Book Club: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The trouble with leaving it two weeks before you write up the Book Club report is that I forget what happened in the book, let alone the comments of my fellow book clubbers, but hey ho – I’m going to give it a go all the same. It was a quiet affair this month, with only five of us in attendance, plus one special guest brought along by Bev – for one night only (whose name I’ve forgotten because I’m a terrible person. Plus I’ve slept since then – what more do you expect?)

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (as chosen by Carol) is about a hero protagonist aptly named Hiro Protagonist (an obvious attempt at humour that for me, at least, worked). He’s a pizza delivery guy – or at least he was. He’s also a freelance hacker and helped create parts of the amazing (and huge) metaverse – the virtual reality into which most people slip on a daily basis. This is the story of a dangerous computer virus – a virus that affects more than just the computer – and protagonist’s race to put an end to it. It’s a sci-fi novel right down to the core, dealing with some quite heavy techy issues that are both a little out of reach for the everyday person, but also a little outmoded now (the was written in 1992, meaning technology has moved on quite significantly). It’s also about society – or more specifically, social change and social interaction.

It got quite a negative reception at book club too – for varying reasons. It lacked a clear thread, Anna said. It was hard to understand and jumped around too much, Mandy said. It’s not as good as his other books, Carol said, and Bev thought that the ending was a little…daft. Others gave up completely, saying it was just too complicated. Everyone agreed it was difficult to get into and whilst some managed to catch a spark that drove them forward, many didn’t and as a result, ended up not finishing the book at all. Still, it wasn’t all bad. There were parts of it that dragged the reader along, and Carol, Bev, and I found the historical titbits and the educational chats with the Librarian to be both fascinating and engrossing. More than that, Stephenson’s humour glimmers through the cracks, and he has a fantastic imagination.

Stephenson is clearly a gifted writer and has a lovely way with words (even if he does favour a more complex vocabulary). I’d certainly like to try some of his other works, especially as Carol tells me that they are a lot better than this one. For me though, Snow Crash didn’t quite make the grade. The story jumped around too much and was overly complicated, and I didn’t feel an iota of empathy for any character – or even a desire to know what happened to them in the end. Of course, not all books need to be plot driven and indeed, I’ve read some fantastic books that are specifically not plot driven. That said, I don’t think Snow Crash worked in that way – I couldn’t see the character development and there was just too much going on for me to be able to focus on anything really. It was like being in a really loud nightclub with an aggressive strobe light and a crowd of people who changed every time the light flashed. I felt disorientated and lost. Had Stephenson chosen to focus on the computer virus instead of throwing in all the societal collapse stuff – or even vice versa – I think this book would have been much simpler and as a result, better received*.

*I am well aware that we are rather on the wrong side of the fence. Even a brief Google search tells me that this book was well acclaimed by critics and has somewhat of a cult following, especially among diehard sci-fi fans. It’s got an average of a 4/5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon, and it’s even being made into a film. Perhaps we weren’t quite the right target audience, or perhaps we came along at the wrong time and place, but whatever the reason – I’m sorry fans, and I’m sorry Stephenson – it’s just our opinion 🙂

Scores (to be completed…)

Me: 6, Mandy: 1, Carol: 6, Michelle: 1

Book Club Book Rankings

  1. 8/10: The Running Man by Stephen King
  2. 7.64/10: Lion by Saroo Brierley
  3. 7.59/10: The Second Life of Amy Archer by RS Pateman
  4. 7.5/10: The Retribution by Val McDermid
  5. 7.06/10: Bloodman by Robert Pobi
  6. 7.03125/10: See How They Run by Tom Bale
  7. 6.7/10: Twisted by Jeffery Deaver
  8. 6.6/10: Tell it to the Skies by Erica James
  9. 6.5/10: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Decker
  10. 6.4375/10: Someone is Watching by Joy Fielding
  11. 6.125/10: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  12. 6/10: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  13. 5.36/10: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
  14. 4.6/10: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Larson

Want to read along with us? Our next book is Maskerade by Terry Pratchett, as chosen by Bev. We’ll be meeting on September 7th.


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