I was very hesitant to pick up another Stephenson book. I read Diamond Age and was underwhelmed. And, my copy of Snow Crash came with a cover blurb comparing the story to Neuromancer, which was a book that almost made me feel physical pain trying to read through it. So I didn’t have high hopes for Snow Crash, but I wanted to cross another title off the of NPR’s 100 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy list.
Little did I know that snow Crash would become one of my favorites from the list!
This is such a fun, subversive science fiction story with various levels of satire nesting in the plot like Matryoshka dolls. On the surface, the story appears to have the usual, cliched sci fi elements of dystopian America with a Chosen One protagonist, this time – with katanas! And if Hiro Protagonist (yep, that’s our hero’s name) was just another Comic Con weeboo, Snow Crash would not be as memorable as it is.
First, Hiro is half Japanese, half black. Which, for sci fi, is revolutionary. (Yeah, eat it, Sad Puppies.) And he actually has trained in swordplay, so the katanas aren’t just for show (although they are a bit anachronistic for this future). Second, Hiro isn’t the hero. I mean, Hiro does save the world of Snow Crash, but by then, you really are skimming the pages to see when his “sidekick”, Y.T., comes back into the narrative. Because nothing is more interesting than Y.T – imagine Louise Belcher as a teenage, skateboarding punk.
Everytime Hiro gets a scene of Michael Bay level action, the next scene with Y.T. will have more depth, action, adventure and badassery. Things happen to Hiro because the plot needs things to happen to Hiro. Things happen to Y.T. because she’s Y.T.
There is a controversial scene with Y.T., who is a teenager in the story. She ends up having sex with a 30 year old. Which, normally, I would be clamoring about the fetishization of teenage girls. But that’s not what this subversive scene is about at all. Y.T. is into this 30 year old villain, who is super scary and is only wearing black until they find a darker color and totally has a sad backstory, you can tell. So, hey, points for showing that women are just as into sex. Then, Y.T. gets hers, only in the moment, she forgets that she is wearing future tech for rape prevention. So villain does not get his, only a knock out injection right into his dick. So the scene is really all about Y.T., the true hero of this story, having empowerment. It’s not the way I would’ve gone about giving her agency and making sure that the plot just doesn’t steam roll her like most women in sci fi, but who wants me to write a book?