Snow Crash: A Rant-Rave Review

Ok. So, pretty soon I’m going to develop a reputation for being a real pain in the ass reviewer since I always start with what irritates me about a book. I will try to preempt that by explaining that I really enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, but I just finished reading it a few minutes ago, and I truly loved everything about it except the ending.

Well, the ending and one line of dialogue.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead. If you don’t want to know how it ends, go away now.

So, lets just start with a nice orderly list. This seems to be a good way to approach a book when you are enraged by it.

  1. There’s not even a make out scene between Hiro and Juanita (two consenting adults who really have it bad for each other), but there is a full sex scene between Y.T. and Raven (a 15 year old skater girl and a cyber-terrorist of indeterminate age).
  2. Uncle Enzo has a skateboard for Y.T. in the last scene and we don’t find out whether he gets to give it to her. What’s worse, it’s not even clear whether Enzo lives through the scene or if Y.T. knows about what happened to him.
  3. Chapters 56 and 57 are 100% exposition of the sort that is really interesting to linguistics geeks, mythology fetishists and imaginative programmers but does very little to move the plot forward since it’s a synthesis of the information we’ve already gathered in chapters 30 and 33 and a few other spots in the book.
  4. The one line of unforgivable dialogue, page 432, “If we get out of this, will you be my girl?” Two reasons it’s unforgivable: 1) Nobody fucking says that without getting punched. 2) He asks the question, she says yes, and then they never have another proper conversation before the end of the book.
  5. It doesn’t say what happens to Raven after he limps off into the distance. Nor does it say why he was peddling snow crash to begin with or why he was working with Rife. (One of my irc friends, Ravenfish, says I do know the answer to this one. I may have missed a key point somewhere.)
  6. We don’t find out what happens with Y.T.’s mom, but for some reason, she’s totally cool with picking Y.T. up from the airport like nothing happened. (How long has she been on the Raft, anyway? Definitely too long to pretend she was just sleeping at a pal’s house.)
  7. Page 462. A character we don’t know much about and don’t care about shouts, “Al is down. My God, he’s dead!” This is six pages from the end of the book, and I don’t know who Al is. That’s just annoying.

On the other hand, none of these things would bother me if the book hadn’t hooked me hard from the start. I really got into this story and sincerely wanted to know how it would end for all the characters — from Hiro Protagonist all the way down to the Rat Things — and yes, I even liked Raven in a way. That sort of thing is not accomplished through bad writing. I have been known to put down a book half way through just because the plot got too weird or the writing bothered me too much. Those things didn’t happen. I was hooked for the entire ride.

Until the end.

What am I to make of this? Lots of books are truly bad, ok? Tons of them. They get printed, bought and read anyway. A few books are really amazingly good and satisfying in every way. This book had the potential to be one of the latter, and seriously, once I’ve read 468 pages, I will go along for another 100 to get a satisfying ending, but Stephenson didn’t go there. Why? Why Why Why?

This is a problem that could have been solved with the aid of a good editor. Trust me, I know good editors. They spot these problems and help resolve them. They’re lovely like that. Even if not every lose end gets tied up, a good editor could’ve helped smooth out the edges so the jagged drop off of an ending wouldn’t hurt quite so much.

But the true miracle of this book, the part that baffles me the most, is that despite all that, I’m going to recommend it. The concepts in it, the characters, and even the outrageously complex plot are the kind of thing you just can’t miss.

“Home?” Mom says.
“Yeah, home seems about right.”

What? That’s it? Yeah. End.

Congratulations to Tom French and Zoo Story
Stella and the Chickens

2 thoughts on “Snow Crash: A Rant-Rave Review

  1. I hate it when books start off like they could be one of the few great ones and then, a couple hundred pages in, the whole thing just goes to hell.

    I’ve read a couple like that and it never gets less disappointing.

  2. Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon” is similar in that there is a ton of fantastic material that is ruined by an unsatisfying ending. I’d still recommend it, but the man has issues with providing satisfying conclusions.

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