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Snow Crash

Snow Crash (1992) is a science fiction novel written by Neal Stephenson. It follows in the footsteps of the cyberpunk novels by such authors as William Gibson and Rudy Rucker, though Stephenson breaks away from the typical "techno punk" stories by embellishing this story with a heavy dose of satire and jet-black humor.

The story takes place in an America of the future, where corporatization, franchise, and the economy in general have spun wildly out of control. Snow Crash depicts the absence of a central powerful state; in its absence, corporations take over the role of government. The United States has lost most of its territory when its economy collapsed and its government is generally ignored; the lost territory is a series of enclaves, each run by its own big business franchise (such as "Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong").This bears a similarity to "anarcho-capitalism" or libertarian anarchism, and the theme is extended in his novel The Diamond Age (sort of a sequel to Snow Crash). The Internet, or Metaverse as it's called here, permeates everything, presenting Stephenson's vision of how a virtual-reality based Internet might evolve over the next few decades. But a new drug, called Snow Crash, is sweeping across the country, while at the same time a computer virus with the same name is beginning to take a foothold in the computer-generated world. This is the first virus to actually make the leap from the virtual world to the real one (as we see when uber-hacker Da5id carelessly opens it up), and it has the potential to wreak havoc like no virus has ever done before.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

Into this crazy world come the ostensible heroes of the story. The major character in the series is a slacker hacker with the erstwhile name of Hiro Protagonist[?]; but the real hero is a streetwise young RaDiKs Kourier named Y.T.[?] The pair find themselves thrown together in a wild plot involving ancient Sumerian artifacts, huge floating raft colonies overflowing with mindless cult zombies, the Nipponese rapper Sushi K, the Mafia pizza delivery service, Rat Things[?], and Raven. Raven the Aleut is the bad guy[?]...and he's not just a bad guy, he's THE bad guy. When the reader encounters Raven for the first time, he gets a good idea of why no one in the story wants to mess around with this guy.

Stephenson spends a good third of the novel taking the reader on an extensive, impeccably researched primer of the mythology of ancient Sumeria, while theorizing upon the origins of language[?] and their relationship to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The deeper meaning of the novel can be summed up with a quote from William S. Burroughs: "Language is a virus from outer space." The book is also inspired by Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976).

Snow Crash rocketed to the top of the fiction best-seller charts upon its release, and it has since established Stephenson as a major science fiction writer for the 1990s.



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