Wednesday, 14 April 2004

After the Grapes of Wrath, I continued my alternation between American social commentary (Vernon God Little, Steinbeck) and Sci-Fi (Foundation, Revelation Space) with Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Actually, this book really falls in both categories, because, like all good sci-fi, it draws very clear analogies with society, and in this case with American society and the growth of the franchise as a pervasive cultural icon. I had seen this recommended in a number of places, and also by Michael, my ex-boss, so I was keen to read it.

However, for me its a bit of a flawed work. Its action scenes are pretty formulaic and not really convincing to me - in my experience, the odds of a hacker also being the greatest swordsman in the world, and of his virtual swordfighting experience translating into real-world action hero credentials, are London to a brick. As such, it felt a bit like a hacker's version of a James Bond film at times. It also veers dangerously into pseudo-intellectualism for vast sections of the book, using Sumerian mythology and aspects of linguistics in ways that are probably pretty spurious, but that kind of stuff appeals to me, so I didn't mind suspending critical judgement for the day. The future-gazing at a hyper-franchised America was entertaining enough, although it bordered a little comic-book at times, in particular at the very end of the book. While this was consistent with the vibe of the action sequences, it wasn't a perfect fit with the neurolinguistics stuff, and overall I felt the book lacked a really consistent tone. Still, good fare for a lazy Monday afternoon, and another chapter in my versing in cyber-punk. Next stop, Cryptonomicon, and some more Gibson.

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