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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson You had me at pizza delivery and bimbo box, you lost me at Sumerian.

I sooo wanted to love this book. One of my friends, whose tastes often intersect with mine, loves this book. For her, it's a comfort read, something to come back to when in a reading slump.

After about 270 pages of Snow Crash, I found myself utterly convinced I'd never want to read it again. A key component of a comfort read for me is good characterization; the kind of characters who are old friends that one visits regularly.

And I'm not feeling the love for either Hiro or Y.T. In fact, at the 270 page mark, I knew it was doubtful I'd actually finish the book without some skimming. By 333, I gave up, did some skimming and then read the last page.

I still don't know what the f*ck happened.

I love the not-so-subtle commentary on American commercialism, on the loony drive to privatize everything. The world in Snow Crash is a libertarian's wet dream, with the U.S. government shrunk down to the size of a small corporation, paranoid and ineffectual. The Burbclaves with their endless miles of suburban perfection, private police forces, and sometimes, all-white population, seems especially prescient. As does the idea that the only products this country will produce--better than anyone else--will be music, movies, software and high-speed pizza delivery. (Given the proliferation of talent shows on tv, it would seem the only growth industry is entertainment.) And "bimbo box," the term used for the archetypal soccer mom van, is now a part of my vocabulary.

I confess, I found much of the exploration of Sumerian history, the evolution of language and specifically, the idea that religion is a virus, fascinating and thought provoking. But somewhere, in all those cool ideas, the plot and characterization got lost.

Hiro and Y.T. are both trying to get to the bottom of a viral infection--an infection that crashes computers and human brains--because...why? Y.T., she of the supped-up skateboard and "dentata" in her nether regions, is at times entertaining, but never more than two-dimensional. Hiro spends the bulk of the story lost in a loooong conversation with a computer Librarian. Those conversations, in particular, are where the story lost all its appeal. Again, great ideas. Dull, droning presentation. (Like the adult voices in a Peanuts cartoon. Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwar, mwar.)

I doubt I'll ever read anything else by Stephenson.