Sunday 26 February 2012

Back to the blog…

Time has come for a new start for me, and some new hobbies, of which this blog shall be one.  February has always been such a grey month, wherever I've been, that I feel it needs to have some life injected into it. 

I surprised myself when I wrote a top list of things to do this weekend (on a long train journey) and WRITING came it at number 2:
  1. Work to live
  2. Write
  3. Exercise and eat well
So in that vein, I guess I should post a book review...

Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson 
Now I realise I've come to Sci-Fi rather late.  My first H.G.Wells was only last year, ditto Asimov.  I like to think this is all because I wasn't really aware of Sci-Fi, but if I'm honest, I judge books in libraries by their covers.  I get put off by Romantic faces, or anything that looks like a Horror or a Thriller.  And also Sci-Fi.  Similarly, I hate to put a book down when it's no good or hasn't grabbed me.  And so I stick to things I know I'll like...

In this case my friend, whose book recommendations are sound, had raved about this before, and so when I was visiting her and we entered a bookshop, I ended up buying it.  A decision I definitely did not regret.
Despite the huge differences of the universe which Stephenson creates, I was hooked from the beginning by the thrill of the character, “The Deliverator”, who fills the first chunk as we follow him delivering pizzas.  The rampaging plot leads from this Mafia pizza enterprise to his life as Hiro Protagonist, a hacker in what Stephenson calls the “Metaverse”, i.e. the world of virtual reality created on the internet.  The female lead, in the form of “Y.T.”, a 15-year-old skateboard courier, bears no small resemblance to the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy – although obviously I realise that this probably came the other way round, as Snow Crash was published in ’92.  Y.T. bumps into Hiro by chance whilst he is failing to deliver a pizza and saves his skin, earning herself points with the Mafia for doing so.  The plot then veers off into and out of the cyberspace Metaverse, incorporating the critique of the modern consumerist era, a powerful hatred of mega-monopolies and a CIA which pays hackers such as Hiro for information that they then use against the citizens in this anarchic state.

I guess you could criticise the proliferance of violence, but in all honesty this is balanced by the mythic plotline.  Stephenson has Hiro investigating ancient gods in order to find the source of the drug Snow Crash.  This leads us into a beguiling world where the brains of hackers are considered to be wired differently to others.

It is breathtaking in its details: the chapter where we follow Y.T.’s mother at her work at the CIA, with its minuscule descriptions of how long she is meant to take to read a staff bulletin…  I was swept along on the heady rush of this alternative universe, leading me to finish the book all too quickly.  Suffice to say, I will definitely be investigating more classic Sci-Fi in the future.

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