Just shove this into your face and accept you’ve been dominated, punk. You can’t read this book. You can’t digest it in one sitting. It’s a quadruple Whopper with bacon. Having read only Cryptonomicon, I was expecting a long, droll, science-heavy quarkfest geekothon. Instead, I was smacked in the face with a hoverboard and told to cover the bleeding with an icepack laced with X. This book will fuck your brain. You don’t read this — Eric Stoltz jams a needle of it into your cerebral cortex to impress a pierced Arquette.
If I tried to write an SAT problem explaining to you what this book was about, nobody’d break a 1000. A train carrying the Da Vinci Code meets Blade Runner going west heads for a commuter line carrying The Matrix meets Catch-22. They collide somewhere in Chicago in the living room of a man watching Repo Man. Show your work. Give up on life. Join the Borg.
The book is totally ridiculous and amazing. You consume it and can’t believe what’s happening. If you try to stare directly into the characters and plot, you’ll burn your retinas. Hiro Protagonist is a pizza-delivery man/hacker who carries two katanas and works for Uncle Enzo’s Mafia. On a near failed delivery into one of the franchulates — society is now broken up into corporate-sponsored mini-city states/suburban enclaves where a Best Buy doesn’t just sell you flat-screen TVs but also heroin, prostitutes, and is also a prison — he’s saved by a teenage Kourier named Y.T., a badass chick on a killer skateboard. And they somehow get embroiled in a worldwide plot to erase the minds of hackers with a virus called Snow Crash based on the Sumerian nam-shub (think magic spell — wiggity wiggity wizards of waverly YOUR FACE) that caused the downfall of Babel.
Breathe. Breathe! Your brain is fucking flatlining, fool! It doesn’t make sense now, but it will. And shit, I haven’t even got into the fucking Aleut glassassin with the fucking nuke hardwired to his lifeline. You can’t take this heat, you can only get a tan from two states away. Stephenson deftly frappucinos sci-fi and video game avatar with ancient pre-biblical arcana in ways that staple the brain. On the surface, it’s crazy-sexy-cool. With pun names, insane half-spinning plot lines leaping like a speedfreak reading four simultaneous comics, and insan-o forethinking socio-political commentary (this book was written in 1992. wrap your brain around that shit. had Facebook existed at the time, i think N.S. would have gone fucking Tron-bonzer on this bue-weeesness) it’s almost impossible to try to break down in it’s awesomeness.
It’s a book you put in someone’s hand, press a finger to their lips, kiss them on the forehead and walk away. So here you is. Smooches, motherfucker.
This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Prisco’s reviews, check out his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.