Jan 2004 Book Review: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
It is funny when you stumble across a book that immediate grabs you. I came across Snow Crash staying at a friends in Auckland, picked it up and didn't put it down until it was done.
Here's the opening line:
The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He's got esprit up to here. Right now he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachno-fiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.
Classic cyber-punk in a way with all of the great references to science fiction technology. But this man isn't a mercenary — he is in pizza delivery.
Why is the Deliverator so equipped? Because people rely on him. He is a roll model. This is America. People do whatever the fuck they feel like doing, you got a problem with that? Because they have a right to. And because they have guns and no one can fucking stop them. As a result, this country has one of the worst economies in the world. When it gets down to it–we're talking trade balances here–once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwaves in Tadzhikistan and selling them here–once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel–once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani bricklayer would consider to be prosperity–y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else
high-speed pizza delivery
The Deliverator used to make software. Still does, sometimes. But if life were a mellow elementary school run by well-meaning education Ph.D.s, the Deliverator's report card would say; "Hiro is so bright and creative but needs to work harder on his cooperation skills."
The book carries on to introduce virtual reality and a prescient (or proscriptive?) version of Second Life called the Meta-Verse, but that can be found in reviews all over the net.
More interesting to me is the tying of economics, sociology and good character development. Take this final excerpt about our Deliverator's life code which is based on Sumari culture:
"There's no difference between modern culture & Sumerian. We have a huge workforce that is illiterate or aliterate & relies on TV–which is sort of an oral tradition. And we have a small, extremely literate power elite–the people who go into [cyberspace], basically–who understand that information is power, & who control society because they have the semimystical ability to speak magic computer languages."