Book Review: Snow Crash

Last week I finished reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.  I heard of it on The Command Line podcast as a novel that would be interesting to programmers.

I’ve got to say I’m somewhat disappointed.  While the last 100 pages or so flowed along nicely, getting to that point was slow going for me.  I nearly gave up before getting to that point.  I’m glad I didn’t, because the novel as a whole was worth it.

The story centers around Hiro, a hacker, now delivering pizza for the mob, who had a hand in creating the Metaverse, the matrix before there was a Matrix movie.  He gets pulled into a power struggle against a weapon that affects the innermost wirings of our brains, especially programmers.  A mind virus if you will.

There’s a lot of ancient history delvings and biblical stuff, which seemed quite tedious for me to dig through.  In the end, it all clicked for me, but I can’t say I enjoyed getting there.

I also didn’t enjoy or find very believable the future that was outlined.  The US government has nearly dissolved and everything is franchised.  The book was written in the early 90’s, and doesn’t take place all that far into the future, so it was just a little hard of me to suspend my disbelief that things could ever approach that.

The Metaverse was cool.  Of course I’m a sucker for most things cyberspace related.  It would be pretty awesome to have a program capable of the interaction that the Librarian program was.  It was basically a data analysis program that appeared as a librarian that you could just ask questions to and request hypothesis about more direct topics.  Will we ever get there, I don’t know.  But data mining is an interesting topic.

I give Snow Crash a thumb up.  I’m glad I read it.  I’d compare my problem getting through it to a Tom Clancy book.  I always found the first part of Clancy books slow going and then it was a fun roller-coaster down to the end.

I had actually heard of (and was probably more interested in) Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon but had gathered that Snow Crash would be an easier introduction to Stephenson.  I still plan on reading it, but it’s on the pile for now.  I’ve got some tech books I need to get through.

One other note.  Stephenson has a unique writing style.  I don’t know if all his books are that way or just this one.  I guess I would call it somewhat disjointed.


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