I finished listening to Snow Crash this morning. It turned out to be a really good, funny book. The whole premise of the book is that brains are like computers, programmable and capable of getting viruses too. It was interesting because at the same time I was listening to it, I read an article in the Economist, Signs of Success, that studied language in deaf children. They found that groups of deaf children spontaneously create sign languages – sign languages that resemble existing spoken languages. They argue that there must be a grammatical template wired into the brains of infants. Neal Stephenson’s book is based on that idea – on the premise that some knowledge in your brain is hardwired from birth and other parts are learned. He equates the knowledge, or the way your brain works, to software. Once again science fiction is predicting the future – or at least future findings – and playing with them.
On top of the somewhat serious premise of the software/brain analogy, Neal introduces many quirky characters and details that make the book humerous. A pizza chain run by the mafia, a motorcycle riding giant who can’t be killed because he has a nuclear bomb implant, corporate franchises as neighborhoods … all of these characteristics add humor. They take some of society’s already quirky characteristics, apply a little technology, and show us how strange they really could become!