I hate to start 2014 on a negative note, but MEH. It’s not even that Snow Crash is a terrible novel (though it’s not an especially good one); it’s that it’s not my kind of novel. In some ways, it’s like a Dan Brown novel, and in others, it’s like I imagine a Clive Cussler or James Patterson bestseller might be. (Neither of which I’ve read or plan to read. Ever.) I’m just not a fan.
Neal Stephenson has been on my radar for a while: Cryptonomicon is supposedly a really good novel. I heard of Snow Crash when Palmer read it. He told me that he really liked it and who wrote it, and I figured I’d give it a try. Then, of course, I put it off for a few books. I picked it up again when it kept coming up in conversation.
It’s a dystopian thriller set in an alternate mid-to-late 1990s, when what sounds like Second Life or OASIS, the online world of Ready Player One. It’s not especially advanced. At the beginning of the novel, Hiro Protagonist (I know. Ugh.) is delivering a pizza for the mafia. Governments all over the world have been taken over by private companies – you can go from one neighborhood to another and need a passport to get into both. Barcodes are plastered on characters’ bodies and their retinas are regularly scanned. Anyway, something goes wrong at the pizza place, and Hiro only has 20 minutes to deliver a pizza to avoid Big Trouble with the mafia. He ends up crashed in a suburban backyard, and a 15-year-old girl, who calls herself Y.T. and rides a magnetic skateboard that attaches to cars, saves him by delivering the pizza (barely) on time. Thanks to her favor for the mafia and Hiro’s katana (I know) and hacking abilities, they end up in a mess that involves a computer virus called Snow Crash that fries the computers and the brains of infected users. And said virus has its roots in Sumerian myth and religion is rooted in viruses and so on into ridiculousness.
The structure alternately annoyed and bored me. It’s action! action! action! followed by a loooooong exposition in which Hiro discusses things with his computer wikipedia-style, explaining the religious stupidity I mentioned a second ago. I think my main problem with it is specific to me: I don’t like action books just like I don’t like action movies. (For some reason, I don’t hate Dan Brown, but that’s neither here nor there.) There’s a lot of violence and some gore in Snow Crash that I just didn’t care for. And the action went on and on. I was bored with the action even before I was bored with the exposition. I guess all the actiony bits were why I wasn’t as fond of Ready Player One as I might have been – though I’m convinced that Ready Player One is simply a better novel, anyway. You won’t believe the stupid deus ex machina in this book. It’s just silly and bad.
And there’s some stupidity that should be edited out, like this whole bit from the perspective of a souped-up dog named Fido, talking about all of the nice doggies barking at the mean people. Seriously. The more I write about this novel, the more I dislike it, and I didn’t like it in the first place.
So. You might like this novel if you’re into action, especially of the technological sort. Like if Blade Runner is your favorite movie (the book is soooo much better). And maybe if you like James Patterson or Clive Cussler, though I could be way off about what their books are about. Maybe Cryptonomicon is better, but I’m in no hurry to find out because I bet it has a lot in common with Snow Crash.
In other news, Palmer and I painted my library! I still haven’t finished hanging up photos and cleaning up, so I haven’t taken the Official Super-Awesome Photos yet. But here’s a somewhat distorted panorama of three (empty) walls for your enjoyment. The walls aren’t as yellowy as they seem here.
On New Year’s Eve, we went to a small party at our friend Sara’s house. It was the best one I’ve had in several. Here’s a short video of what happened when Palmer popped the champagne cork:
And here’s our obligatory blurry Instagram selfie.
We had such a good time! Yay, 2014!