Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

This is my second read through of Snow Crash, this year. This time I chose to listen to the audio book, due to my very busy schedule. It was read by Jonathan Davis, who did an excellent job. Expressive tones, unique voices for all the characters (even Y.T.), etc. I originally read this on a recommendation of a friend, and shortly after I began playing around on Second Life, which I discovered was inspired by the novel. In fact, I read it a second time so soon, because of my book talk group on Second Life. I admit it, I love the idea that the entire internet could be an entirely visual world.

The main character in our tale is Hero Protagonist(I've always been curious about this choice of name, but feel it's a bit too obvious to get analytical about.). He is a computer hacker/pizza delivery boy. Freelance hacking is an unstable income, and he got into debt with the mob, so now he delivers pizzas for them(all pizza places are owned by the mob). He meets our other main character, Y.T. is a courier. She delivers packages, messages, etc. on her skate board. All deliveries are made this way, the poon (harpoon) cars to help them get the delivery made faster. In fact, this is how Hero and Y.T. meet, she poons his pizza delivery car, and then delivers the pizza on time after he crashes the car into a pool.

We also meet Mr. Enzo, the head of the Mafia, and Mr. Lee, the head of the Chinese nation. Nations are more like corporations than the nations we are familiar with these days, they recruit people from all backgrounds and are not in a centralized location. David is also introduced to us, one of the lead hackers, an inventor of the Metaverse, and a good friend of Hero's. Juanita is another of our group of heroes, she is a hacker as well and programmed all the facial expressions in the Metaverse (which are now considered crucial to any business dealing there).

This is a story about a computer virus/drug that is called Snow Crash. Hero is offered a hypercard, a representation of a file in the Metaverse, with Snow Crash on it. He turns it down, as he does not know the person offering it and accepting it would be opening his computer to possible viral infection. David, on the other hand, takes the card. He opens it with Hero there, at first nothing happens, then his system crashes. Hero doesn't really think anything of it, other than that David should have known better. Turns out that it not only crashed David's computer, but his brain too. He is in the hospital, thanks to Juanita's actions, but unresponsive, only occasionally talking in tongues. The plot continues to gain complexity as the various threads tie together. It this intrigues you, I encourage you to read the novel for yourself.

Snow Crash touches on such themes as linguistics, religion, programming, psychology, and viral information. Stephenson shows a fairly good grasp of religious history, though he embellishes as well. The characters are engaging, the story is fast paced. Stephenson even gives you a few laughs along the way without disrupting the intense feeling of the book, a very difficult thing to do. This book is an excellent example of well written science fiction and cyberpunk.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

This book is not my typical genre, it was recommended/requested by one of the members of my book talk. It is a series of detective stories. It feels like the old detective movies and pulp fiction, especially the second story, which uses last names like Blue, White, and Black.

The first story, "City of Glass", is about a man named Daniel Quinn. He is a writer that takes on a case when he is mistaken for a P.I. named Paul Auster. It was when I reached that point of the story, I realized that this wasn't a typical mystery.

"Ghost" is the second story, it is about a P.I. named Blue that is hired to investigate a man named Black by a man named White (who he never sees). This story also has an unusual twist, which I will not spoil here.

The final story is "The Locked Room", about a freelance writer that would like to write fiction. He gets a letter from a very old friend's wife, a friend he hasn't talked to in a very long time. His friend has disappeared, she wants him to help deal with the writings he left behind.

In the end, all the stories are tied together. At times, the reader is left to wonder how much of these stories are auto-biographical. I really enjoyed the stories, although I have to admit that catching all the subtleties in these stories will take more than one read. Happy reading everyone.