Gather Yourselves Together discussion

January > Chapter 1-6 discussion: Snow Crash

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message 1: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
I myself am not this far, but I know a lot of people are getting along in the book. Of course, if you think how I am breaking up the chapters is not efficient, smart, or whatever, feel free to just change it and start a new discussion.

message 2: by Dave (new)

Dave Geurts (davegeurts) | 33 comments Im in chapter 3, its fun so far.... I can't wait to finish 6 and join the discussion.

message 3: by Erich (new)

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 81 comments So far I’m enjoying this tongue-in-cheek novel immensely although some of the issues are of serious worldly subjects and that is the beautiful humor behind it. The main character's name is "Hiro Protagonist"; that rocks, ha! And I am sure in the literal sense he is those things. As of now, I have no idea what direction this story is headed, but that is another reason I like it so much. It makes me desperately want to read more. I just wanted to put a little input of what I think of the book so far. I just finished chapter 6.

It is apparent that this is a very political book. I haven't looked up Neil Stephenson's political views yet because I want to finish the book before I find out some of his personal information and political ideology. It appears that the book takes place in an Anarcho-Capitalist society. Everything is privatized and without government dictate, but not without rules and regulations. The law enforcement and other securities are all privatized and provided by voluntarily funded city-states rather than through compulsory taxation. The United States Federal Government has ceded most of its power to private organizations and entrepreneurs and because of this, much of the territories have been carved up into sovereign enclaves. Each owned by a big business franchise or by various residential burbclaves (suburban enclaves). The burbclaves are franchised by sovereign corporations, instead of what they are today, which are still corporations but owned by the Federal Government. It is because the corporations are sovereign and have more room to grow and various ways, such as; societal and technological. These are the reasons they are constantly competing between one another. Their ultimate goal is to make them the best possible place to live in for the different types of classes the individual may be in. So far this sounds like a Utopia, right? The one thing that puzzles me about all of this though is the fact that the first thing Neil Stephenson brings up to show that this is a society without the Federal Government are “roads”. I like the different choices of roads in the novel, but this is the last thing you want to bring up when you are talking about cession from the government. Therefore it makes me wonder if Neil Stephenson will twist this later on to be a bad thing; because this topic can easily be twisted and is very difficult to rebut, but is possible. He also writes about the different securities and enforcement for each burbclave or territory and I can't see anything wrong with this, in fact I love the idea of different choices in police services. One thing that I am confused about in the novel is the hyper-inflation of the fiat currency of the note we all use today that is known as the dollar. The reason why hyper-inflation exists in the first place is because the United States prints off too many Federal Notes which will devalue the fiat currency. In a free market, people would not use a fiat currency because of the inevitability of inflation. People would exchange for a predetermined amount of a named physical commodity, making it representative money. The represented commodity could be a precious metal such as gold, silver, or copper. One of the main reasons for a fiat money system is taxation and would not exist in an Anarcho-Capitalist society, even a minarchist society. Inflation would eventually disappear without the constant printing of dollar notes.

I love the satire in the book such as Hiro Protagonist works for "CosaNostra" pizza. In reality CosaNostra was a “Sicilian Criminal Secret Society" which developed in the mid-19th century. CosaNostra is a loose confederation of about one hundred mafia groups, known as families, each of which claims sovereignty over a territory, usually a town or village. Though without ever fully conquering and legitimizing its monopoly of violence. This is exactly how it is in the novel. It is funny how he was able to add that in because the mafia plays a big role in the novel so far.

I could seriously go on and on about this but I will hold myself back. I don't even dare to go into the topic of the metaverse! Well maybe I will a little... I just find it very interesting that the book was written in 1991. Think of what we all thought of computers and technology 18 years ago! I'm sure people thought Neil Stephenson was crazy or “way out there” for some of his ideas of the future. Look at what we have today though a computer program called “2nd-Life” and so far I don't see major differences between these two universes. How does that even cross someone’s mind 18 years ago? It sounds very implausible but the fact is we have it today! The Avatars, the foreign currency trade, the coding, the hacking... so far this novel is amazing!

So what does everyone else think so far?

message 4: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments I got the book today! I shall join the fray ASAP!

message 5: by Jess (new)

Jess | 1 comments So I just got the book yesterday and already it's really interesting! I really like it and I am excited to get further into it! I've never read anything by this author before and I really like his style! It's awesome!

message 6: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
I am not quite to chapter 6 yet, but pretty close.

They say the first paragraph of a book will either draw a reader in or, well, not draw them in. I think he did a great job. Hiro sounds like a James Bond type with his car, tiny gun and swords. But then you find out he's a pizza driver. The sleekness of the first page or two draws you in, and then finding out that he actually delivers pizzas makes you so confused, yet intrigued, that you want to read even more. Good job, Neal Stephenson, I'm interested.

As I was reading the scene in the U-Stor-It, I was thinking, "Why is he explaining this to the reader like it is a concept they have never heard of?" and then realized, Oh, it's because it was foreign to most people back in 1991. I'd be interested to know, like Eric mentioned, if people thought he was nuts. I also think I am going to write a book where I become a millionaire by the age of the 30 and hope that comes true. I bet it works for any novel like it did this one.

I won't reiterate what Eric said about the setting being in an Anarcho-Capitalist world, but it is interesting and my favorite type of setting for a novel. I like how he explained a privatized road system. He made it sound like it just works. Which is how it probably would be in real life, but it seems to scare people, like, there's no way we could have roads if we didn't have government.

I wrote a couple of notes down while at school the other day. one line says "Anti-gun???" so there must have been a passage in there that made me question if he was anti-gun or not, but I can't recall at the moment. Not sure why I'm mentioning this, but I am, so there you go.

message 7: by Nicolle (new)

Nicolle | 49 comments At first i was confused, the way Hiro is described and yet you find out he delivers pizza. When Y.T is introduced my first impression is that she's pretty cool, and clever. I like the idea of a virtual universe, where people go on dates as Brandy lol

message 8: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
She does seem like a really cool girl. A 'one of the guys' types. I mean, everyone DOES think she's a guy when they first see her. But you can tell she is really intelligent and I'm interested to see how she ends up tied to Hiro and the metaverse.

message 9: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments Something I thought was very...interesting was Hiro's sexual description of cameras. Yowza! I'll never look at photography in the same way again.

message 10: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments Like Eric, I also thought it was surprising how closely Neil Stephenson "predicted" the future, at least in terms of the metaverse. I think in some ways it's rather sad how this work of fiction has become our reality. The face-to-face interactions that used to make up relationships have been replaced by long-distance means--text messaging, computer chats, whatever else. Half the time you don't even know if you really are talking to who you think you are, if other people are listening in (or reading in) on supposed private conversations, etc. Even this book club, though a brilliant conception, consists of absolutely zero face time. I wonder if the day will come where noone leaves home at all. It's kind of crazy to think about, eh?

message 11: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments Oh, and I'm really not oposed to technology or anything. I'm just against some of the ways I think it's misused. Peace!

message 12: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
I agree Chelsea. Someone who shall remain nameless and I always have discussions about this. I think it's sad that we don't connect with people on a personal level anymore, but this other person thinks it's so great because we can reach people we never would have been able to before. So I guess it has it's pros and cons. But I realize even in myself that sometimes I will only text people because the idea of talking to them scares me and it's because I'm so used to texting them.

message 13: by Erich (new)

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 81 comments Hmmm, I wonder who that person could be Tiffany??? Hehe. Oh and Chelsea I was just surprised that someone else had the same description of a camera as me! haha

message 14: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments So far I am liking the book, but I do find myself confused at times.

The thing I noticed is how close to right he is about computer's in our lives, but how far off he is about the government issue. He has no government in his book. Our government is getting bigger and bigger each day. After tomorrow we will be on our way to an even bigger government with our new president.

The Metaverse sounds so cool. I would love to check out something like that. Think instead of having an online book club, we could all meet up in the Metaverse and talk about it. AWESOME!

message 15: by Erich (new)

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 81 comments That is actually a good idea Becca. Really though, we could all create our own avatars in second life and I'll open up a cafe or something and we can all meet up and talk to each other on headsets! Ha, that would rock!

At what points in the book are you confused about?

message 16: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments I was confused at first, as I have continued reading it, I now understand it. The more I read it, the more I am liking it.

message 17: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Now that I'm way behind everyone, I have some thoughts! So, I'm not really willing to go research this, but I know that the metaverse is similar to second life, and that kind of stuff. But cooler. So, was this stuff around back then? Did I just not know about it because I was little?

message 18: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
Nope. It wasn't around. I was doing a little research and a lot of the "secondlife" type games out there are based on Neal Stephenson's description of the metaverse. He should have copyrighted it!

P.S. So glad you're able to read now!

message 19: by Erich (last edited Feb 25, 2009 02:08AM) (new)

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 81 comments Yeah, I have been doing a little bit of research on that myself and Tiffany is correct about the "Second Life" type of games. How they describe the metaverse in the novel, I would compare to Google Earth and Second Life. When combining these two things together you basically get the Metaverse. The Metaverse is still a stronger program per se. The fact that when someone is “goggled-in” this virtual reality world it is almost comparable to actual reality, almost like the Matrix. Though, I personally believe that technology will get to that point someday.

Second Life was released in 2003 and Google Earth was released in 2004. Linden Lab's is a virtual world technology company and maker of Second Life. The founders have often acknowledged Snow Crash as a core source for what eventually became Second Life. The company's original CEO is Philip Rosedale and he says that his vision of virtual worlds predates the book and that he conducted some early virtual world experiments during his college years. Though they probably thought of the same idea around the same time and in my opinion I don’t think we would have Second Life like we do today. Snow Crash has a huge cult following from these geeky programmers or hackers if you will, that put their life work into these virtual 3D worlds and several say that Neal Stephenson was a major influence. So what I would say to Philip Rosedale if I ever see him is “You would be nothing if it wasn’t for my friend Neal” and believe me he would know exactly who I was talking about! :) Several of the co-founders of Google Earth have also said that Snow Crash was a huge influence in the development of this amazing program! Someone once said (sorry I forgot who)“If you consider yourself a serious cyberpunk fan, hacker, or geek, you ought to feel guilty until you read it.” I agree with this immensely. If you are a geek and you know who you are, I am sure you have more than one or ten “avatar(s)”! So, wouldn’t you want to know you coined the term “avatar”?

message 20: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Cool, guys, thanks for the input! That's so interesting. And now we can all get some genuine geek cred for reading this book.

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