Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his thrid mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off his arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of phone books.
This paragraphs opens Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson's novel about computers, viruses, and the rise and fall of civilization over the last 5,000 years. The Deliverator is Hiro Protagonist, half-Nipponese and half-Black, "last of the freelance hackers, [and] greatest sword fighter in the world." Together with Y. T., a 15-year-old teenage girl and thrasher Kourier, they combat L. Bob Rife and his evil plan to take over the world. Hiro, of course, is armed with his twin Japanese swords: a Katana and a Wakizashi. Y. T. sports a collection of high-tech self-defense devices.

In a intricately constructed, near-future, dystopic world, the action jumps back and forth between Reality and the Metaverse, a virtual reality world. The enemies are armed with neurolinguistic viruses that infect the minds of religious converts and hackers.
This Snow Crash thing - is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?
What's the difference?
The story unfolds and enfolds along the west coast of the United States with a collection of strange characters and organizations, such a Raven, a deadly, scary Aleut, the Mafia (employer of the Deliverator mentioned above), and Sushi K, a Nipponese rapper.

All together, the plot, setting and characters combine to a deliver an stimulating and exciting read, ... except for a few chapters in the middle where the author feel obligated to present his research on ancient civilizations, Sumerians, Babel, the Bible, and western religions, complete with citations. Slogging through this lecture is worth the effort as the story picks up on the other side and comes to an excellent finish.

Snow Crash Acronyms

Each acronym is defined exactly once, but if you miss any, the most important ones are here.

BIOS Built-in Operating System
Bathroom Tissue Distribution Unit
Central Intelligence Corporation
Executive Branch General Operational Command
FOQNE Franchise-Organized Quasi-National Entity
Suspected Perpetrator Apprehension Code
STDs Severe Tire Damage devices
TMAWH The Mews at Windsor Heights
TROKK Temporary Republic of Kenai and Kodiak

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