alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 41: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Goodreads’ incredibly short synopsis says: “In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.”

Fellow Pajibans recommended this to me during the last Cannonball, when I related my disappointment with The Flame Alphabet (tie-in: language epidemics.) It was very interesting to read this book so shortly after Ready Player One, because both deal with immersion in virtual realities. I enjoyed having Cline’s version  in recent memory as I read Snow Crash, which, as a predecessor to Ready Player One and a sci-fi/cyberpunk classic in its own right, almost certainly had a huge influence on Cline’s work.

I really enjoyed Snow Crash. There is a lot about it that is kind of silly and fantastical, even for sci-fi, including a basically made-up version of neurolinguistics and quite a bit of would-be futuristic jargon. It’s a tough line to toe, when you’re writing near-future sci-fi, that you run the risk of dating yourself when you invent new terminology and describe specifics about plausible but not currently existing technologies. How much of what you describe actually comes to pass or still ring true? Tech and gadgetry are so ubiquitous that nearly every reader of a book like this will have some kind of experience with it; compare that to other popular sci-fi themes like bioengineering or space travel, where there are a lot fewer ‘experts’ that can critique the realism of the book. All of that is to say that one of the cyberpunk genre’s main themes focuses on common technologies and what possibilities can be extrapolated from that tech in the future, and because so many of us are familiar with that technology, it makes it very easy to nitpick areas where books like Snow Crash diverge from either current or probable reality.

If you’re not especially concerned with your sci-fi being at least somewhat grounded in science and fact, then those types of incongruities will matter very little. For its part, I think Snow Crash constructed a pretty believable virtual reality in the Metaverse, but I found the tie-ins with Sumerian myth to be a little fantastical and ambitious, particularly given the somewhat haphazard explanation of neurolinguistics that bears only a passing resemblance to the actual academic field. That aside, I really enjoyed the scope and execution of the story. The pacing was a little frenetic, but I wasn’t too bothered by it as it heightened the tension and served to underline the hectic nature of life and society itself in the world of the book. The protagonists were not much more developed than avatars in a video game, but particularly given the emphasis on virtual reality, it almost seems appropriate that the reader does experience the book in that video game sense. It’s probably not a book for everyone, but as an overall fan of sci-fi (with piqued interest in cyberpunk as of late) I liked it a lot.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 32: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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This one has been reviewed so, so many times already, there isn’t much left to say. Take the following quiz:

  • Do 80’s pop culture references moisten your lions?
  • Were you waiting for the next great cyberpunk novel?
  • Are you a fan of sensitive and varied depictions of different races, genders, and sexual orientations?
  • Do treasure hunts still appeal to you on an instinctual level?
  • Are you charmed by geeks fighting an Evil Empire?
  • Might you be immune to the occasional irritation that could arise from an extended infodump?
  • Don’t you think there is something so appealing about a hero rising from inauspicious origins?
  • Have you ever dreamed of fashioning yourself a new life in an alternate reality?
  • Are old-style arcade games so totally your bag?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, you really should read Ready Player One if you haven’t already. I’m ashamed it took me so long! But here I am, emerged victorious, to be neither the first nor the last to recommend it to you.