Welcome to Reviewers Go Punk, the weekly column in which something gets reviewed by a punk. The weekly punk reviewer is drawn from part of the community that can be found at our Writerpunk group on Facebook. This is the group where Writerpunk Press was formed and helps push our project forward. This column won’t just focus on books but on any form of media that has helped influence the steam/diesel/cyber/etc punk culture as we know it.
To kick things off my brother, Brian Bennett, writes a bit about the influential cyberpunk classic Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I’ve never read the book but it seems I’m missing out on a wild ride… This man isn’t just my brother, but he is working on a story for our upcoming anthology based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Take it away, Brian! (Caution: This review could contain spoilers for the book. You have been warned.)
Snow Crash Review
By Brian Bennett
I read this book several years ago and I was enamored with its style and complexity. The second time through this book I began actually soaking up a lot of the ideas and different plot line twists I had missed the first time. The book itself is very complex, despite some lack of character development that I think is inherent to the tongue in cheek style used in the creation of the book. For those who love dystopian punk-style books, this should be a reader’s dream novel.
The hero protagonist is named Hiro Protagonist. The world has come apart before the novel commences, and has reformed as a corporate led conglomeration of city-states dominated by commercialized versions of organized crime syndicates. The US government still survives in its own enclave where red tape and odd rules are the norm. The mafia runs pizza delivery with a family flair and a hard edge. In this version of the future people have reverted to their baser beliefs and society accepts rampant racism as part of life. Hiro is a pizza delivery driver for the Mafia. Y.T. is a member of a delivery service that uses skater punks to deliver packages in a timely manner. Virtual Reality is a place called “The Street” that our pizza delivering Hiro helped design in his other life as a hacker and computer coder. Snow Crash is a “virtual drug” that begins to affect life in both the virtual reality of the street and in reality, creating armies of zombie-like people who speak in “tongues” and care for nothing but the “word” brought by the inimitable R. Bob Rife. Hiro and Y.T. meet in the course of their work and form a partnership of sorts that drops them both into a world of Sumerian nam-shub mental viruses and murderous Aleutian nuclear powers. In the virtual world and paralleled in reality the end is near and it takes both Hiro and Y.T. along with all their associates to stop it.
The technology in this story stretches the imagination. Remembering that this book was written back in 1990 will help suspend disbelief if some of the “technology” seems too far fetched. From nuclear powered dogs to all terrain “smart” wheels to a mobile wheelchair the size of a semi the imagery keeps you reading. The author uses elements of history to concoct an ancient Sumerian virus that can take over the brain of hackers.
My take on this one is that it’s a lighthearted dystopian tale that uses elements of cyberpunk, biopunk, and the survival of everyone after the fall of society as we know it. I enjoyed the read immensely, laughed at the “Feds” who couldn’t write a simple rule change without reams of paper and a half hour read time. Felt for the cybernetic animal who remembered his good girl. Rooted for Hiro as he blindly fumbled his way into saving the world. Y.T. as a character felt wooden to me, and there was no appreciable character development in most characters with the exception of Raven, who started as a monster, but by the end you understood why he had become the nuke toting killer for hire. All in all I recommend this novel to anyone who loves punk tales and can suspend disbelief for 470 pages.
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Thanks for the write-up, Brian! Can’t wait to see what you think of other books in the punk grenes. We’ll have to get you in for an interview one day. Look for more Reviewers to go Punk every Monday here on Punkwriters.com.