Review of ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson

This book has the reputation of a cyberpunk classic and indeed I often heard it mentioned at the same time as William Gibson’s earlier Neuromancer. If you haven’t read either of these and are considering which one to choose, it should be Neuromancer.

Snow Crash is a sprawling mess of a novel that’s about 300 pages too long. It’s an odd mixture of pulp fiction, dystopia and info-dumping about ancient belief systems. I was quite intrigued by it at first but I got to the halfway point and really didn’t care about how the plot would be resolved. There are some interesting characters but none of them are developed enough.

The premise of the story is that a drug / virus / religion called Snow Crash is infecting computer programmers. A freelance hacker named Hiro Protagonist and a teenage girl named Y. T. who works as a courier try to gain information to foil the bad guys, with the help or hindrance of organised crime bosses.

In this world, people jack in to the Metaverse (a virtual reality environment) and interact using avatars. Expanding on William Gibson’s vision, there are some prescient concepts in the book, such as how people use the internet for business, crime, escapism, etc. Everything is franchised out and there is no central law and order any more, power being in the hands of corporations. Information being uploaded to online libraries and picked up by anyone who can make use of it. In some respects, however, the story seems dated now.

I didn’t dislike the novel as such, but the info-dumping was the worst element for me. It was as if Wikipedia articles had been dropped between action scenes. The ending was very quick and unsatisfactory. I just feel that the novel never lived up to its promising beginning.

First published in 1992.

6 thoughts on “Review of ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson”

  1. Great review! I haven’t read this or Neuromancer. Sounds like an interesting story but a shame that it wasn’t better. I hate books which info dump as it makes for a far more intersting book if the information is shown to you through the various scenes rather than all rushed in one go in one or a few info dumps. It feels dare I say it a bit lazy on the part of the author. 😮

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I’m not sure it was laziness from the author, I assume he knew what he was doing… but for me those sections just didn’t work.

  2. Info dumping! I like that term, but I hate it when I find them in books. Hey, if I want to read all these facts, I’ll read non-fiction!

    1. Yes, indeed… I’m as interested in ancient beliefs as the average person, I suppose, but not enough to enjoy those sections of the book!

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