Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash has been on my list for a while now. I finally got around to it this month. I had heard that it made the list of Time Magazine’s Top 100 English Language Novels. I don’t disagree with it being included on the list, it just surprised me.
It’s a difficult novel to explain. As opposed to summarizing the plot in detail, I think I’ll just write about the characters and other interesting things about the story.
The novel takes place somewhere in the future in the United States. A computer hacker named Hiro Protagonist (that’s right) moves around between Reality and the Metaverse (a virtual reality). In Reality, he is a pizza delivery guy working for a Mafia-owned pizza restaurant. Delivering a pizza late is not a good thing! In his Metaverse, he is an expert sword fighter. Y.T. is a fifteen year-old female Kourier. She delivers packages and mail by skateboarding along the highway while “harpooned” to other vehicles.
“Snow Crash” is a virus that is part computer, part biological, and can result in a spiritual or religious transformation or could just kill you. A Pentacostal Russian Orthodox group floats around on The Raft in the Pacific Northwest after being infected by it. One of the more memorable questions asked by those attempting to get the antidote for the virus is “a virus, a drug, a religion, what’s the difference?”.
Hiro goes back and forth between fighting off the bad guys and speaking to a virtual Librarian. The Librarian gives him information reaching back to the Biblical Old Testament and Sumerian culture about the nam-shub of Enki, the antidote for Snow Crash, which is what Hiro eventually finds, with the help of Y.T.
The Librarian points out an interesting fact in explaining to Hiro the effects of Snow Crash. In the Old Testament, when the Tower of Babel was built, mankind went from one language to many languages. In the New Testament, at the day of Pentacost, the followers of Jesus went from speaking many languages to one “spiritual” tongue or language. The ability to go back and forth from one language to many languages was similar to computers’ ability to use binary code (one language) to translate many languages according to the Librarian.
The novel was reminiscent of The DaVinci Code though it was written about ten years before. Snow Crash doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as The DaVinci Code but is twenty times more thought provoking.