Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Might contain spoilers.
I first read this book five years ago and thought it was rather good apart from YT’s deeply uncomfortable relationship with Raven. The shine seems to have worn off this time. It’s gory and violent: the world and the Metaverse are an endless parade of maiming and killing, with the repeated implications and assertions that every inhabitant is a cynic who no longer cares. (Never mind that, apart from the lawlessness, people display just the same spectrum of emotions, desires, and behaviours as they do today.) I’m at a loss to understand why any of them care enough to save it.
This is perhaps the apotheosis of America-centric writing: every country that matters to the story is found inside the borders of the present-day USA. In addition, the book is packed with naked exposition, such as Hiro spending entire chapters in the Metaverse to learn about Sumeria and Enki, or chasing Raven through the Metaverse for the sake of a monologue that’s illogically divided between the two of them to give the illusion of a dialogue.
Speaking of which, it’s amusing that Raven and Hiro turn out to be the sons of two men imprisoned in
the same Japanese prison during World War II. (I’m not sure I understand why Japan is called
Nippon here when little else seems to differ from the real world, in terms of naming.)
I’ll concede that the book is prescient and strikingly authentic in many ways, notwithstanding poetic licence. It’s important to note, too, that the protagonists are a half-Black, half-Japanese man; a capable 15-year-old girl; and (arguably) an Aleut man. The Fedland memo is a work of art, as well. Fido’s story is half-baked but still saddens me.
In the end, though, we come to YT—again, a 15-year-old girl. In her second appearance, she muses on
what it would be like to make out with the 30-year-old Hiro. Practically every male character in the
book relentlessly sexualizes her. Every antagonist sexually menaces her. When she receives the
dogtags from an Uncle Enzo who has mysteriously become a sympathetic character, she places them
in the secret place between her breasts.
And then there’s her relationship with Raven. (The presumably 30-year-old) Raven encounters a
kidnapped, powerless YT in the Raft. He picks her up and makes her follow him, leading her to
believe she’s on a
date with him. He goes off, leaving YT in a more dangerous place than
before, protected only by being his companion. She later tells him she’s worried her
boyfriend might kill her. He speaks in
the intense and strained tones of a man with
an erection before, once again, picking her up to take her to a private place. And then he commits
statutory rape with a girl half his age.
As far as I’m concerned, YT’s character and story betray more about the author than he could ever have intended. They paint the picture of someone who sees even young girls, let alone women, only as sexual vessels.