Posts Tagged: Neal Stephenson

Review: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash was written by Neal Stephenson and published in 1992.


The Mafia, the nation of Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong, a cyborg, a skateboarding kourier, and a pizza-delivering hacker who is the greatest swordsman of the world team up to stop a communications monopolist from releasing a virus that affects people and computers.

Reasons to Read

The main character’s name is Hiro Protagonist. Key book in the cyberpunk canon. Stephenson almost invented the word avatar. Dystopian, commercialized, libertarian world where laws basically don’t exist. Cyborg doggies called Rat Things. It’s hard to predict where the novel is headed. Ancient Sumerian religion and artifacts. It’s way, way, way better than the Cryptonomicon. Sword fighting. Hackers. And again, sword fighting.

Review: Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson

Perhaps, in 1999, when Cryptonomicon came out, it was a cutting edge techno-thriller.  Eleven years later, it’s laughable, because the world which Stephenson is writing about is so far in the past.  Gather round kiddies, let me tell you about this thing called the Internet.  Also, for good measure, I’m going to through in some UNIX commands and reference hacking every chance I get.

The book is 1100+ pages and should have been cut to between 300-400 pages.  The reader doesn’t need to know everything about the characters.  Watch as Randy uses the bathroom and thinks about work.  Why?
The other thing that bothered me about this book is the unbelievability of it.  The novel takes place in the present, circa ’99, and during World War II.  There’s a conspiracy between the World War II characters, and it just so happens that their offspring meet up in the present to deal with the same issue: Nazi and Japanese gold.
Stephenson manages to write in a way that keeps the reader wanting to know what happens.  The problem is that most of the pages are worth reading.  This is a book to skim.  But is it worth it?  Short answer: no.  Stephenson has brought us along for pages and pages.  That much time demands a worthy ending.  Stephenson takes a short cut, and leaves the reader where the first stage on action ends.  Do we know how everything turns out?  Nope.  We just know that everything has changed.
There are moments of humor, mainly from the Randy’s point of view.  However, the humor isn’t enough to carry the book, especially when complete filler is thrown in.  For instance, Randy’s budding relationship with Amy Shaftoe.  What does this add?

I’ve been told by friends, that Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash is worth reading, but I’m not sure I’ll check it out.  Cryptonomicon is novel that owes its success to the time it was published.  Take that away, and you’re left with a bloated book best left on the shelf.