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Snow Crash

07 Aug 2016

I am dragging this year on my reading. Part of that has to do with skydiving taking up a lot of my time. Part has to do with that I recently moved to Paris. Part has to do with the fact that I am talking to humans again. Part is that I got lazy and was watching movies, convinced that I should read something in french to help learn the language. But, I need to learn the language more before I embark on that because it took me like half an hour to get through the first page of a french book when I tried a few weeks ago. I read Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephensen a little while back and thought it was pretty good, so I added another of his books to my list, Snow Crash. As it turns out, I thought this one was even better.

Snow Crash explores a future from the time it was written, the early 1990s, which has more or less come to exist today. Obviously, there are major parts of the future in the book that are not even close to existing nowadays, but a certain amount of the futuristic tech has parallels with what we have today. Part of reading this book is trying to put yourself back into the early 1990s and not be skewed by the world today. Within that context the book is quite extraordinary.

Even without that component, the story is an interesting one. There are decent twists and turns, the characters are developed well enough, and his writing style is right up my alley. For instance, here are a few quotes I found to be stylistically very nice:

They would take their software out and race it in the black desert of the electronic night.

 

It was, of course, nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists.

 

To condense fact from the vapor of nuance.

 

a flash of yellow loglo wrapped into a vast U-shaped valley that was ground out of the rock, a long time ago, by a big tongue of ice in an epochal period of geological cunnilingus.

The main theme of the book, or I am not sure if theme is the right word maybe plot device, is the notion that there exist viruses beyond the traditional physical ones that we know. Namely, linguistic viruses which infect your brain and are transmitted through speech. There is also a discussion of a virus that has both properties and thus controls your actions but is also spread physically. There is a lot of talk about the concept of Babel and explaining it via said viruses. I almost hate reading books like this because there is an air of believeability to the concept that it makes me want to do the research and see if there is anything to these ideas. Michael Crichton wrote books that had these ideas that sounded possible until or if you really understood the science. Nevertheless, the idea of organized religion amd political systems as viruses is a very potent analogy.

Overall I would recommend this book, especially if you are into scifi. At times it gets a bit tired the talk of hackers and binary, but I suppose to someone who does not write code for a living it may be less burdensome.


Category: book