Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Snow Crash" By Neal Stephenson

I picked up this book at a used bookstore because a friend of mine has quoted little bits of it for the last several years. I saw it and thought, "Well, let's see what this is all about".

Summary: It is modern day, but certain trends have reached an extreme. The government has become a near-irrelevant entity as laws dissolved under the weight of corporate might. The US president is an obscure figure, unrecognizable to the masses. All valuable real estate has been claimed and developed by various corporations who have built up their franchises. There are franchises for roads, restaurants, neighborhoods, jails, police, schools, deliveries, you name it. People are citizens of their franchise, and register their vehicles that way. Messengers have dozens of barcode/visas that get scanned as they enter each different zone. Crime is suppressed by private security, the mafia run around with the word blazoned on their jackets and fear no one. Areas that are not profitable are franchise ghettos, where the poor are left to suffer in the worst possible conditions. This is also a world of high technology. Vehicles go faster, computers are more powerful, virtual reality is everywhere, tires adapt to the ground, cyber animals guard buildings and everything is being scanned by everyone.

In this world Hiro is a master hacker and swordsman, delivering pizza. He meets up with Y.T. a RadiKS Kourier who delivers high value packages by magnetically harpooning vehicles and trailing behind them on a skateboard. Hiro and Y.T. meet quite randomly on the job and soon get sucked into a high-stakes investigation. Hiro learns that one man has been spending the last several years preparing to take control of the whole world using an obscure idea he discovered in Sumarian texts.

This book explores the ancient and futuristic, solid reality and the virtual Metaverse, the common good and selfishness. It is really a perfect book for this era of human civilization as it is a commentary on where we are and where we might go while telling a really exciting story.

What I Liked: This is a very fast-paced book with a lot of action and investigation. The tech is fun to think about, since we are on the edge of making a lot of it. Hiro is a very compelling protagonist, as he is both highly-capable, and totally laid-back. There are a lot of cool ideas about how the brain could work like a computer that fuel the main story.

What I Didn't Like: [This area intentionally left blank]

Rating: Must read.

Also Read by this Author:  Nothing yet.

Reviewed by: Nick

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