From the moment Snow Crash starts, you know you’re in for quite a ride. In an alternate future sometime around the turn of the 21st century, a pizza delivery boy working for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc. is careening through town, trying to make his delivery in under 30 minutes (or face the dire consequences). Stephenson immediately introduces my favorite aspects of the novel: the crazy slang, the privatization of everything, including city-states called Burbclaves, the penalties suffered by late pizza deliveries. The United States has been reduced to a collection of office buildings in “Fedland”, while places like Uncle Lee’s Greater Hong Kong welcome new citizens. The court system and police are gone; instead, you can have your cases heard by “Uncle Bob’s Court” or hire out police called “enforcers”.
While delivering his pizza, Hiro crashes his car and finds an unlikely friend and partner in a young courier named Y.T. She delivers his pizza (therefore saving his ass), and becomes his partner in his other source of income: Hiro is a hacker, and he collects and sells information for a living. Then Stephenson introduces another fantastic aspect of his novel: the Metaverse, a virtual-reality successor to the internet. The more you read of this book, the harder it is to believe that it was written in 1992. A drug called snow crash has infiltrated the metaverse, causing damage to people in real life. Hiro and Y.T. team up to find out what’s going on, leading them on a path that involves ancient Sumerian and modern religious cults and a virtual librarian with access to all of the world’s information.
Snow Crash is fantastic book. It’s funny and intelligent and simply mind-blowing at times. It’s supremely nerdy in a wonderful way. I loved the characters (Y.T. kicks some ass, the bad guy is awesome), the background, all of it. Stephenson fleshed out every little detail of this alternative version of our world and I loved every bit of it.