**This review is spoiler free, except for the bits you need to highlight in order to read. So feel free to read without worry of spoilers.**
Summary: Set in a dystopian cyber-punk future, Hiro Protagonist and Y.T. are partners in the freelance information business. Hiro is a hacker, a prince of the Metaverse and general slacker. Y.T. is a 15 year-old Kourier, a skateboarder and general smart-ass. They uncover what might be the biggest information bomb of all time, a drug called Snow Crash. Sumerian myth, a computerized alternate reality and a man desperate to be the new Ozymandias, combine to make a surprisingly thoughtful techo-thriller.
The Good: This was a really interesting and a really fun ride. The mix of fast chase scenes, cool tech and deep philosophical thought were well balanced. Do not be fooled by the back of the book! It will lie and tell you this is a popcorn and explosions sort of sci-fi, but there is way more linguistic theory than you might imagine. Fans of dystopian futures will dig the franchise-owned America, where nations are literally companies where you can buy citizenship. This is one that both fans of Ender's Game and Foundation will enjoy, with both complexity and action in droves.
The protagonist, Hiro Protagonist (that makes me giggle every time), was fun and while I won't say I related to him very much, I enjoyed his story greatly. He is a little too cool to speak exclusively to the socially awkward nerd, but he is a rather positive spin on the male power fantasy, so I'm down with him. He doesn't have a lot of flaws, and most of them seem to relate to his ability to understand women, but there was enough Y.T., who I talk about later on, that I didn't notice his lack much.
The tongue-in-cheek humor is one of the best things about this book, and I loved every minute of it. If you're the type of person to name your Tauren in WoW "Nancy Moo" then you need to read this book. The word play and puns are just fantastic.
The Bad: At times the book felt a little dated. Mostly in the focus on skateboarding, which is just shy of gratuitous. Mostly this is nit-picking, but unlike Ready Player One which references a time in the past but takes place in the future, this is mostly referencing/taking place in the 90's with some callback to ancient Mesopotamia. It dates the story a little, but mostly in a fun way and not in an overly distracting way. (For the record I think Snow Crash is "better" in that is a lot more complex, but I think Ready Player One plays more to the thrills and the nostalgia of gamer culture.)
A lot of the descriptions floating around about this book are misleading, and in a sort of bad way. The descriptions I saw play up it's playful, fast paced parts and don't even hint at the fact that a lot of the book is just two characters conversing. I think because of this, especially early on, those slower sections dragged a bit for me. Not because of the pacing or the writing, but because I was thrown for such a loop when it happened. It would be like if someone told you Ender's Game was a book about kids playing games in a Zero-G environment and saving the world. Which it is, but that is so incomplete as to be silly, and you'd be pretty upset that the "kids playing games" was actually "kids killing each other". We see half the book from the perspective of a character (Y.T.) who is not even mentioned in most synopses. So for her first few chapters I was also thrown and distracted by her rather than enjoying it. I was into her and the deep conversations enough that I kept going, but I wish I hadn't been so distracted by it.
I have this thought floating around that since Y.T.'s name means "Yours Truly", we the readers are really supposed be identifying with her rather than Hiro, who is...well, the hero. Especially because so much of this is allegorical, and Hiro is literally supposed to stand in for a mythological figure. He's sort of like Odysseus or Achilles, recognizably human but rather out of reach. Y.T. is much more human, and is often in much more vulnerable positions. This allows for some interesting thoughts about the difficulties with identifying with larger-than-life heroes, and the need for a more human perspective. Plus she is younger, and I found myself wondering at times if this book was written for teenagers. They save each other pretty consistently, which gives rise to even more thoughts about how people give their heroes life and visa versa.
Overall I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction, and even a few who don't.
PS I'm testing out this style of reviews, let me know what you think in the comments!