Neal Stephenson issues from a clan of rootless, itinerant hardscience and engineering professors (mostly Pac-10, Big 10, and Big 8 with the occasional wild strain of Ivy). He began his higher education as a physics major, then switched to geography when it appeared that this would enable him to scam more free time on his university's mainframe computer. When he graduated and discovered, to his perplexity, that there were no jobs for inexperienced physicist-geographers, he began to look into alternative pursuits such as working on cars, unimaginably stupid agricultural labor, and writing novels. His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984 and vanished without a trace. His second novel, Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller, came out in 1988 and quickly developed a cult following among water-pollution-control engineers. It was also enjoyed, though rarely bought, by many radical environmentalists. Snow Crash was written in the years 1988 through 1991 as the author listened to a great deal of loud, relentless, depressing music.
Mr. Stephenson now resides in a comfortable home in the western hemisphere and spends all of his time trying to retrofit an office into its generally dark, unlevel, and asbestos-laden basement so that he can attempt to write more novels. Despite the tremendous amounts of time he devotes to writing, playing with computers, listening to speed metal, Rollerblading, and pounding nails, he is a flawless husband, parent, neighbor, and all-around human being.
One of the added pleasures of the success of Stephenson's recent books (Cryptonomicon, etc.) is this better-late-than-never audio version of his third (and arguably best) novel, which continues to be a paperback bestseller. Snow Crash (1992), which helped earn the word "cyberpunk" a place in history, is set in the not-too-distant future where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the U.S. is a vast, mall-like patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and young Hiro Protagonist (yes, that's the hero protagonist's name) uses his computer game wizardry and pizza delivering skills to combat a deadly new designer drug (and computer virus) called Snow Crash. Actor/writer Davis is the ideal choice for bringing Stephenson's crackling, poetic language to life, and the author-approved abridgement sacrifices none of his hilariously skewed, eminently believable vision a stew of concepts from Sumerian myth to Japanese anime of the commercially sponsored fate that sits waiting in a giant shopping mall, coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Based on the Bantam Doubleday Dell paperback. (July) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Diamond Age, a Hugo Award-winning romp into a future nanotechnological revolution, doesn't lend itself to concise description. For what it's worth, it explores what happens when an incredibly powerful interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin, who uses it to reprogram the future of humanity. Got that? Stephenson's books rank among the most popular sf novels of recent years but require such close attention that they pose special challenges for audiobook fans. Jennifer Wiltsie's narration here is uniformly strong and well fitted to the material, but this may not be the right kind of book for the average person. Recommended for libraries that count many young and hardcore sf readers among their audiobook patrons. Originally published in 1992, Snow Crash is a popular sf novel in a genre that some wags have dubbed "cyberpunk." Listening to it is like taking an out-of-control roller coaster ride on a double helix, weaving in and out of Stephenson's fully imagined computer-generated "Metaverse" and a near-future real world comprised of bizarre microstates and a vast Mafia-controlled pizza delivery system. The central character, aptly named Hiro Protagonist, is at once a computer hacker, pizza "deliverator," and samurai swordsman. The story moves at such breakneck speed that many listeners may need to replay the first reel simply to figure out what is going on; however, the highly charged reading by actor Jonathan Davis another Frank Muller in the making helps hold everything together. Recommended for libraries catering to forward-looking sf readers. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Stephenson has not stepped, he has vaulted onto the literary stage with this novel."--Los Angeles Reader
"[Snow Crash is] a cross between Neuromancer and Thomas
Pynchon's Vineland. This is no mere hyperbole."--The San
Francisco Bay Guardian
"Fast-forward free-style mall mythology for the twenty-first century."--William Gibson "Brilliantly realized . . . Stephenson turns out to be an engaging guide to an onrushing tomorrow."--The New York Times Book Review