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Snow Crash

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Overview

One of Time magazine's 100 all-time best English-language novels.

Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of ...

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Snow Crash

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Overview

One of Time magazine's 100 all-time best English-language novels.

Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.

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. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.

With a wave of critical acclaim and an unusually strong performance in trade paperback, Snow Crash is poised to break out in mass market. Set in near-future Los Angeles, this strange, exciting novel takes readers on an adventure in a post-modern landscape that mirrors our contemporary psyche.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Stephenson has not stepped, he has vaulted onto the literary stage with this novel."—Los Angeles Reader

"A cross between Neuromancer and Thomas Pynchon's Vineland. This is no mere hyperbole."—San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Fast-forward free-style mall mythology for the 21st century."—William Gibson

"Brilliantly realized...Stephenson turns out to be an engaging guide to an onrushing tomorrow."—New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In California of the near future, when the U.S. is only a ``Burbclave'' (city-state), the Mafia is just another franchise chain (CosaNostrastet Pizza, Incorporated) and there are no laws to speak of, Hiro Protagonist follows clues from the Bible, ancient Sumer and high technology to help thwart an attempt to take control of civilization--such as it is. When he logs on to Metaverse, an imaginary place entered via computer, Hiro encounters Juanita Marquez, a ``radical'' Catholic and computer whiz. She warns him off Snow Crash (a street drug named for computer failure) and gives him a file labeled Babel (as in Tower of Babel). Another friend, sp ok/pk Da5id, who ignores Juanita's warning, computer crashes out of Metaverse into the real world, where he physically collapses. Hiro, Juanita, Y.T. (a freewheeling, skateboard-riding courier) and sundry other Burbclave and franchise power figures see some action on the way to finding out who is behind this bizarre ``drug'' with ancient roots. Although Stephenson ( Zodiac ) provides more Sumerian culture than the story strictly needs (alternating intense activity with scholarship breaks), his imaginative juxtaposition of ancient and futuristic detail could make this a cult favorite. (May)
Library Journal
Hiro Protagonist, delivery boy for Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza and freelance hacker in the virtual reality called the Metaverse, tangles with religious cultists, computer virus/drug dealers, and a human bomb known as the Raven in a freewheeling first novel that picks up where cyberpunk left off. Rapid-fire action scenes interspersed with snippets of Sumerian mythology and vignettes of a franchise-dominated 21st century combine to produce a heady, surrealistic pastiche of the not-so-distant future. Satiric sf at its best, this novel is highly recommended for all libraries.
Library Journal
Diamond Age, a Hugo Award-winning romp into a future nanotechnological revolution, doesn't lend itself to concise description. For what it's worth, it explores what happens when an incredibly powerful interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin, who uses it to reprogram the future of humanity. Got that? Stephenson's books rank among the most popular sf novels of recent years but require such close attention that they pose special challenges for audiobook fans. Jennifer Wiltsie's narration here is uniformly strong and well fitted to the material, but this may not be the right kind of book for the average person. Recommended for libraries that count many young and hardcore sf readers among their audiobook patrons. Originally published in 1992, Snow Crash is a popular sf novel in a genre that some wags have dubbed "cyberpunk." Listening to it is like taking an out-of-control roller coaster ride on a double helix, weaving in and out of Stephenson's fully imagined computer-generated "Metaverse" and a near-future real world comprised of bizarre microstates and a vast Mafia-controlled pizza delivery system. The central character, aptly named Hiro Protagonist, is at once a computer hacker, pizza "deliverator," and samurai swordsman. The story moves at such breakneck speed that many listeners may need to replay the first reel simply to figure out what is going on; however, the highly charged reading by actor Jonathan Davis another Frank Muller in the making helps hold everything together. Recommended for libraries catering to forward-looking sf readers. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553380958
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 59,348
  • Lexile: 970L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Neal  Stephenson

Neal Stephenson issues from a clan of rootless, itinerant hardscience and engineering professors (mostly Pac-10, Big 10, and Big 8 with the occasional wild strain of Ivy). He began his higher education as a physics major, then switched to geography when it appeared that this would enable him to scam more free time on his university’s mainframe computer. When he graduated and discovered, to his perplexity, that there were no jobs for inexperienced physicist-geographers, he began to look into alternative pursuits such as working on cars, unimaginably stupid agricultural labor, and writing novels. His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984 and vanished without a trace. His second novel, Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller, came out in 1988 and quickly developed a cult following among water-pollution-control engineers. It was also enjoyed, though rarely bought, by many radical environmentalists. Snow Crash was written in the years 1988 through 1991 as the author listened to a great deal of loud, relentless, depressing music.

Mr. Stephenson now resides in a comfortable home in the western hemisphere and spends all of his time trying to retrofit an office into its generally dark, unlevel, and asbestos-laden basement so that he can attempt to write more novels. Despite the tremendous amounts of time he devotes to writing, playing with computers, listening to speed metal, Rollerblading, and pounding nails, he is a flawless husband, parent, neighbor, and all-around human being.

Biography

In Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash, human beings can immerse themselves in a computer-generated universe, and computer viruses can infect human bodies. This blurring of the boundaries between silicon and flesh seems characteristic of Stephenson, a writer whose interests in technology and engineering are inseparable from his skills as a storyteller.

Here is a novelist who talks about the "data management problem" of writing a historical novel, and who apologizes for not responding to fan mail by explaining that he has an "irremediable numerical imbalance between outgoing and incoming bandwidth."

Indeed, Stephenson seems to have a computer metaphor for almost every aspect of the writing life, even when he's not using a computer to write. He wrote the manuscript for Quicksilver in longhand, using a fountain pen. With this slower method of putting words to paper, he explained in an interview with Tech Central Station, "It's like when you're writing, there's a kind of buffer in your head where the next sentence sits while you're outputting the last one."

"Paper," Stephenson adds, is "a really good technology."

As the author of Snow Crash, Stephenson became a cult hero to cyberpunk fans and an inspiration to Silicon Valley start-ups. His Metaverse was the Internet as cutting-edge carnival, a freewheeling digital universe where a pizza-delivery driver could become a samurai warrior. "This is cyberpunk as it ought to be, and almost never is," wrote David Barrett in New Scientist.

Stephenson followed Snow Crash with The Diamond Age, which Publishers Weekly described as "simultaneously SF, fantasy and a masterful political thriller." Stephenson then broke out of the science fiction genre with Cryptonomicon, a 928-page doorstop of a book that drew comparisons to Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Cryptonomicon interweaves two cryptography-themed plots, one set in the 1990s and the other during World War II. "What cyberculture needs right now is not another science-fiction novel but its first great historical novel, and Cryptonomicon is it: an intimate genealogical portrait of the 20th century's computer geeks, great and small, and of the technosocial landscape they have more and less knowingly shaped," wrote Julian Dibbell in The Village Voice.

Hefty though it is, Cryptonomicon is a quick read compared to Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, which begins with Quicksilver and continues in two more volumes, The Confusion and The System of the World.

In Quicksilver, a historical novel set in the 17th century, Stephenson explores many of the roots of modern science, mixing meditations on calculus, chemistry and cryptography with a cast of oddball characters (and many of the real-life historical figures, including Isaac Newton, turn out to be very odd indeed).

"At first it feels like Stephenson is flaunting how much time he spent at the library, but the lure of the next wisecracking history lesson becomes the most compelling reason to keep going," wrote Slate reviewer Paul Boutin.

So how did Stephenson manage all that historical data?

"I started with a bunch of notebooks, just composition books, in which I would write notes down in chronological order as I read a particular book, or what have you," he explained in an interview on his publisher's Web site.

"Those are always there, and I can go back to them and look stuff up even when it's otherwise lost. Then, I've got timelines and timetables showing what happens when in the story. I've spent a while monkeying around with three ring binders, in which I glue pages here and there trying to figure out how to sequence things. It's a big mess. It's a big pile of stationery. Many trips to the office supply store, and many failed attempts. But in the end, as long as you can keep it in your head, that's the easiest way to manage something like this. You can move things around inside your head more easily than you can shuffle papers or cross things out on a page and rewrite them."

The three-pound processor inside the author's head, as it turns out, is a really good technology.

Good To Know

Stephenson comes from a family of scientists: His father is a professor of electrical engineering, and his mother worked in a biochemistry lab. Both his grandfathers were science professors. Stephenson himself majored in geography at Boston University, because the geography department "had the coolest computers."

Stephenson co-wrote two political thrillers, Interface and The Cobweb, under the pseudonym Stephen Bury with his uncle George Jewsbury (whose own nom de plume is J. Frederick George). "The whole idea was that 'Stephen Bury' would be a successful thriller writer and subsidize my pathetic career under the name Neal Stephenson," he told Locus magazine. "It ended up going the other way. I would guess most of the people who have bought the Stephen Bury books have done so because they know I've written them. It just goes to show there's no point in trying to plan your career."

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line, Stephenson's book-length essay on computer operating systems, complains that graphical user interfaces distort the user's understanding of computer operations. On his current Web site, Stephenson dubs the essay "badly obsolete" and notes: "For the last couple of years I have been a Mac OX user almost exclusively."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Bury (co-author pseudonym, with J. Frederick George)
    2. Hometown:
      Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 31, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Meade, Maryland
    1. Education:
      B.A., Boston University, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

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.

When they gave him the job, they gave him a gun. The Deliverator never deals in cash, but someone might come after him anyway–might want his car, or his cargo. The gun is a tiny, aero-styled, lightweight, the kind of a gun a fashion designer would carry; it fires teensy darts that fly at five times the velocity of an SR-71 spy plane, and when you get done using it, you have to plug it in to the cigarette lighter, because it runs on electricity.

The Deliverator never pulled that gun in anger, or in fear. He pulled it once in Gila Highlands. Some punks in Gila Highlands, a fancy Burbclave, wanted themselves a delivery, and they didn't want to pay for it. Thought they would impress the Deliverator with a baseball bat. The Deliverator took out his gun, centered its laser doo-hickey on that poised Louisville Slugger, fired it. The recoil was immense, as though the weapon had blown up in his hand. The middle third of the baseball bat turned into a column of burning sawdust accelerating in all directions like a bursting star. Punk ended up holding this bat handle with milky smoke pouring out the end. Stupid look on his face. Didn't get nothing but trouble from the Deliverator.

Since then the Deliverator has kept the gun in the glove compartment and relied, instead, on a matched set of samurai swords, which have always been his weapon of choice anyhow. The punks in Gila Highlands weren't afraid of the gun, so the Deliverator was forced to use it. But swords need no demonstration.

The Deliverator's car has enough potential energy packed into its batteries to fire a pound of bacon into the Asteroid Belt. Unlike a bimbo box or a Burb beater, the Deliverator's car unloads that power through gaping, gleaming, polished sphincters. When the Deliverator puts the hammer down, shit happens. You want to talk contact patches? Your car's tires have tiny contact patches, talk to the asphalt in four places the size of your tongue. The Deliverator's car has big sticky tires with contact patches the size of a fat lady's thighs. The Deliverator is in touch with the road, starts like a bad day, stops on a peseta.

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

music movies microcode (software)
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."

So now he has this other job. No brightness or creativity involved–but no cooperation either. Just a single principle: The Deliverator stands tall, your pie in thirty minutes or you can have it free, shoot the driver, take his car, file a class-action suit. The Deliverator has been working this job for six months, a rich and lengthy tenure by his standards, and has never delivered a pizza in more than twenty-one minutes.

Oh, they used to argue over times, many corporate driver-years lost to it: homeowners, red-faced and sweaty with their own lies, stinking of Old Spice and job-related stress, standing in their glowing yellow doorways brandishing their Seikos and waving at the clock over the kitchen sink, I swear, can’t you guys tell time?

Didn’t happen anymore. Pizza delivery is a major industry. A managed industry. People went to CosaNostra Pizza University four years just to learn it. Came in its doors unable to write an English sentence, from Abkhazia, Rwanda, Guanajuato, South Jersey, and came out knowing more about pizza than a Bedouin knows about sand. And they had studied this problem. Graphed the frequency of doorway delivery-time disputes. Wired the early Deliverators to record, then analyze, the debating tactics, the voice-stress histograms, the distinctive grammatical structures employed by white middle-class Type A Burbclave occupants who against all logic had decided that this was the place to take their personal Custerian stand against all that was stale and deadening in their lives: they were going to lie, or delude themselves, about the time of their phone call and get themselves a free pizza; no, they deserved a free pizza along with their life, liberty, and pursuit of whatever, it was fucking inalienable. Sent psychologists out to these people’s houses, gave them a free TV set to submit to an anonymous interview, hooked them to polygraphs, studied their brain waves as they showed them choppy, inexplicable movies of porn queens and late-night car crashes and Sammy Davis, Jr., put them in sweet-smelling, mauve-walled rooms and asked them questions about Ethics so perplexing that even a Jesuit couldn’t respond without committing a venial sin.

The analysts at CosaNostra Pizza University concluded that it was just human nature and you couldn’t fix it, and so they went for a quick cheap technical fix: smart boxes. The pizza box is a plastic carapace now, corrugated for stiffness, a little LED readout glowing on the side, telling the Deliverator how many trade imbalance-producing minutes have ticked away since the fateful phone call. There are chips and stuff in there. The pizzas rest, a short stack of them, in slots behind the Deliverator’s head. Each pizza glides into a slot like a circuit board into a computer, clicks into place as the smart box interfaces with the onboard system of the Deliverator’s car. The address of the caller has already been inferred from his phone number and poured into the smart box’s built-in RAM. From there it is communicated to the car, which computes and projects the optimal route on a heads-up display, a glowing colored map traced out against the windshield so that the Deliverator does not even have to glance down.

If the thirty-minute deadline expires, news of the disaster is flashed to CosaNostra Pizza Headquarters and relayed from there to Uncle Enzo himself–the Sicilian Colonel Sanders, the Andy Griffith of Bensonhurst, the straight razor-swinging figment of many a Deliverator’s nightmares, the Capo and prime figurehead of CosaNostra Pizza, Incorporated–who will be on the phone to the customer within five minutes, apologizing profusely. The next day, Uncle Enzo will land on the customer’s yard in a jet helicopter and apologize some more and give him a free trip to Italy–all he has to do is sign a bunch of releases that make him a public figure and spokesperson for CosaNostra Pizza and basically end his private life as he knows it. He will come away from the whole thing feeling that, somehow, he owes the Mafia a favor.

The Deliverator does not know for sure what happens to the driver in such cases, but he has heard some rumors. Most pizza deliveries happen in the evening hours, which Uncle Enzo considers to be his private time. And how would you feel if you had to interrupt dinner with your family in order to call some obstreperous dork in a Burbclave and grovel for a late fucking pizza? Uncle Enzo has not put in fifty years serving his family and his country so that, at the age when most are playing golf and bobbling their granddaughters, he can get out of the bathtub dripping wet and lie down and kiss the feet of some sixteen-year-old skate punk whose pepperoni was thirty-one minutes in coming. Oh, God. It makes the Deliverator breathe a little shallower just to think of the idea.

But he wouldn’t drive for CosaNostra Pizza any other way. You know why? Because there’s something about having your life on the line. It’s like being a kamikaze pilot. Your mind is clear. Other people–store clerks, burger flippers, software engineers, the whole vocabulary of meaningless jobs that make up Life in America–other people just reply on plain old competition. Better flip your burgers or debug your subroutines faster and better than your high school classmate two blocks down the strip is flipping or debugging, because we’re in competition with those guys, and people are noticing these things.

What a fucking rat race that is. CosaNostra Pizza doesn’t have any competition. Competition goes against the Mafia ethic. You don’t work harder because you’re competing against some identical operation down the street. You work harder because everything is on the line. Your name, your honor, your family, your life. Those burger flippers might have a better life expectancy–but what kind of life is it anyway, you have to ask yourself. That’s why nobody, not even the Nipponese, can move pizzas faster than CosaNostra. The Deliverator is proud to wear the uniform, proud to drive the car, proud to march up the front walks of innumerable Burbclave homes, a grim vision in ninja black, a pizza on his shoulder, red LED digits blazing proud numbers into the night: 12:32 or 15:15 or the occasional 20:43.

The Deliverator is assigned to CosaNostra Pizza #3569 in the Valley. Southern California doesn’t know whether to bustle or just strangle itself on the spot. Not enough roads for the number of people. Fairlanes, Inc. is laying new ones all the time. Have to bulldoze lots of neighborhoods to do it, but those seventies and eighties developments exist to be bulldozed, right? No sidewalks, no schools, no nothing. Don’t have their own police force–no immigration control–undesirables can walk right in without being frisked or even harassed. Now a Burbclave, that’s the place to live. A city-state with its own constitution, a border, laws, cops, everything.

The Deliverator was a corporal in the Farms of Merryvale State Security Force for a while once. Got himself fired for pulling a sword on an acknowledged perp. Slid it right through the fabric of the perp’s shirt, gliding the flat of the blade along the base of his neck, and pinned him to a warped and bubbled expanse of vinyl siding on the wall of the house that the perp was trying to break into. Thought it was a pretty righteous bust. But they fired him anyway because the perp turned out to be the son of the vice-chancellor of the Farms of Merryvale. Oh, the weasels had an excuse: said that a thirty-six-inch samurai sword was not on their Weapons Protocol. Said that he had violated the SPAC, the Suspected Perpetrator Apprehension Code. Said that the perp had suffered psychological trauma. He was afraid of butter knives now; he had to spread his jelly with the back of a teaspoon. They said that he had exposed them to liability.

The Deliverator had to borrow some money to pay for it. Had to borrow it from the Mafia, in fact. So he’s in their database now–retinal patterns, DNA, voice graph, fingerprints, footprints, palm prints, wrist prints, every fucking part of the body that had wrinkles on it–almost–those bastards rolled in ink and made a print and digitized it into their computer. But it’s their money–sure they’re careful about loaning it out. And when he applied for the Deliverator job they were happy to take him, because they knew him. When he got the loan, he had to deal personally with the assistant vice-capo of the Valley, who later recommended him for the Deliverator job. So it was like being in a family. A really scary, twisted, abusive family.

CosaNostra Pizza #3569 is on Vista Road just down from Kings Park Mall. Vista Road used to belong to the State of California and now is called Fairlanes, Inc. Rte. CSV-5. Its main competition used to be a U.S. highway and is now called Cruiseways, Inc. Rte. Cal-12. Farther up the Valley, the two competing highways actually cross. Once there had been bitter disputes, the intersection closed by sporadic sniper fire. Finally, a big developer bought the entire intersection and turned it into a drive-through mall. Now the roads just feed into a parking system–not a lot, not a ramp, but a system–and lose their identity. Getting through the intersection involves tracing paths through the parking system, many braided filaments of direction like the Ho Chi Minh trail. CSV-5 has better throughput, but Cal-12 has better pavement. That is typical–Fairlanes roads emphasize getting you there, for Type A drivers, and Cruiseways emphasize the enjoyment of the ride, for Type B drivers.

The Deliverator is a Type A driver with rabies. He is zeroing in on his home base, CosaNostra Pizza #3569, cranking up the left lane of CSV-5 at a hundred and twenty kilometers. His car is an invisible black lozenge, just a dark place that reflects the tunnel of franchise signs–the loglo. A row of orange lights burbles and churns across the front, where the grille would be if this were an air-breathing car. The orange light looks like a gasoline fire. It comes in through people’s rear windows, bounces off their rearview mirrors, projects a fiery mask across their eyes, reaches into their subconscious, and unearths terrible fears of being pinned, fully conscious, under a detonating gas tank, makes them want to pull over and let the Deliverator overtake them in his black chariot of pepperoni fire.

The loglo, overhead, making out CSV-5 in twin contrails, is a body of electrical light made of innumerable cells, each cell designed in Manhattan by imageers who make more for designing a single logo than a Deliverator will make in his entire lifetime. Despite their efforts to stand out, they all smear together, especially at a hundred and twenty kilometers per hour. Still, it is easy to see CosaNostra Pizza #3569 because of the billboard, which is wide and tall even by current inflated standards. In fact, the squat franchise itself looks like nothing more than a low-slung base for the great aramid fiber pillars that thrust the billboard up into the trademark firmament. Marca Registrada, baby.

The billboard is a classic, a chestnut, not a figment of some fleeting Mafia promotional campaign. It is a statement, a monument built to endure. Simple and dignified. It shows Uncle Enzo in one of his spiffy Italian suits. The pinstripes glint and flex like sinews. The pocket square is luminous. His hair is perfect, slicked back with something that never comes off, each strand cut off straight and square at the end by Uncle Enzo’s cousin, Art the Barber, who runs the second-largest chain of low-end haircutting establishments in the world. Uncle Enzo is standing there, not exactly smiling, an avuncular glint in his eye for sure, not posing like a model but standing there like your uncle would, and it says

The Mafia
You’ve got a friend in The Family!
Paid for by the Our Thing Foundation

The billboard serves as the Deliverator’s polestar. He knows that when he gets to the place on CSV-5 where the bottom corner of the billboard is obscured by the pseudo-Gothic stained-glass arches of the local Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates franchise, it’s time for him to get over into the right lanes where the retards and the bimbo boxes poke along, random, indecisive, looking at each passing franchise’s driveway like they don’t know if it’s a promise or a threat.

He cuts off a bimbo box–a family minivan–veers past the Buy ‘n’ Fly that is next door, and pulls into CosaNostra Pizza #3569. Those big fat contact patches complain, squeal a little bit, but they hold on to the patented Fairlanes, Inc. high-traction pavement and guide him into the chute. No other Deliverators are waiting in the chute. That is good, that means high turnover for him, fast action, keep moving that ‘za. As he scrunches to a stop, the electromechanical hatch on the flank of his car is already opening to reveal his empty pizza slots, the door clicking and folding back in on itself like the wing of a beetle. The slots are waiting. Waiting for hot pizza.

And waiting. The Deliverator honks his horn. This is not a nominal outcome.

Window slides open. That should never happen. You can look at the three-ring binder from CosaNostra Pizza University, cross-reference the citation for window, chute, dispatcher’s, and it will give you all the procedures for that window–and it should never be opened. Unless something has gone wrong.

The window slides open and–you sitting down?–smoke comes out of it. The Deliverator hears a discordant beetling over the metal hurricane of his sound system and realizes that it is a smoke alarm, coming from inside the franchise.

Mute button on the stereo. Oppressive silence–his eardrums uncringe–the window is buzzing with the cry of the smoke alarm. The car idles, waiting. The hatch has been open too long, atmospheric pollutants are congealing on the electrical contacts in the back of the pizza slots, he’ll have to clean them ahead of schedule, everything is going exactly the way it shouldn’t go in the three-ring binder that spells out all the rhythms of the pizza universe.

Inside, a football-shaped Abkhazian man is running to and fro, holding a three-ring binder open, using his spare tire as a ledge to keep it from collapsing shut; he runs with the gait of a man carrying an egg on a spoon. He is shouting in the Abkhazian dialect; all the people who run CosaNostra pizza franchises in this part of the Valley are Abkhazian immigrants.

It does not look like a serious fire. The Deliverator saw a real fire once, at the Farms of Merryvale, and you couldn’t see anything for the smoke. That’s all it was: smoke, burbling out of nowhere, occasional flashes of orange light down at the bottom, like heat lightning in tall clouds. This is not that kind of fire. It is the kind of fire that just barely puts out enough smoke to detonate the smoke alarms. And he is losing time for this shit.

The Deliverator holds the horn button down. The Abkhazian manager comes to the window. He is supposed to use the intercom to talk to drivers, he could say anything he wanted and it would be piped straight into the Deliverator’s car, but no, he has to talk face to face, like the Deliverator is some kind of fucking ox cart driver. He is red-faced, sweating, his eyes roll as he tries to think of the English words.

“A fire, a little one,” he says.

The Deliverator says nothing. Because he knows that all of this is going onto videotape. The tape is being pipelined, as it happens, to CosaNostra Pizza University, where it will be analyzed in a pizza management science laboratory. It will be shown to Pizza University students, perhaps to the very students who will replace this man when he gets fired, as a textbook example of how to screw up your life.

“New employee–put his dinner in the microwave–had foil in it–boom!” the manager says.

Abkhazia had been part of the Soviet fucking Union. Where did they get these guys? Weren’t there any Americans who could bake a fucking pizza?

“Just give me one pie,” the Deliverator says.

Talking about pies snaps the guy into the current century. He gets a grip. He slams the window shut, strangling the relentless keening of the smoke alarm.

A Nipponese robot arm shoves the pizza out and into the top slot. The hatch folds shut to protect it.

As the Deliverator is pulling out of the chute, building up speed, checking the address that is flashed across his windshield, deciding whether to turn right or left, it happens. His stereo cuts out again–on command of the onboard system. The cockpit lights go red. Red. A repetitive buzzer begins to sound. The LED readout on his windshield, which echoes the one on the pizza box, flashes up: 20:00.

They have just given the Deliverator a twenty-minute-old pizza. He checks the address; it is twelve miles away.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 461 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(295)

4 Star

(110)

3 Star

(39)

2 Star

(10)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 464 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2008

    best. book. ever.

    "Snow Crash" rocks. What else can you say about a book published in 1992 featuring a heroic protagonist named Hiro Protagonist that incorporated pizza delivery franchises, ninjas, punk rock, linguistics, skateboarding, avatars, mafiosi, glass knives, and gated communities ... and managed to be prescient and coherent without being absurd? I've read thousands of books, and have never found one more engaging than this.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great story, even better when you realize what year it was written

    Stephenson wrote this book in the late 80's / very early 90's. If you read the book (which is a really great read even if it were written recently) with that in mind, it will give you an extra appreciation for the feats of imagination contained within. The "internets" as our fearless leader would call it was certainly in existence at that time, but people, it was accessed via character based, pre-Windows, menu driven applications!

    The story starts with a sci-fi futuristic bang but builds into a really compelling drama/mystery that just gets more and more interesting while introducing one great futuristic notion after another. Eventually he ends up dealing with the origin of human language, the Bible, the Mafia, corporate America, skater culture...but it's not all over the place. It's brilliant.

    I've given this book to at least 10 people, and every last one of them loved it. A slam dunk any time but especially for holiday/summer/travel reading.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2007

    A great cyberpunk novel

    While browsing through my local B&N I saw this one on the shelf and it caught my eye. I had seen Cryptonomicon before but didn't know if the author's writing style would appeal to me. I decided to start with Snow Crash since it was shorter and the synopsis sounded, well, cool. Like others have said, the beginning is confusing with all the new terminology but by the end of the first chapter I was hooked. I found myself frequently laughing out loud while reading and the middle section's Sumerian Myth lessons were very interesting. I was simply blown away by every aspect of this book. Well, except the ending which was too short. I felt like it needed at least another 10 pages of wrap-up. Because of this the ending seemed a little too 'neat' for such a crazy roller coaster of a story. But I'd read this again any day, it's better than most books on the shelves these days.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    joyful romp

    A joyful romp in American near sci-fi. Truly one of the best

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    One of my favorites

    I recieved this book as a gift several years ago, and I've recommended it to most of my friends. Whether you take the time it was written into consideration or not, the story is compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed the tech described in the book, and I am continually amazed how close Stephenson came to several current products.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Great

    This book shows a great view of a hyper consumerist, dystopian USA. Worth the read

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Great!

    Excellent hard cyber punk

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Genius

    Stephenson is really a gifted author. The scope of the novel is epic, the characters well developed, and the plot well conceiced. Bravo.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Wow! I could not put it down.

    I don't read much fiction but a friend loaned me her copy and I was blown away. The depth of the story and characters is amazing. Stop wondering and buy the book. You won't want it to end.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011

    privatization run amok in near future

    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom did it for projecting worst-case into the future about on-line reputation and competition. Snow Crash does it for privatization of public services and the decline of American life. But somehow this comes off as fun, punk, optimistic about the fate of strong individuals and insightful about the nature of everything from the origins of human languages to the hazards of sword-fighting as an online avatar. It's a rush just commenting on this, even though I'm years behind the curve after the novel's original publish date. Next one for me, despite some ambiguous reviews, should be Neal Stephenson's new one, "Reamde," another one of those books where alternative lifestyles can also refer to our alter egos online. Why is the future of the world and humanity always at stake?

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating book...

    Even though the book is recommended on top ### lists for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, the book is more about a number of other topics, including religion and human growth.

    Neal Stephenson is a fantastic writer who was able to create anti-heroes you couldn't help but root for. Another enjoyable work from the author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2011

    I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy.

    I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy etc. etc. etc.......I think you get it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2008

    great read

    this was an amazing read. Every time I meet someone who likes sci-fi novels, I recommend this book! Even though there is a lot of religious/myth references that sometimes seem confusing, it was still exciting!! A definite must-read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    "...Stephenson's world-building is fantastic, and I had to


    "...Stephenson's world-building is fantastic, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was published back in the early '90s, because it feels like it could have been written more recently. I'm not sure if Snow Crash is the result of pure genius, or a lot of research, or both (probably both), but the world Stephenson creates for this book includes enough realistic elements that it feels like a very plausible future, and I found it very interesting to get into...Even when there are breaks from the action, I still wouldn't exactly call it a "lull." It took me a long time to actually finish this book, because school kind of took over my life for a while this past semester, but even after a month or two, I was able to pick this up and remembered everything that had been going on without having to flip back and refresh my memory. Some books, you know you would have to do that, but I was too into this one to forget any of the details, and I think that is very telling of the ability Stephenson has to create a world and a story and characters that a reader can become truly invested in."


    For full review, please visit me at Here Be Bookwyrms on Blogger!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    Great

    Great book it really is worth the money

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    Mixed Feelings but definitely worth a read

    I had no idea what this book was about before picking it up. It was on a list of top books to read in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category and it was next up for me to read. The writing style is definitely Neal Stephenson but it seemed more disjointed than his normal book. It took me until about a quarter of the way into the book to really feel like I understand even a small portion of it. Once I did figure out what was going on it was a pretty good read. Previously I have read Cryptonomicon from this author and very much enjoyed it. I would say over all to give it a try and hang in there if you not to sure about it. It turns out pretty well.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2012

    Stephenson delivers a ripping, running story that in the early 90's was a stunning entre to the science fiction scene.

    The protagonist in this novel is cleverly named Hiro Protagonist, a pizza delivery man for The Mafia. The Mafia of the alternate, yet recognizably, and plausibly contemporary world that Stephenson has constructed for the reader. A young lady making a package delivery in the area in which our Hiro has found himself in a catastrophic cirmustance has saved him from failure worse than death in its most hideous imaginings. Therefore setting into motion a most tangled web of involvements, high tech shenanigans found within the metaverse, and dangerous turns without it. Where things ARE real, things like bullets, missiles, and most deadly real of all things is the man known as Raven. Find out how our Hiro finds the answers to help and to foil the worlds most powerful entities while appreciating Stephensons abilities to interweave notions and characters masterfully. Did I mention the authors knack for explaining high technology to readers with limited understanding in terms that penetrates some impressive density. Ahem.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Classic

    I got hooked on this book in the first few paragraphs and remained hooked all the way till the end. Its inventive, fun, and flows seamlessly. A must read for any fan of Cyber Punk.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 25, 2011

    Best book ever

    Read this

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great sci-fi...

    I loved this book and the references to our lives today are poetic. Y.T. is a strong female character I won't soon forget. A must-read for sci-fi lovers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 464 Customer Reviews

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