Paperback 448 pages (September 30, 2004)
Stephenson is a true renaissance man of literature. He can write any genre masterfully, altering his style effortlessly whilst always managing to engage the reader. His research is flawless, and he can describe an equation as captivatingly as a sex scene. Just read his critically acclaimed Cryptonomnicon to see how true this. His historical Baroque cycle is written in a completely different but none less captivating way, the same for his eco-thriller Zodiac. His humour is perfectly balanced. He’s also written a history of operating system, called ‘In the beginning there was the command line. That is also great.
This is one of his older books. Its’ still fantastic and probably the best bit of Cyberpunk I’ve ever read. Written in 1992, it is still equally prophetic and inspiring, despite all of the developments in communications technology since then.
This novel touches upon the future of the Internet, the breakdown of the American political system, Sumerian mythology and the creation of written text, the Mafia as a possible force for good in society and kick-ass remote controlled Gatling guns. The protagonist, one Hiro Protagonist (ex-ace hack/ pizza delivery guy for the mafia) is faced with a virtual drug that destroys the mind of its users. It turns out to be a ploy by an evil right wing religious software billionaire to literally control his intellectual property in the heads of his employees. Trust me, knowing all this will not spoil the book in the least. A hot teen skater chick called Y.T. also features prominently. See? loads more to get excited about.
It’s a sad world when regurgitated tripe like Dan Brown’s Da-Vinci code with its worthless prose and ideas recycled from an 80′ con trick can be read by every other commuter on the tube, whilst a master writer like Stephenson gets largely ignored by the general public. He can write genre and mainstream equally well. He is easily readable whilst educating and entertaining at the same time.
In short, read anything you can by this man. If I haven’t read his entire works by the time I die, then I plan on complaining to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and asking for some extra time to finish them off. Read it today.