Stephenson's Snow Crash is an eccentric mix of concept and dry wit. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
Snow Crash is an entertaining and thought-provoking read, despite an over-ambitious concept.

Main character Hiro Protagonist makes his way in life variously as a concert promoter, katana-weilding swordsman, pizza delivery man, but most importantly as a freelance-computer hacker. In this near-future vision, Stephenson shows us a commercialized world where national governments have given way to franchised communities. Hiro Protagonist stays away from the franchised "burb-claves" in favor of a city apartment in converted storage unit, but spends most of his time in the Metaverse, a 3-D interface, virtual reality descendent of the Internet. One night, Hiro is at a friend's nite club on the Metaverse, when a primitively designed avatar approaches him, offering him a sample of a new drug. But Hiro knows that only viruses can be exchanged on the Metaverse, not drugs. His friend David decides to try it out, crediting the strength of his anti-virus software, but he ends up in a catatonic state—in real life. With the help of sassy young courier Y.T., Hiro sets out to unravel the mystery of this hybrid virus/drug, called "Snow Crash."

Book Cover

On Audio
Stephenson's writing style is probably the main attraction of this book. His storytelling is at once witty, hip and cynical. Hiro Protagonist, as a character, is also a well-drawn nouveau icon of alternative reality literature, a combination of hero and cynic. This story is generally an inventive and wild ride through a clever speculation on the future. Despite the straightforward story, the underlying concept is complex. Watching Hiro unravel the origins of the Snow Crash virus from ancient Sumerian origins is fascinating, but the eventual determination was not ultimately convincing for me. I question the need for a concept that takes several pages of straight explanation to elucidate in total. The parts of this story, however, that get bogged down in concept are limited. The details of this too-ambitious concept were not essential enough for the story to detract from it.

Science fiction and fantasy fans alike looking for an escape from the ordinary offerings of their genres will thoroughly enjoy Snow Crash.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

Alternative Reality Web Zine: ISSN# 1559-3037

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