Snow Crash Book Cover Snow Crash
Neal Stephenson
Del Rey

From The Publisher:

Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.

At some point earlier this year someone wrote an article related to information warfare that quoted Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, prompting numerous recommendations from friends and readers. While I can’t for the life of me find that article, I did come across a copy of Snow Crash in a great SciFi bookshop in Gamla Stan Stockholm. This dark near-future novel became my fun summer reading, urged on by repeated follow up from a friend in Boston who wanted to know how I liked one of his favourite books. The pressure was clearly on.

In the end the recommendations lived up to expectations. Snow Crash is an enduring book for understanding our current times. The style of writing, which is extremely immersive in a near-future, high-tech sort of way, was jarring at first to jump into, but once the reader starts to grasp the new lexicon and framing, the storyline becomes very engaging.

What is particularly striking about Snow Crash is that while it is tech-heavy, the premise of the story isn’t about technology, but human cognition, which is also likely why the book doesn’t feel dated at a time when changes in the field seem so rapid. This aptly reflects our current situation.

Rapid developments in ICTs have drastically transformed all aspects of human existence and ICTs have become so pervasive we don’t even see them anymore. But this focus on technology as the problem misses the point. Technology changes quickly. Strategically speaking, looking for a technical solution for today’s challenges is short-sighted. But there is one constant we seem to continue to ignore – behind the infrastructure, the data, the perceptions there are people. Stephenson seems to get this – and it is an important message we need to heed.

There is a reason why the publisher’s description is so vague, and spoil the book I will not. Perhaps a little bit of mystery will encourage others to pick up a copy too. Snow Crash is definitely a pleasant and worthwhile read. Thanks for the recommendations and “encouragement”!

Snow Crash is available on Amazon – but I picked my paperback copy up at the Science Fiction Bokhandeln in Stockholm.

Cover Image: An anti-alcohol Soviet propaganda poster by A.E. Bazilevich from 1972

About Author

Alicia Wanless

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia researches how we shape — and are shaped — by a changing information space. As the Director of Strategic Communications at The SecDev Foundation, Alicia develops campaigns and strategies for engaging beneficiaries in outreach and behavioural change. Her work includes developing a training program that deals with verifying information and the spread of content online, and has supported projects in the Middle East, Vietnam and the post-Soviet space.

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