Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson - New Book
The hero and protagonist whose story the book follows is the aptly-named Hiro Protagonist (Hiro being a homophone of hero), whose business card reads "Last of the freelance hackers and Greatest swordfighter in the world". When Hiro loses his job as a pizza delivery driver for the Mafia, he meets a streetwise young girl nicknamed Y.T. (short for Yours Truly), who works as a skateboard "Kourier", and they decide to become partners in the intelligence business (selling data to the CIC, the for-profit organization that evolved from the CIA after the U.S. government's loss of power).
The pair soon learn of a dangerous new drug called "Snow Crash", which is both a computer virus capable of infecting the brains of unwary hackers in the Metaverse and a mind-altering virus in Reality. It is distributed by a network of Pentecostal churches via its infrastructure and belief system. As Hiro and Y.T. dig deeper (or are drawn in) they discover more about Snow Crash and its connection to ancient Sumerian culture, the fiber-optics monopolist L. Bob Rife, and his enormous Raft of refugee boat people who speak in tongues. Also, both in the Metaverse and in Reality, they confront one of Rife's minions, an Aleut harpoon master named Raven whose motorcycle's sidecar packs a nuke wired to go off should Raven ever be killed. Raven has never forgiven the U.S. for the way they handled the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands (see Aleutian Islands Campaign in World War II) or for the nuclear testing on Amchitka. Hiro, with the prompting of his Catholic and linguist ex-girlfriend Juanita, begins to unravel the nature of this crisis. It relates back to the mythology of ancient Sumer, which Stephenson describes as speaking a very powerful ur-language. Sumerian is to modern "acquired languages" as binary is to programming languages: it affects the entity (be it human or computer) at a far lower and more basic level than does acquired/programming language. Sumerian is rooted in the brain stem and related to glossolalia, or "speaking in tongues"—a trait most of L. Bob Rife's convertees display. Furthermore, Sumerian culture was ruled and controlled via "me," the human-readable equivalent of software which contains the rules and procedures for various activity (harvests, the baking of bread, etc). The keepers of these important documents were priests referred to as en; some of them, like the god/semi-historical-figure Enki, could write new me, making them the equivalent of programmers or hackers.
As Stephenson describes it, one goddess/semi-historical-figure, Asherah, took it upon herself to create a dangerous biolinguistic virus and infect all peoples with it; this virus was stopped by Enki, who used his skills as a "neurolinguistic hacker" to create an inoculating "nam-shub" that would protect humanity by destroying their ability to use and respond to the Sumerian tongue. This forced the creation of "acquired languages" and gave rise to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately, Asherah's meta-virus did not disappear entirely, as the "Cult of Asherah" continued to spread it by means of cult prostitutes and infected women breast feeding infants; this weakened form of the virus is compared to herpes simplex. Furthermore, Rife has been sponsoring archaeological expeditions to the Sumerian city of Eridu, and has found enough information on the Sumerian tongue to reconstruct it and use it to work his will on humanity. He has also found the nam-shub of Enki, which he is protecting at all costs.
Hiro and Y.T. each eventually make their way to Rife's Raft, a massive refugee flotilla centered around Rife's personal yacht, the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. Juanita has already infiltrated this floating caravan for the express purpose of helping overthrow Rife. Y.T. becomes romantically associated with Raven for a short time and is eventually captured by Rife's outfit, but not before getting the nam-shub of Enki to Hiro, who together with Juanita uses it to save the virus-afflicted. Hiro then goggles into the Metaverse and foils Raven's attempt to widely disseminate the Snow Crash virus to a grouping of the hacker elite. Y.T., meanwhile, is brought to the mainland by Rife, but escapes the helicopter before Rife and Raven proceed to an airport, where they are confronted by Uncle Enzo (the Mafia kingpin) and Mr. Lee (leader of a series of Hong Kong-esque franchulates). A critically wounded Enzo disarms Raven, while Rife is killed and his virus destroyed when Fido, a cyborg "rat-thing" who used to be Y.T.'s dog, propels himself through the engine of L. Bob Rife's plane at beyond Mach 1, incinerating Rife and his plane. The novel ends with Y.T. driving home with her mother, and with hints of a future rekindled relationship between Hiro and Juanita.
About the Author Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer, known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, cryptography, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system. Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Neal Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Neal Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Neal Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984. The Big U received very little attention when it first came out, and was subsequently out of print until Neal Stephenson allowed it to be reprinted in 2001. After The Big U, Stephenson published the eco-thriller Zodiac before rising to prominence in the early 1990s with the novel Snow Crash (1992), which fuses memetics, computer viruses, and other high-tech themes with Sumerian mythology, along with an analysis of the differences between ideologies such as libertarianism, laissez-faire capitalism, and communism. Averaging one novel every four years, he has written several subsequent novels:
* The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (1995), which deals with a future with extensive nanotechnology and dynabooks. The SciFi Channel and George Clooney will be producing a miniseries adaptation of The Diamond Age, to be penned by Neal Stephenson.
* Cryptonomicon (1999), a novel concerned with concepts ranging from computing and Alan Turing's research into codebreaking and cryptography during the Second World War at Bletchley Park, to a modern attempt to set up a data haven. It has subsequently been reissued in three separate volumes in some countries, including in French and Spanish translations.
* The Baroque Cycle is a series of historical novels and is in some respects a prequel to Cryptonomicon. It was originally published in three volumes:
o Quicksilver (2003) (containing the books Quicksilver, King of the Vagabonds, and Odalisque);
o The Confusion (2004) (containing the books Bonanza and Juncto);
o The System of the World (2004) (containing the books Solomon's Gold, Currency, and System of the World).
* The Baroque Cycle has subsequently been republished as eight separate books (both in English and in Spanish translation).
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson - New Book
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