Snow Crash Summary

Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash

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Snow Crash Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

Snow Crash is a 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson. Dystopic in nature, the novel features many areas of study including language, history, religion, computer science, and mythology. The novel takes place in a future that seems foreign and familiar all at the same time. Distribution of wealth is a problem within the novel, and only a very thin veil stands between the wealthy controlling the rest of the population. That veil is language and the novel focuses on how important language can be.

Hiro Protagonist is a pizza delivery driver in Los Angeles in the 21st century. Los Angeles is no longer a part of the United States. Everything is mostly controlled by singular wealthy individuals. Hiro delivers pizza for the American Mafia, which has been corporatized. He is also a hacker and good with a sword. Although he is arguably a genius, he has difficulties with the social aspect of life, therefore he must work as a pizza delivery driver to get by.

One day, one of Hiro’s deliveries goes awry, where he meets Y.T., which is short for Yours Truly, who is a skateboarding courier. Together they escape into Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong and encounter a Rat Thing. Rat Things are cybernetic security devices engineered from pit bulls. Y.T. helps Hiro complete his delivery and they decide to partner up. The two decide to work together to gather intel for profit for the CIC (the merger of the CIA and Library of Congress) in reality and the Metaverse. The Metaverse is what the internet ultimately evolved into. It is a virtual reality-based internet that resembles a multiple player online game.

There is a new drug available on the Metaverse and in real life known as Snow Crash. Hiro is offered the drug. His friend Da5id looks at the file, which involved naked avatars unrolling scrolls that had binary code on them. It causes his system to crash, and he develops brain damage in real life. Hiro meets with his ex-girlfriend Juanita who rambles almost incoherently about Sumerian culture. She hands him her database of research and disappears.

Y.T. becomes a personal pet project for the head Mafia boss named Uncle Enzo. From the information Y.T. gathers through her new relationship, and Juanita’s research that Hiro possesses, a dangerous truth is discovered. The ancient Sumerian language allowed the human brain to be programmed. Priests used to gather the masses and turn them mindless and compliant.

Ultimately, a god called Enki created a counter-virus against the controlling words. The counter-virus included stopping Sumerian being processed by the brain and the development of new languages. This is where the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel originated. The myth dictated that humans used to all speak one language, until the tower was built too close to heaven, so God had to make different languages and spread the world apart.

A rich media magnate named L. Bob Rife begun collecting Sumerian artifacts and created the drug. He wants to the be the one in control of the populace. He began spreading the drug on the Metaverse and in real life. Snow Crash takes the form of an addictive drug and is spread through blood. The Metaverse version is especially harmful to hackers, who have programmed their brains to respond to code.

Hiro decides to head north up the West Coast, as he wants to head for the Raft, where Juanita might be. Due to the mega inflation that has taken place, many Asian countries have become bankrupt. Many refugees try to get to the United States via Raft and there is a large collection of them approaching the West Coast. Rife has been using the Raft to indoctrinate the refugees with Snow Crash before they make it to the United States. Y.T. has been kidnapped and taken to the Raft due to her connection to Uncle Enzo.

Hiro makes a deal with the Mafia and they gain him access to the Raft so he can rescue Y.T. But the Raft is not too terrible for Y.T., as she is being romanced by an assassin for Rife, named Raven. Hiro’s attempt to get on the Raft is a violent one. He discovers that Juanita has infiltrated the Raft. Y.T. has discovered the counter-virus.  She delivers the counter-virus to Hiro. By working together, Juanita and Hiro are able to read the counter virus out loud, saving the refugees from Snow Crash.

Rife escapes the Raft, taking Raven and Y.T. with him. The plan is to use the virtual Snow Crash at a large concert within the Metaverse. Hiro defuses the threat in time and Y.T. escapes. Rife then must face the Mafia, including Uncle Enzo. Rife is also confronted by a Rat Thing that used to be the dog Fido, who Y.T. had previously saved. Fido launches himself into the engine of Rife’s private jet, killing him and destroying the virus. Raven and Enzo fight, both becoming wounded. Hiro and Juanita reconcile and Y.T. can work on her relationship with her mother, which has been strained.