Review by Booklist Review
This novel depicts a twenty-first-century America that has turned into the classic urban jungle, with most people plugged into "virtual reality" simulations. A computer virus threatens the electronics, and a new drug called Snow Crash threatens human health. A maverick hacker calling himself Hiro Protagonist winds up with the job of fighting both. The book will not seem all that significant to those familiar with the last 10 years or so of cyberpunk and its relatives, but it does come across well as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek exploration of similar territory by a writer new to sf but basically gifted who's assimilated a good many of the developments in virtual-reality technology since the early 1980s. ~--Roland Green
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In California of the near future, when the U.S. is only a ``Burbclave'' (city-state), the Mafia is just another franchise chain (CosaNostrastet Pizza, Incorporated) and there are no laws to speak of, Hiro Protagonist follows clues from the Bible, ancient Sumer and high technology to help thwart an attempt to take control of civilization--such as it is. When he logs on to Metaverse, an imaginary place entered via computer, Hiro encounters Juanita Marquez, a ``radical'' Catholic and computer whiz. She warns him off Snow Crash (a street drug named for computer failure) and gives him a file labeled Babel (as in Tower of Babel). Another friend, sp ok/pk Da5id, who ignores Juanita's warning, computer crashes out of Metaverse into the real world, where he physically collapses. Hiro, Juanita, Y.T. (a freewheeling, skateboard-riding courier) and sundry other Burbclave and franchise power figures see some action on the way to finding out who is behind this bizarre ``drug'' with ancient roots. Although Stephenson ( Zodiac ) provides more Sumerian culture than the story strictly needs (alternating intense activity with scholarship breaks), his imaginative juxtaposition of ancient and futuristic detail could make this a cult favorite. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Diamond Age, a Hugo Award-winning romp into a future nanotechnological revolution, doesn't lend itself to concise description. For what it's worth, it explores what happens when an incredibly powerful interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin, who uses it to reprogram the future of humanity. Got that? Stephenson's books rank among the most popular sf novels of recent years but require such close attention that they pose special challenges for audiobook fans. Jennifer Wiltsie's narration here is uniformly strong and well fitted to the material, but this may not be the right kind of book for the average person. Recommended for libraries that count many young and hardcore sf readers among their audiobook patrons. Originally published in 1992, Snow Crash is a popular sf novel in a genre that some wags have dubbed "cyberpunk." Listening to it is like taking an out-of-control roller coaster ride on a double helix, weaving in and out of Stephenson's fully imagined computer-generated "Metaverse" and a near-future real world comprised of bizarre microstates and a vast Mafia-controlled pizza delivery system. The central character, aptly named Hiro Protagonist, is at once a computer hacker, pizza "deliverator," and samurai swordsman. The story moves at such breakneck speed that many listeners may need to replay the first reel simply to figure out what is going on; however, the highly charged reading by actor Jonathan Davis another Frank Muller in the making helps hold everything together. Recommended for libraries catering to forward-looking sf readers. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
After terminally cute campus high-jinks (The Big U) and a smug but attention-grabbing eco-thriller (Zodiac), Stephenson leaps into near-future Gibsonian cyberpunk--with predictably mixed results. The familiar-sounding backdrop: The US government has been sold off; businesses are divided up into autonomous franchises (``franchulates'') visited by kids from the heavily protected independent ``Burbclaves''; a computer-generated ``metaverse'' is populated by hackers and roving commercials. Hiro Protagonist, freelance computer hacker, world's greatest swordsman, and stringer for the privatized CIA, delivers pizzas for the Mafia--until his mentor Da5id is blasted by Snow Crash, a curious new drug capable of crashing both computers and hackers. Hiro joins forces with freelance skateboard courier Y.T. to investigate. It emerges that Snow Crash is both a drug and a virus: it destroyed ancient Sumeria by randomizing their language to create Babel; its modern victims speak in tongues, lose their critical faculties, and are easily brainwashed. Eventually the usual conspiracy to take over the world emerges; it's led by media mogul L. Bob Rife, the Rev. Wayne's Pearly Gates religious franchulate, and vengeful nuclear terrorist Raven. The cultural-linguistic material has intrinsic interest, but its connections with cyberpunk and computer-reality seem more than a little forced. The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever embellishments, none of the above is as original as Stephenson seems to think. An entertaining entry that would have benefitted from a more rigorous attention to the basics.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.