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"The other girl is a Brandy. Her date is a Clint. Brandy and Clint are both popular, off-the-shelf models. When white-trash high school girls are going on a date in the Metaverse, they invariably run down to the computer-games section of the local Wal-Mart and buy a copy of Brandy. The user can select three breast sizes: improbable, impossible, and ludicrous. Brandy has a limited repertoire of facial expressions: cute and pouty; cute and sultry; perky and interested; smiling and receptive; cute and spacy. Her eyelashes are half an inch long and the software is so cheap that they are rendered as solid ebony chips. When a brandy flutters her eyelashes, you can almost feel the breeze."
Snowcrash, page 35
Neil Stephenson?s Snow Crash, a novel of the genre Cyberpunk, is one of two books ? the other being William Gibson?s Neuromancer ? which brought the genre of multiverse, and near future virtual reality into being. Snow crash itself, has been directly quoted by both ActiveWorlds, and Second Life virtual realities as the inspiration for their birth.
Snow crash is something of an odd book. It switches between the perspectives of the two main heroes continually throughout. Hiro Protagonist, who delivers pizzas for the Mafia-controlled pizza chain Cosa Nostra, owns two Japanese swords ?Japanese are called Nipponese in the novel ? and has business cards with the tirle ?last of the freelance hackers? on them.
He is also one of the people originally responsible for the creation of the Street, the totally immersive virtual reality system available worldwide through the internet substructure.
"The dimensions of the Street are fixed by a protocol, hammered out by the computer-graphics ninja overlords of the Association for Computing Machinery's Global Multimedia Protocol Group. The Street seems to be a grand boulevard going all the way around the equator of a black sphere with a radius of a bit more than ten thousand kilometres. That makes it 65535 kilometres around, which is bigger than the Earth."
Snowcrash, page 23
"Like any place in Reality, the Street is subject to development. Developers can build their own small streets feeding off the main one. They can build buildings, parks, signs, as well as things that do not exist in Reality, such as vast hovering overhead lightshows, special neighbourhoods where the rules of three-dimensional spacetime are ignored, and free-combat zones where people can go to hunt and kill each other. "
Snowcrash, page 23
The second hero, or heroine, is Y.T. Hiro and Y.T. meet by chance, early in the book, as she is very, very different. She is a kourier, a 15 year old rebel, who uses a skateboard, and a magnetic harpoon to 'poon off passing trucks and cars, to deliver packages for the kourier company. The work is fast, split-second deadly, and would be illegal if there were any laws left. Y.T. is intelligent, witty, and sarcastic, and loves the kourier business, both as she excels at it, and because it is everything her mum, a programmer for what remains of the federal government, loathes.
The book is set in the near future, when society has finally collapsed, and the corporations have taken over, splitting the United States into a thousand tiny mini-states, called burbclaves. Each with their own government, their own schools, their own rent-a-cop police, and their own borders. Akin to Ancient Summeria, each burbclave is a nation state, and allies with others of similar beliefs, dotted all round the landscape. New South Africa, Mr Lee's new Hong Kong, Fedland, to name but a few such conglomerates.
Basically, as with almost everything in Snow Crash, it's the current world trends, taken just a little further down the line, creating a dark, yet believable near future.
The beginning of the book lays out the language used, which is similar to IT jargon, but diverges just a little, introducing new terms the book then uses throughout. Understanding computer jargon definitely helps the plot flow smoother, but if not, the novel tries to explain most concepts at least once, anyway.
It is filled with vivid descriptions of the technologies that drive the Street. All of them without fail, are real possibilities for actual VR of the near future. Topics from the great, great, great granddaughter of the Eye toy, to the sensor web that allows seamless internet use, hopping from mobile pjhone to wire link, to wi-fi and back again, all without the end user being aware. These, and so many, many more are discussed, without slowing the plot down at all, so cleverly are they wound in.
"The top surface of the computer is smooth except for a fisheye lens, a polished glass dome with a purplish optical coating. Whenever Hiro is using the machine, this lens emerges and clicks into place, its base flush with the surface of the computer.
The lens can see half the universe - the half that is above the computer, which includes most of Hiro. In this way, it can generally keep track of where Hiro is and what direction he's looking in."
Snowcrash, pp 21-22
"Down inside the computer are three lasers - a red one, a green one, and a blue one. They are powerful enough to make a bright light, but not powerful enough to burn through the back of eyeball and broil your brain, fry your frontals, lase your lobes. As everyone learned in elementary school, these three colours of light can be combined, with different intensities, to produce any colour that Hiro's eye is capable of seeing."
Snowcrash, page 22
The plot of the book itself, centers round Snow Crash, a computer program that is being peddled as the first 'digital drug'. Hiro's friend, and one-time boss, Da7id, owner of the Black Sun bar, most exclusive club on the Street, recieves a copy of the program, and opens it. He is greeted by a swirling jpeg image that lasts several seconds, then dies out. Minutes later, Da7id's avatar dissolves into a swirl of light, and offline, he suffers a massive systems shutdown, and is rushed to hospital, where he remains, in a catatonic state.
From that moment on, Hiro is determined to find those responsible for Snow Crash, and stop it, permanently. The plot unfolds from there.
It is perhaps ironic that Snow Crash uses a jpeg bitmap to deliver its near-lethal viral package, since, after the novel was published, very tral jpeg based viruses began to appear.
On June 13, 2002, the first reported jpeg virus was found.
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