Review of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson by Thomas Patterson
Watching ‘Altered Carbon’ on Netflix motivated me to re-read the book, and another book, ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson. Both books viewed the possibilities of the virtual world as an alternative to our physical reality, or an overlay to access or escape it.
In ‘Snow Crash’ the world has broken down into a tribal society where corporate entities have replaced government bureaucracies. The Raft, a floating Eurasian continent of habitats drifting toward North America, harbors the hacker who wants to control the minds of the world. The economic breakdown, and hyperinflation, has led to consumers turning to cryptocurrencies (yes, this book was written in 1992), shopping, entertaining, and socializing in the Multiverse (a term coined by Stephenson). The Multiverse is Stephenson’s vision of the evolved internet’s virtual reality culture. Everything you need is local on a single virtual street where your avatar interfaces with the avatars of others. Your cultural status is affected by your access in the Multiverse including dark web type contacts.
Mail and delivery systems have been replaced by couriers, and Hiro Protagonist, is a pizza delivery driver employed by the American Mafia. When he fails to make a delivery, he meets Y.T. (yours truly), a courier who agrees to complete his task. Also, being accomplished hackers, Hiro and Y.T. begin to work together gathering, and selling information. Hiro comes across a file that is named Snow Crash. When Hiro asks a friend to examine the file, his friend’s computer crashes, and his mind is destroyed. His friend is not the only one affected, or infected.
The book entails the search for the originator and purpose of Snow Crash, as well as Stephenson’s philosophy of the nature of the human brain. It seems the code for the human brain is based on ancient Sumerian, and when Hiro’s research draws connections between Sumerian religion, Snow Crash, and the Tower of Babel he is warned to give up his pursuits.
Hiro does not heed the warning and his search takes him to the Pearly Gates (a religious organization), a media magnate, and the Raft. His physical and virtual investigation takes you through a sophisticated plot involving the reprogramming of minds using DNA manipulation based on the tenets of ancient Samaria. It is a wild ride indeed, but with Stephenson as guide, you are able to follow this crazy, unique, mind blowing view of the cyber future. It still is one of my most memorable reads. Give it a go, and try not to crash.