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Snow Crash

Snow Crash

4.4 456
by Neal Stephenson

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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


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 CosaNostra 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.

Editorial Reviews

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

“[Snow Crash is] a cross between Neuromancer and Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland. This is no mere hyperbole.”The San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Fast-forward free-style mall mythology for the twenty-first century.”—William Gibson
“Brilliantly realized . . . Stephenson turns out to be an engaging guide to an onrushing tomorrow.”—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.91(h) x 1.34(d)

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. Stupidlook 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

        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."

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Seattle, Washington
Date of Birth:
October 31, 1959
Place of Birth:
Fort Meade, Maryland
B.A., Boston University, 1981

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Snow Crash 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 456 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"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.
DearReader More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book shows a great view of a hyper consumerist, dystopian USA. Worth the read
Malinrebate More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A joyful romp in American near sci-fi. Truly one of the best
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent hard cyber punk
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stephenson is really a gifted author. The scope of the novel is epic, the characters well developed, and the plot well conceiced. Bravo.
Funk49er More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
michaelg More than 1 year ago
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.
Victoria Sazani More than 1 year ago
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.
SandraPants More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best novels I've read this year. I'm only a little bit of a sci-fi geek, so if you're scared of futuristic stuff, trust me--this is great. It's snappy, sexy, full of pop culture satire, and even throws even some serious Sumerian myth. It's the perfect read for the smart person looking for smart escapism.
Here_Be_Bookwyrms More than 1 year ago
"...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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book it really is worth the money
LizzietishES More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 8 days ago
I agree with a previous reviewer who said it's almost a parody of cyberpunk Loved the setting Thought the religion angle was interesting And who wouldn't love a character named Hiroshima Protagonist? And Yours Truly? Great story.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing story of a world that could be not far into the future. Let's make sure it doesn't turn out quite like this.
TRFeller More than 1 year ago
Somehow I had missed reading this novel when it first came out in 1992. It is always interesting to read an old Cyberpunk novel and see what the author got right and what he got wrong. In Stephenson’s concept of the near future, privatization has run amuck and governments are weak. Stephenson’s version of the Internet/World Wide Web is called the Metaverse, which has an uncanny resemblance to a web site called “Second Life”. Some critics believe Snow Crash to be a satire of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and I think it is a legitimate interpretation. In the opening chapter, one of the main characters, actually called Hiro Protagonist, is delivering pizzas and calling himself the Deliverator. There is also a Jerry Falwell-type character who finances his church by controlling all the fiber optic cable in the world. On the other hand, Stephenson interrupts the narrative to deliver information critical to understanding the story. At the time, he did not have the writing skill to seamlessly insert important information in the text. Furthermore, many of the characters are stereotypes, such as Uncle Enzo, a mafia boss, and other characters, such as Raven, an Aleutian, are motivated by ideologies, not feelings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago