17 May, 2019

Review - Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

12184193I've been dying to read this book for years, but due to my terrible inability to read books not in audio format lately, this one's been on the backlog ... until I recently got Audible and find out Snow Crash is an "only from Audible" exclusive.

This book has so much going for it and that's why it's been something at the top of my list. 

Ninja swords, check. 
Hackers, check.
Future dystopia, check.
pizza delivery, weird, but check.
Virtual reality, check.
Ninja fighting, check.

This also screams 80's, which is when it was written, but I was fully on board with all of the above. I also recently watched Kung Fury and Hasselhoff's accompanying music video, True Survivor, so I was extra pumped for this read.

The beginning pulls you right in. Grabbed me right away and that was so exciting. I was fully engaged at this point. Pizza delivery, 30 minutes or less or the mob boss destroys you. Then Hiro (Hiro Protagonist, which is still a bit too on the nose for what even I know is satire), picks up a pizza that's already 20 minutes into the time period. He meets Y.T. who's also a very cool character and of course, hot as hell.

Wow, so exciting. And that's not the only time. There are a number of great, exciting scenes. If only they could have held any kind of decent pacing, but sadly they started to become the rare gems amid a lot of meh.

I enjoyed the point Stephenson is trying to make that people can essentially be coded by their own languages. I'm not sure I fully agree with it outside the novel, but it absolutely works here. The problem in this books is that the characters are 80's cool, but lack any kind of substance. They're essentially placeholders for an 80's wetdream, but they have no development and definitely no growth throughout the novel.

Then there are the info dumps. First, I guarantee there are a million different ways this information could have been peppered throughout the narrative to keep the flow moving (and cut down as well!), but they are so halting and long and, honestly, largely useless for understanding the concepts, that it really makes this a torture at times ... even on audio.

Speaking of audio, since this is literally the only audio version available (with exceptions I'm sure), it's also very 80's, but this time in the worst possible way. The narrator himself, Jonathan Davis, does a good job. I'm not commenting on him. It's the quality of the sound and the production added in that killed me. They use that 80's, I don't know how else to call it, swipe that attempts to make everything sound futuristic, but only takes you out of the story and reminds you you're listening to some very dated technology.

Not only do they have the futuristic swipe, but they added some mumbling, speaking in tongues, to enhance the story I'm sure, which sounds vaguely racist and ... pulls you out of the story.

I am pretty disappointed overall. This had so much going for it and it's considered a classic, but it's so uneven and the characters are so poorly drawn that I can't say I cared all that much for them. I did worry it might sound a bit dated, but overall I don't think it was too dated for me (other than the actual technology used to produce it). 

2.5 out of 5 Stars (meh)


Lou P said...

Bummer you didn't like it. I have listened to that audible version many times over the years and while the exposition can be long at times for sure, the rest of the book holds up very well for me. I'm glad you gave it whirl though!

bryce said...

It definitely had moments for me. I really enjoyed quite a few parts and that opening really gets you into the story. The characters really made it tough for me though.