The Cyborg

Cyber Space and Critical Theory

Snow Crash

A Cyborg Manifesto

Last modified April 12, 2005


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Snow Crash: Awesome!

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Snow Crash is written in a very informal style with simple sentences that border on choppy at times. Stephenson’s language is comprehensible, and essentially stays out of the way and lets the reader get absorbed in the story. While reading Snow Crash , I found that I could read for hours and still be hungry for more.

Parts of Snow Crash are hilarious because they resonate so well with current realities despite being set years in the future. Part of why we relate so well to the novel’s world is that it is in many ways an extrapolation of our world. The following passage is a good example.

When white-trash high school girls are going on a date in the Metaverse, they invariably run down to the computer-games section of the local Wal-Mart and buy a copy of Brandy. The user can select three breast sizes: improbable, impossible, and ludicrous. Brandy has a limited repertoire of facial expressions: cute and pouty; cute and sultry; perky and interested; smiling and receptive; cute and spacy. Her eyelashes are half an inch long, and the software is so cheap that they are rendered as solid ebony chips. When a brandy flutters her eyelashes, you can almost feel the breeze (Stephenson, 37).

Most of this is all too familiar. In the first two sentences we’ve got cheap mass-produced goods being sold at Wal-Mart, and ridiculous standards of beauty (particularly for girls). Brandy’s repertoire of expressions define the emotions that girls (or at least white-trash girls) are supposed to feel. By today’s standards, this set of emotions does not seem unreasonable for a stereotype. We are all familiar with low-polygon 3D models that were the hallmark of early 3D-graphics hardware and software (Nintendo 64 or the original Tomb Raider, for example). It is interesting to note that cheap software in Stephenson’s world is so bad even by our standards today, since producing individual copies of a software program costs next to nothing. You would think that a company would sell something of at least slightly higher quality for cheap in a bid to outsell their competition.

Other parts of Snow Crash are much less shallow than the above humorous passage. When Hiro recalls a conversation he had with Juanita years ago, we learn about an event that got her interested in face-to-face communication. “ Condense fact from the vapor of nuance. Hiro has never forgotten the sound of her speaking those words, the feeling that came over him as he realized for the first time how smart Juanita was [Emphasis in original]” (Stephenson, 60).

I have compiled a list of   other passages that I particularly enjoyed while reading Snow Crash , with a little bit of commentary on each one.

Discussion Questions

  1. Could Snow Crash have been written with more sophisticated language and still grabbed your attention and held it for 450 pages?
  2. Stephenson is not shy about using words like fuck, shit, cock, etc., or about describing graphic sex and violence. Does he do this just for “shock value” to keep us reading, or is he just giving us more information about the world of Snow Crash ?
  3. How different is the world of Snow Crash from our world? Is it basically the same with some new technology and with greater distance between extremes? Or is it basically different with some inspiration taken from our world?
  4. How feasible is the world of Snow Crash ? Is it believeable?


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