Monday, 6 January 2014

Book Impressions - Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

This is a fun cyberpunk adventure which I enjoyed reading a lot. The story takes place in two worlds, the first is the physical world which has changed considerably from the one we know. The land has been divided up into franchises owned by corporations, churches and the Federal government. Each franchise has their own laws with enforcement provided by corporations and in one case automated systems (Fido is very cool).

The other world is the metaverse, a 3D internet where people interact through avatars, in many ways it resembles the physical world but for hackers the rules can be different.

The story concerns a virus that crashes computer systems, but also human minds or more specifically hacker minds. The story revolves around two central characters, the first is Hiro, a Katana wielding hacker who also delivers pizza in the real world for the Mafia. The other is a young girl Y T, who is a courier on an air board. Together they investigate and discover a plot to control people's minds.

For me the best part of the book is some of the ideas it explores, the main one being the linguistic virus that is the core of the story. There's some excellent and interesting thinking behind this that was a joy to unravel. The ideas for the world were also fascinating, for example the floating city built around an aircraft carrier that sails around the Pacific Ocean.

The pacing of the story is spot on and once it gets started clips along at a decent pace, there's a decent mix of characters (Raven is a fun bad guy) and it's well written. Overall an excellent read.

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra 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 outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.

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