Book Review, “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson

Somehow, I’ve gotten to be 52 years old, and I think I’m a decent geek (I used to be a bit-twiddling systems programmer back in the day) as well as a Sci-Fi fan, and I managed to miss reading Snow Crash for 18 years (published in 1992). Oh well, no time like the present to make that up. I thoroughly enjoyed Snow Crash. I found the style and presentation to be interesting and compelling. I’ve read, over the last couple of months, Stephenson’s Anathem and Cryptonomicon, enjoying them both immensely. It’s clear that they are by the same author, but yet they are so different in characters and story that it doesn’t feel like rehashing the same ground. That’s important when an author spends as many pages telling a story as Stephenson 😉 . I won’t spend a lot of time here rehashing the adventures of Hiro and Y.T. There are a zillion reviews on the ‘net. What I will say is that this is a fabulous book, well worth the attention it has received. The amazing thing to me is that when I read it, though it was written and published in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the computer/information technology described in the book doesn’t feel dated. Sure there are some places where you can spot some anachronisms, but they are so few and far between that it doesn’t detract from the story. I felt the same way about Cryptonomicon, by the way. So, go pick up a copy of Snow Crash if you’ve never read it; as a friend said to me on Facebook, good thing I finally read it so he wouldn’t have to pull my “geek card” 😉

Now, one interesting angle. I’d been looking at eBook readers (and as I write this, I’m awaiting the announcement, in less than 24 hours, of Apple’s “iThing”) and had decided that I didn’t want to spring for a Kindle but I liked the concept. Then I saw that I could get the software for iPhone/iPod Touch (I have a Touch) and PC, with Mac and Blackberry on the way. Cool, I say, so I downloaded the software and forked out $9.99 for Snow Crash on Amazon (I know, coulda got a used paperback for $1). I really liked reading on the Touch. I did read a few chapters on my laptop (but since the Mac version is not out, had to use Parallels with a Windows VM 😉 ). It was useful, though, to be able to read the book in one window and have Wikipedia articles about Sumerian history open in another window (read Snow Crash, you’ll know why). I suspect I’ll buy more books this way, though I really don’t like the Kindle Digital Rights Management (DRM) and think that this is the main thing that we’ve got to figure out in the business model. I should be able to loan or give away the copy I’ve licensed, just like a physical book.

OK, y’all don’t look at any strange bit maps now!

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