I’ve mentioned Neal Stephenson before, he’s the guy who brought cyberpunk fiction into the mainstream, and even though the furor of the immersive web has died down a lot, he still wears the cyberpunk crown. Whatever anyone says about the genre as a whole (drivellish teenage hormone infection may come to your mind), Snow Crash is a literary classic in its own right.
Before I go further, what is cyberpunk fiction? I can’t give you traditional examples, because there is no precedent for this sort of writing. The closest in mainstream media nowadays is the Kill Bill movie by Tarantino. Snow Crash plays with many streams (as diverse as Sumerian history and hacker lingo), new and unique words (like the ‘Metaverse’, ‘Avatars’ and the ‘Deliverator’), interesting unique characters (like Hiro, Y.T, and Raven), and troubling undertones of the difference between a utopian cyber-netherworld and the reality of the mudworld. Cyberpunk fiction is about the ever-cool fuzion, bringing together diverse elements from everywhere into a coherent (and sometimes not so) plot.
Like many online works (which it has decidedly influenced) Snow Crash doesn’t read like a conventional book. It breaks rules and makes reading and understanding it harder, and many sections of the book (including references to binary and hex) would be indicipherable to anyone not familiar with computer lingo. It also has a very abrupt ending and if you don’t follow the story very well (and appreciate the nuances of the plot and puns that are littered everywhere) it will be a very bad read.
But for anyone who aspires to understand the hacker, the script kiddie, the kewlness of code, the relationship that true koders have with the ninja and the art of war, the fascination that many hackers have with the weirdest of alternate lifestyles, Snow Crash is a must read.