Sep 5, 2013

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson is truly one hell of a writer. I fell in love with his historical fiction trilogy, The Baroque Cycle, first. Then I learned he was most well known for his science fiction, and devoured Anathem and Cryptonomicon, and recently thoroughly enjoyed REAMDE. Snow Crash, written in the mid-1990s, was his big entrance onto the authorial stage, and it's a doozy. I really love sci fi that thrusts you into a world that's similar enough to our own to be familiar, but different enough to cause some serious disorientation. America of Stephenson's imagining is a jumbled mix of businesses and pseudo-governments; the lingo is completely changed and so is the culture. Our protagonists, Hiro and Y.T., are very likable, relate-able even though their milieu is so novel. Stephenson flexes his mighty plot muscles, spanning a new reality from the very beginnings of written human history into an alternate present. Even in made up sci fi slang, Stephenson's writing is phenomenal. There are sentences that take your breath away, sections you want to read over and over, characters so poignant in their reality it makes your eyes water. He's good, he is, and I can't get enough. Worth noting, as well, is that the modern usage of the word "avatar" was created by Stephenson for this book. He acknowledges in a short afterword that a Japanese company had independently started using avatar in the same way some years before Stephenson, but it was this book that placed it into the modern consciousness. So he's kind of a big deal.

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