Books: Snow Crash
In some ways, Neal Stephenson's novel "Snow Crash" seems quaint and outdated. First published in 1992, just as the World Wide Web was starting to take off, its depictions of 3D virtual reality avatars interacting in a "Metaverse" are about as exciting as your little brother's WoW character. Heck, a year after the book came out, "Doom" was released, and the whole world was introduced to first-person clipping problems.
Still, if you're not looking for the latest in hard sci-fi speculation, it's hard not to get sucked in by the tale of Hiro Protagonist, an out-of-work Mafia pizza delivery driver and master hacker. There's an apocalypse coming in "Snow Crash," or rather an infocalypse, that threatens to render everyone in the real world into helpless zombies, and Hiro and company are doing everything possible (in their madcap way) to stop it.
The writing is breezy and the plot is frantic. A lot of the standard cyberpunk boxes are checked - anarchic future capitalism, Asian influences in everything, freewheeling mores - but it's still a slick piece of writing. It's not surprising "Snow Crash" went to the top of the bestseller lists. At its best, some of the details just leap off the page (like Y.T.'s auto-adjusting smart skateboard).
"Snow Crash" does bog down in a few areas. There are several exposition-heavy sections relating to Sumerian myth; unlike other exposition in the book, there's little or no action going on in the background, so it ends up feeling a bit like a dry mythology textbook. Hiro's nominal love interest Juanita is woefully underdeveloped, as are most of the characters besides Hiro and Y.T. I also feel like the last quarter of the book leans a little too hard on rock'em, sock'em action instead of the well-paced, occasionally humorous antics of the beginning of the book. Still, it's worth a read, and it makes for a great beach book.