, my previous escapades into the genre consisted of earlier Gibson, Sterling and their ilk and so I consider myself a little spoiled. Many of the starting ideas just seemed to be rehashed from "the godfathers of cyberpunk".

It wasn't until the book started to plummet into a world of linguistics and a seemingly well-researched and in-depth history of language that I started to become interested. I considered putting an end to my read until I reached this harder, more satisfying interior. While the first half insulted my intelligence and experience with the cyberpunk genre, the second half held my interest and challenged my mind.

If it wasn't for this new spark and introduction of "language as virus" as well as the relatively heavy linguistics, I probably would have passed off Stephenson as just another one of many mediocre cyberpunk writers. Instead, it is clear to me that Stephenson has some really good ideas, albeit a relatively mediocre writing style.

So would I recommend the book? Yes, but with a warning that the first half of the book might seem tripe for those who have lots of experience with cyberpunk but nevertheless well worth the wait to build up to the harder material in the last half.

excellent, if flawed... (2)

whitroth (9367) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602517)

The book, *and* this review.

A *major* chunk of the story occurs in cyberspace...and *another* major chunk is mythological...and somehow, Our Reviewer seems to have glossed all of that over.

Stephenson's cyberspace is as impressive as Gibson's, and yet different; to some degree, one can see it as a progression from the current web, where Gibson's view is nowhere in sight.

On the other hand, I have *always* had a problem with Snowcrash, and one of these cons, I mean to tell Stephenson so: he com*pletely* blows the intellectual climax of the novel (don't worry, it doesn't affect the outcome of the "physical" end", so this isn't exactly a spoiler): since obviously, anyone reading it with anything less than the total immersion will see that the mythological queen/Goddess is the culture hero, for freeing the knowledge of self-hacking, rather than the mythological king/God, who tries to keep it hidden.

It *is* an excellent book, and deserved the Hugo it won. Of course, I just hope my son, in his quest for a job, doesn't wind up deliivering pizza for Domino's...I might have to give him some practice with swords, and then enroll him in a kendo class....


Whoops! (2)

chromatic (9471) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602518)

You're right about me leaving out the mythological underpinnings... I must have moved that from the synopsis to the analysis and forgotten to paste it. To wit:

Let it be known that Hiro knowingly attempts to reenact the ancient Sumerian myth which is explained throughout the story. One might analyze 'Snow Crash' as the germ of a future hacker mythos, where the sorceror-priests are those who can reach into the guts of the [mind|machine] and rewire [consciousness|digital reality] as they see fit. Except that the advertising age necessitates a word from our sponsor... (Hiro's business card at the lightshow.)

Mea culpa. Sorry everyone!

As for cyberspace, I took that for part of the mythology. Did Hiro find it more real than reality?

QDMerge [] 0.4 just released!

Re:Origins of Snow Crash (2)

doom (14564) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602522)

> One thing that might interest those that have
> read it is that the opening of the book was
> originally a short story and quite a comic
> one at that (calling the main character Hiro
> Protagonist and making him a 'Pizza Deliverator'

My understanding was that the opening of the book
was originally a premise for a video game, and
when he ran into implementation problems he
decided to write it up as a story.

This explains a lot of the flaws of the book,
in my opinion, and also probably explains why
so many slash geeks love it, and I should
probably stop now because slagging on Neal
Stephenson is no way to boost your karma.

What about the mythology? (2)

drox (18559) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602524)

This was a decent review, but it didn't mention one of the (to me) most powerful points of the book - the ties to mythology.

All the Sumerian mythology and pre-Biblical Jewish cult stuff, concisely explained by The Librarian, was a true delight. It was one of the things that set this book apart from merely adequate-and-entertaining cyberpunk (or post-cyberpunk if you prefer.) I mean, sure the descriptions of the virtual world and the near future's techno-toys are right on the mark, but any good cyberpunk tale can do that. This one does more. It makes the reader think. A lot.

There's a bit of that in Cryptonomicon too, though there it's primarily Greek, rather than Sumerian mythology that's discussed. Also, in Cyrptonomicon it was more of an aside, while in Snow Crash it's a vital part of the story, linked in with the viral mind-killer of the title and L. Bob Rife's quest for World Domination.

YT and Mrs Matheson (2)

sully (22777) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602526)

>I'd love to ask him about whether YT is Mrs Matheson

I saw Mr Stephenson on his book signing tour for Cryptonomicon and during the Q&A asked him exactly that - he said nope not the same person - further along that line of questioning it turns
out according to Neal, Diamond Age and Snow Crash are not in the same universe at all. He stated further that any similarity is just due to the coincidence of the both novels having the same author.

Re:Did you know... (2)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602527)

If I remember correctly, this book coined the term "avatar" as used in a virtual world. Yet another example of why we should all bow down and worship Neal Stephanson... ;)

Actually, there was a VR-type system that was already being developed that used the "avatar" label. Neil Stephanson wasn't aware of it at the time. He does, however, make note of it during a kind of after-reflections blurb at the end of the copy I have. I'll have to dig up the book and post the relevent passage.

Having said that... the avatar moniker is just another example of how Stephanson put some fore-thought into this novel. Cable as a data medium has been noted. He also makes mention of using wireless networking and the speed hit one takes to do it. Another minor point was that Hiro really couldn't afford his Metaverse environment, but he paid for it anyway. A further point was the relative minor number of people in the world that had access to the Metaverse. All are reflections of today's emerging environment.

Snow Crash is an odd world. There are some purely wierd things in it. But interlaced with the oddness is some very close-to-home observations/predictions.

Re:William Gibson books... (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602528)

The trouble with Gibson is that he tends to write the same book every time (thematically speaking). In 1983, "cyberspace" was an amazing thing. Today, it is getting passe.

The thing that impresses me so much about Stephenson is that he writes something wholly original with each book.

Cyberpunk (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602529)

This is really the book that killed cyberpunk, I think. I haven't been able to read an old school "cyberpunk" book since without finding it wanting. I remember reading Mona Lisa Overdrive (I think that was it) shortly after reading this, and finding it to be a great disappointment, not because it was any worse then any other Gibson books, but because Stephenson had just stamped the perfect statement on my brain. (It didn't help that the Gibson book had a courier character much like YT.)

The satire in Snow Crash is just utterly brilliant. The private jails. The mafia pizza delivery service. The "Central Information Service". The nuclear bomb in the sidecar.

Stephenson also has more guts then any other writer I've ever read. Who else would have the guts to name their protagonist "Protagonist"? Who else would drop a five page dissertion on Sumerian mythology in the middle of an action book?

Re:Bujold (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602530)

Hey, it wasn't meant to be an insult. I love her books.

Actually, now that I think of it, one of her lesser known books, Falling Free, has a great engineer character, something that is surprising lacking in most SF.

This book changed my life (2)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602532)

Or at least the books I read. After reading Snow Crash I became a Neil Stephenson fan. I've picked up all his books I could get my hands on, and will buy Cryptonomicon as soon as I get some free time.
Has Slashdot ever had an "Ask Neil Stephenson" interview? If not, we need one. If so, another one would be nice. Stephenson is knowledgable about Linux, a great Cyber(and Cypher)punk writer, and funny as shit. I'd love to ask him about whether YT is Mrs Matheson, what happened to Uncle Enzo, Gnome vs. KDE, whether Snow Crash changed any of his religious beliefs, and why every damn company wants to "do Snow Crash", but nobody's talking about "doing smartwheels" (there's gotta be a reason that that's the only technology that made the transition from Snow Crash to The Diamond Age. There's a lot more I could think of if it came to it.

Re:excellent, if flawed... (2)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602533)

Actually, I gotta disagree with you, Mark. The mythological queen/Goddess (Inana) doesn't free the knowledge of self-hacking. She makes self-hacking more difficult by freeing society from the me that control them. Basically, she frees them from the rote tasks and allows them to think and act freely. Juanita (actually, Hiro) does this in the end by having the librarian read the tablet. The mythological king/God doesn't try to keep it hidden, but controls his subjects by the use of me. The analogy of Inana==Juanita is a good one, but the Enki==L. Bob Rife isn't a good one. The evil of Sumer wasn't a person, but was the way society operated. Both Inana and Enki were hackers and heros who freed the people to think for themselves and become self-aware.
Even with as many times as I've read Snow Crash I still come away amazed at the wonderful developement of the story and characters and can only fault Stephenson for ending the story so soon. I'd at least like 20,000 more pages or so.

Neil's story endings (2)

Ledge Kindred (82988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602534)

I have mixed feelings about the way Neil ends this book. I'd heard all about "Oh, you'll love the book but hate the ending!" for a long time before reading it and found out that I thought the ending was just fine. A bit brief, but nowhere what I had been expecting.

Now, compare to the ending in "Diamond Age" in which the last chapter reads like it came from a different book and all of a sudden the ending to "Snow Crash" is excellent. Unfortunately, the way he ended "Diamond Age" pretty much ruined what had been a very enjoyable book because the whole plot just went to pieces. "Snow Crash" wasn't like that IMHO - everything wrapped up, as the reviewer said, the pieces had all been in place for some time and he just tied them all up nicely.


Best Part of Snow Crash (3)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602535)

The reviewer overlooked the very best part of Snow Crash: the first chapter. I've never wanted to be a pizza delivery guy so badly in my entire life.


Am I the only one (3)

kaisyain (15013) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602536)

Who doesn't like Stephenson's writing, his plots, his pacing, his dialogue, his characters, or his books?

It would be nice if /. would review books by different authors. Generally if you give one good review to an author people are going to check out his/her other books. I would much rather see reviews of different authors rather than a review of every book a given author has written.

The Snow Crash intellectual virus a reality? (3)

Dreamweaver (36364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602537)

I've noticed something that I thought had to be unique to my experiences.. that being that Nobody Buys Snow Crash By Themselves. I've yet to meet anybody who has gone to the bookstore, seen this book, picked it up, and liked it. Eveybody had a friend who handed them their battered, much-read copy and said, 'Hey, you're gonna like this'. The book somehow got introduced to the geek culture and has been spreading from carrier to carrier ever since. You may not be actually handed the book, but more likely than not you heard from a fellow geek that it was good and you went out and bought it.. I know i'll never lend my copy again, I've had to buy it twice now since my first copy never came home.
So is the nam-shub of stephenson subliminaly planted throughout the book? Did the publisher soak the paper stock in the blood of geeks? Or perhaps there's really no Mr. Stephenson at all.. the book came in on a comet from out beyond the oort cloud ;) --insert spooky x-files music here--


Re:Implicit logic? (3)

yoshi (38533) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602538)

My short list -
  • Don't waste your time with the Illuminati trilogy; it's all a very long joke, and by the time you get to the punch line, you'll have wasted a great amount of time.
  • Asimov - doesn't have the style of Gibson, but wrote a number of great books. I'd recommend the Robot Trilogy and the Foundation Trilogy (and the 4 or 5 other related books), but I read this stuff when I was twelve - it may be too puerile for your taste (don't know your age).
  • Clarke - wow, spent many found hours with good ol' (Sir) Arthur C. He's more cerebral than Asimov, but sometimes there isn't much story or plot. Definitely read 2001 and 2010 , and Rendezvous with Rama and the second Rama book. Don't bother finishing any of his book series, they end horribly. For example, 2061 was mediocre, but 3001 was just monstrously bad.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, try Stanislaw Lem. He's a bit hard to find, and he is weird. Try The Cyberiad and The Futurological Congress . Lem should get more props - he's really important, but people tend to shy away from translated work.
  • Kurt Vonnegut. Anything. Start with Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five , but I don't think he's written anything second-rate. NOTE: Not all of his work (and arguably none of his work) is scifi. Also, avoid Slapstick till you've read some of his other work.
  • Philip K. Dick. Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep has a delicious cyberpunk feel to it, but it predates the genre. Very influential.
  • Jorge Luis Borges. Possibly one of the greatest writers of all time, and ertainly one of my favorites. Borges wrote in a genre called magic realism; it'll make you think of Twilight Zone. Try Ficciones. One favorite story is "The Garden of the Forking Paths".
That's hardly all of them - I've left out everyone from Jules Verne to Douglas Adams. However, this is probably a good start.


Further thoughts on Snow Crash (3)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602539)

Yes, the cyberpunk genre has been going on for a while. Yes, there are similarities between Stephenson's Snow Crash and Gibson's world.

But there's a generation gap between the two, and that's why I love Snow Crash and am lukewarm to anything Gibson wrote beyond Neuromancer. Whereas Gibson writes for a general public fascinated by technology, Stephenson is a second-generation cyberpunk writer (insofar as his effort on Snow Crash goes; the rest is mildly cyberpunk.) Stephenson writes for people who read cyberpunk. And who reads cyberpunk? Hackers.

And that's where the genius of Snow Crash comes in. Stephenson obviously plays on the clichés of the genre. His novel is highly humorous, yet it deals with very real people facing very real danger. Characters such as Raven are both satirical yet very much human.

Same goes for the Metaverse; it's a wild place, filled with avatars of giant penises and such behavior you might expect from the normal brainless troll populating the Web years from now. Yet it is also a place that's barely real, and Stephenson makes a point of reminding us of that fact throughout the novel. The Metaverse is an illusion, yet it carries a good part of the drama. Contrast this with Gibson's hyperrealism, where Cyberspace is more real than the real world.

All this, in my mind, makes of Snow Crash the groundbreaking novel it is. And even without them, it'd still be a witty and entertaining read. Snow Crash has injected humour and self-reflection in a genre that was in desperate need of a dose of self-derision.

Now, if only Stephenson could learn to end a novel properly, without having to resort to the #&$^ showdown between the forces of Good and Evil...

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

I continually wonder... (3)

Rabbins (70965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602540)

Is the hacker community trying to live up to these novels?

We have talked numerously about the script kiddies, that everyone likes to rip on, for trying to live up to the MTV and movie potrayals of hackers...

But do these books serve as a guideline for future innovations to the internet. I am sure there are some very intelligent people out there right now trying to make the "Metaverse" spoken about in Snow Crash, a reality.

Is that misguided?

Gasp! (3)

swdunlop (103066) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602541)

And all this time I thought that came from everyone playing Ultima IV when they were supposed to be studying! Another illusion ruined. ;)

Implicit logic? (4)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602542)

Here's a question for all you out there - where's the central repository for "Stuff to read" for your typical net.geek ? There doesn't seem to be one place you can go which says, "okay this is cool, you gotta check THAT out, and don't forget this!" Instead it seems to be implicitly assumed you've already read things like the Illuminati, the Hacker Dictionary, Ender's Game, and related.

My question is, of course, with all the disorganization... what else have I missed?


Let's interview Neal (5)

D-Fly (7665) | more than 14 years ago | (#1602543)

Neal Stephenson would be an excellent person to interview on /.

Of the interviews we've done here so far, John Carmack was definitely the most responsive and insightful. Sterling (surprisingly) was the worst.

Stephenson consistently strikes me as not only one of the cleverest SF writers around right now--Gibson may be a better prose stylist, but Stephenson is much funnier--but one of the brightest.

In each of his books, he seems to have had a number of deep insights into contemporary culture, and extrapolated it into a future world-view. The "franchise" society in Snow Crash, for example, was a profound meditation on the commercial balkanization of American culture.

I, for one, would love to have a (mediated) discussion with him about the future.
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