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Literature / Snow Crash

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"Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world... Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken."

Possibly the best-known book by Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash is the tale of a sword-slinging hacker who teams up with an extreme skateboarder in a Post-Cyberpunk disincorporated USA to fight "Snow Crash" — a Computer Virus for the brain. Oh, and there's a badass biker with glass knives and a nuclear bomb strapped to his motorbike, too.

Apart from its frenetic action sequences and overt use of the Rule of Cool, the book is surprisingly deep, with a substantial portion of the plot given over to exploring metaphysical interpretations of the Tower of Babel myth. Typical for a Stephenson novel, the plot juxtaposes action sequences, lengthy humorous digressions, and extremely detailed Infodumps seemingly at random.

The book is also notable for its uncanny prediction of future trends. Memes play an important role in the plot, which was written years before the public became aware of the concept through Internet memes. While holographic web terminals have not yet come to pass, there are heavily populated 3D virtual worlds, satellite photograph software, and a massive user-created online library. Certain real-world equivalents (Second Life, Google Earth) have been inspired by the book itself.

In late 2021, HBO passed on the option to produce an adaptation, and the rights fell back to Paramount and Kennedy/Marshall. In an interview, Stephenson said, "All I can say is stay tuned."

This book is the Trope Namer of:

  • Digital Avatar: While the word 'avatar' dates back to Hindu mythology and had been used to describe an online representation of a person in the online RPG Habitat, Snow Crash made the term popular.
  • The Metaverse

This book also provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • Raven's glass knives are Sharpened to a Single Atom, having a cutting edge a molecule wide, and pass through body armor like tissue paper. However it's no lightsaber and while the point of a knife easily goes through a Crip leader's body armour, it's stuck there and won't budge when Raven tries to tear the knife upwards through the wound.
    • Averted by Hiro's katanas. He reminds himself that they can't slice easily through bone, like in the movies. However, at the right angle, they can sever a person's head with a single stroke.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: When the black policeman emphasizes only the Y in Y.T. ("whitey"), which is not how she pronounces it. Even after being corrected, he doesn't see the difference.
  • Anachronic Order: The early chapters alternate between Hiro's disastrous pizza-delivery errand and his visit to Da5id's club some time later.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong Franchulates are guarded by cybernetically enhanced guard dogs, or "Semi-Autonomous Guard Units" produced by Ng Security Industries. They're powered by miniature nuclear reactors, capable of running at 700 miles an hour, and nicknamed "Rat Things" because of their long prehensile tails. The dogs think of themselves as belonging to "a big pack of nice doggies" whose job is to keep out the "bad people" who don't belong in their "yard," and protect the "good people" who do.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Hiro after he's hired by Mr. Lee and the Mafia:
    Hiro: I just threw away a brand-new top-of-the-line motorcycle in the middle of the street because I didn't feel like pushing it half a block to the garage. I am on an expense account that would blow your mind.
  • Assimilation Plot: Rife's goal is to use ancient Sumerian programming to remove free will. By the time the story starts, he already has a sizeable army of mindless slaves.
  • Augmented Reality: The gargoyles do this by wearing all their computer equipment in clunky suits on their body. They're normally regarded as socially-awkward weirdos.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Uncle Enzo, the head of the Mafia, is also a former Marine commando who saw plenty of action.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: When Hiro started his job delivering pizzas, he was given a tiny, high-powered pistol that could fire off darts powerful enough to disintegrate a mugger's baseball bat. Finding that he couldn't handle the recoil, he spends the story wearing a pair of swords to scare people off, and later gets his hands on a common semi-automatic pistol.
  • Badass Biker:
    • Raven. How badass? No other biker drives around with a nuclear bomb on a Dead Man Switch.
    • Hiro also turns himself into one after purchasing a badass bike and some kevlar motorcycle leathers.
  • Badass Bookworm: Hiro can be writing computer code one second, and kicking ass the next.
  • BFG: "I told you they'd listen to Reason." Reason happens to be an enormous gatling gun with an attached heat sink that can turn battleship armor into swiss cheese.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: The Fedland programming department tracks everything you do at work, including the keystrokes you type and the errors you make, and even performs some curious behavioral analysis on all of that.
    • They also track exactly how long you go to the bathroom, and how many squares of toilet paper you use.
  • Brainwashing: Used on Y.T. after being captured by Rife's goons, and generally one of the effects of being infected by Snow Crash.
  • Brown Note: The Snow Crash bitmap image, which causes sufficiently intelligent hackers to go into a coma.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The FBI document that Y.T.'s Mother reads has a listing for how long it should take to read, calculated to the second. If you take too long, you'll be marked as slow on your performance review. If you take too little time, you'll be marked as missing details. And if you read it in the exact right amount of time, you'll be marked as a smart ass.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Downplayed, as it's more a criticism of Anarcho-capitalism specifically. The entire world is a MegaCorp-owned Wretched Hive, the US is fractured into various independent, privately-owned states, down to the neighborhoods. Violence is common and life is extremely dangerous. It's also very colorful and exciting, especially as seen through the eyes of the badass protagonists.
  • Cardboard Prison: YT escapes The Clink in 35 minutes, most of which is spent waiting for Hiro to show up as getaway driver. Justified, since The Clink is cheap even among privatized jails, and Kouriers are Crazy-Prepared.
  • The Cavalry: Done in a particularly awesome fashion with twenty-five hundred Kouriers.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several:
    • Uncle Enzo having the skateboard, which has a glass-shattering charge, right before being attacked by Raven.
    • Hiro's sword-fighting software in the Metaverse, which comes in handy for defeating Raven.
    • Y.T.'s dentata, mentioned several times before Raven falls victim.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Fido, a dog once kept by Y.T. and now a cybernetic Rat-Thing, ends up saving the day at the end.
  • Church of Happyology: L. Bob Rife's organization. His name is an obvious reference to L. Ron Hubbard. Also his obsession with boats.
  • Cold Sniper: Vic, who has a fittingly nonchalant attitude.
    "It’s, like, one of them drug dealer boats," Vic says, looking through his magic sight. "Five guys on it. Headed our way." He fires another round. "Correction. Four guys on it." Boom. "Correction, they’re not headed our way anymore." Boom. A fireball erupts from the ocean two hundred feet away. "Correction. No boat."
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Subverted. Early on, it's implied that Hiro is only the Metaverse's best swordsman because he wrote the code, and could therefore exploit it as he wishes. In the real world, however, he turns out to be just as skilled as he is in the Metaverse.
  • Cool Bike: Thanks to its "smart wheels" Hiro's sportbike can ride up a staircase as easily as if it were a ramp. Raven's bike might not be especially cool itself, but does feature a nuclear warhead.
  • Cool Boat: A raft shanty town the size of a large city, built around the aircraft carrier that used to be the USS Enterprise.
  • Cool Car: "The Deliverator" is far, far cooler than any pizza delivery car ever deserves to be. Also, Ng's "wheelchair", which is an airport fire engine with a lot of modifications.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Enzo. He's amiable enough that even Y.T. is nice to him.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: L. Bob Rife. Uncle Enzo probably counts, too, but he ends up working with the heroes.
  • Corrupt Politician: Everyone's corrupt. Everything's corrupt. The police cars have built-in credit card readers, so you can pay your bribe before you've even arrived at jail.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Despite the world being objectively quite horrifying, it's presented in such an everyday, matter-of-fact way that it fits this trope. And nobody seems terribly nostalgic for the past.
  • Courier: Y.T. is a Kourier, a heavily-armed skateboard-riding deliveryperson of the future.
  • Crapsack World: The USA. The nation has broken into corporate-run city-states, which causes quite a few problems. Even the job of pizza delivery requires a trusty weapon and can carry a death sentence for failure.
  • Dead Man Switch: Raven's nuke, which is set to go off when he dies.
  • Deconstruction: In regard to the Cyberpunk genre, and also quite a humorous take on anarcho-capitalism.
  • Determinator: The Deliverator, the greatest pizza delivery boy of all time. Nothing will stop him from delivering your pizza on time, because a mafioso will put a bullet in the back of his head if he doesn't.
  • Divided States of America: The US government now consists of just the FBI and the Post Office. The rest of the country is now a patchwork of autonomous corporate franchises and "Burbclaves."
  • The Don: Uncle Enzo is the head of Cosa Nostra, which is now a pizza company. This doesn't make him any less dangerous than your typical mafia don.
  • The Dragon: Raven. Specifically, he's the enforcer to Bob Rife. As one of the deadliest men on the planet, Raven is far beyond Rife and his typical cronies and henchmen. Raven is fairly satisfied with his role, however, as his goals and those of Bob Rife coincide, and Raven isn't the type of person who's interested in a leadership role.
  • The Dutiful Son: A variation. As one of the creators of the Metaverse, Hiro could have been fabulously rich. But when his father died, he knew his mother wasn't really qualified to take care of herself since she had no experience handling finances and didn't even speak English very well. He cashed in his stock options early to raise enough money to buy her a home in a retirement village in her native Korea. Knowing that his mother would spend her final years in comfort made his hand-to-mouth lifestyle a lot more bearable. He even visits her regularly via Metaverse so she knows he hasn't forgotten her.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Since there's no formal judicial system anymore and the places that aren't lawless are Burbclaves, punishments tend to be strict and easy to execute. For dangerous criminals, a warning to others is tattooed on their forehead. However, giant alpha males with unstoppable knives and the words "Poor Impulse Control" on their foreheads probably don't get teased a lot.
  • Empathic Shapeshifter: Downplayed: the receptionist daemons who staff Ng Security Industry's corporate headquarters in the Metaverse are programmed to automatically reflect the race and ethnicity of the client they're currently interacting with. When Hiro interacts with the daemons, they appear as beautiful half-Black, half Asian women. Hiro observes that the daemon who leads Uncle Enzo into the conference room takes the form of a "striking Italian woman," while the daemon who ushers in Mr. Lee appears Asian.
    For a moment, he can't peg her racial background; then he realizes that this daemon is half-black, half-Asian — just like him. If a white man had stepped off the elevator, she probably would have been a blonde. A Nipponese businessman would have come face to face with a perky Nipponese office girl.
  • Engrish: Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong uses Engrish as part of its marketing campaign to make its founder Mr. Lee seem cute. In reality, he speaks perfect English and is all business.
    It is my pleasure to welcome all quality folks to visiting of Hong Kong. Whether seriously in business or on a fun-loving hijink, make yourself totally homely in this meager environment. If any aspect is not utterly harmonious, gratefully bring it to my notice and I shall strive to earn your satisfaction.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Late in the novel it's revealed that Raven's and Hiro's dads were both POWs in Japan during World War II, and were attempting to escape together when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. (Raven's dad was looking right at it and went blind, Hiro's swords were taken as trophies from the Japanese officer his dad killed while escaping.)
  • Expositron 9000: Librarian conveniently gives Hiro an interactive way to puzzle through disparate plot points and large amounts of historical research to come up with his unifying theory of how all the different virus modes are enabling L. Bob Rife to try to take over the world.
  • Eyepatch of Power: 'Fisheye' has a glass eye which has the same effect of conveying his badassery.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Played for Laughs with the soulsucking job YT's mom works at. She receives a memo with a recommended reading time of 15.62 minutes, and yes, her boss is monitoring how long everyone takes to read it, and is judging them based on that. There is no amount of reading time that the boss will not find some way to interpret negatively (a little bit under, and you're efficient but lack attention to detail, a little bit over and you're methodical but care too much about details, right on the dot and you're a smartass who needs "attitude counseling").
  • Gatling Good: The ultimate BFG of the book is "Reason," a nuclear-powered rotary rail gun that shoots needles of depleted uranium and can carry close to half-a-ton of ammo.
  • Genius Cripple: Ng is a cyborg wired into his vehicle who develops advanced military hardware.
  • Glass Weapon: Raven uses glass knives that are Sharpened to a Single Atom because they're undetectable by security systems and can cut straight through bullet-proof vests. He also uses glass-tipped harpoons. Justified as he was a former tribal hunter and whaler.
  • Gorn: Oh yeah, there's some graphic violence in here, such as a scene where Raven guts Lagos like a fish, then cuts a gangster's femoral arteries causing all his blood to fall out of him.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The FBI spends most of its effort writing software, as bureaucratically as possible.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: The 'poons' used by the Couriers are lines tipped with a powerful magnet that are fired to latch onto vehicles.
  • Handicapped Badass: Ng, a quadruple amputee who drives around in a gigantic van that can shoot missiles and deploy robots that can break the speed of sound. He also built Reason, which gets used to rip ships in half.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Uncle Enzo lampshades this when he asks Y.T. why she doesn't wear a helmet. Y.T. replies that she has an instantly deployable airbag in the neck area of her uniform that will completely cushion her head in any major impact, but if she wears a crash helmet it interferes with her hearing. Uncle Enzo agrees and recounts how back in his days on frontline of 'Nam, he had friends who died wearing a helmet while he lived by not wearing one and having his senses dulled by it.
  • Hero Protagonist: To its literal extreme, in that the main character's name is Hiro[aki] Protagonist.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Alas, poor Fido. Made a double gut punch by the fact all Y.T. has to say on the matter is "Sweet!"
  • High-Pressure Blood: Make no mistake, this is a pretty bloody book in places. This trope comes into effect during an altercation in which Hiro beheads a racist that threatens him, creating a cloud of blood from each carotid artery that rains down over the people sitting nearby.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Thoroughly averted with Ng, the creator of the Rat Things. Having lost most of his mobility in a helicopter attack, he tried prosthetics and use of a powerchair. He ultimately adopted his upgraded van and lives as a torso suspended in an elaborate harness.
  • I Call It "Vera": The high-tech gatling gun is called "Reason," to facilitate the pun, "They'll listen to Reason."
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Several people who find themselves on the receiving end of Raven's monomolecular edged spears.
  • Info Dump: Many of them, as is usual for Stephenson. Quite justified too, given how much of the book is spent in a digital library complete with dumb AI librarian.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Not quite, but it's a major player in a world where no one government seems to have gotten the upper hand.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Hiro fights with katanas, and even went so far as to hard-code a katana simulator into the virtual universe he helped write. However, Hiro takes a moment to acknowledge that katanas are not supernaturally sharp, as movies would have you believe. He even remonstrates himself when he decapitates a racist thug in one stroke that he forgot his training and acted as if the blade would pass cleanly through his target; sure, in this instance it did, but that was just luck.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: Because actual governmental institutions have shrunk down to almost nothing, everything that needs doing is done by corporations and franchises, including law enforcement. When YT is about to be sent to jail, she thinks over which themed jail franchise she'd rather be sent to.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator generally tries to describe everything in the most irreverent and badass way possible.
  • Living Legend: Raven, a one man nuclear power with an Absurdly Sharp Blade who wants to blow up America. Hiro counts in cyberspace, where he's a Memetic Badass.
  • Ludicrous Speed: The bikes in the metaverse definitely count. There's no air resistance to worry about, engines can be as powerful as the programmer makes them, tyres have mathematically perfect grip, and running headlong into an obstacle just brings you to a stop with no harm done. In the finale, Hiro and Raven race at ultra-high speed through the metaverse to deploy/stop a deadly virus.
  • The Mafia: In an anarcho-capitalist society gone mad, the Mafia is just another corporation, no more or less ruthless than anyone else. They've monopolized the pizza delivery industry, market themselves with a mascot of their Don, and recruit new soldiers straight out of college for white-collar jobs. Sure, they have hired killers on their payroll and will whack employees who screw up, but this isn't particularly unique in a world where franchised neighborhoods are guarded by killer cyborg dogs.
  • Man in the Machine: Ng is a head who lives in a high-tech, tank-like SUV.
  • Meaningful Name: Hiroaki "Hiro" Protagonist. Hiro chose his own nickname and then changed his last name to Protagonist, just to drive the point home.
    Y.T.: Stupid name.
    Hiro: But you'll never forget it.
    • Y.T.'s nickname, frequently mistaken for "Whitey." But her full nickname, Yours Truly, likely refers to her job as a "kourier" (delivering parcels).
    • Her thrasher boyfriend Roadkill almost certainly got his name from his dangerous stunts on the road.
    • Raven is a huge black-clad predator.
    • Uncle Enzo (Lorenzo), Da5id (King David) and Juanita Marquez are all founders or leaders of sorts.
    • Catholic Juanita appropriately has a first name with a religious meaning.
    • Fisheye
  • MegaCorp: What criminal gangs and branches of the US government have become. The Navy and Army are now two separate private security corporations. The CIA likewise has become the CIC, while the Crips and the Mafia have become big business to the point of having job fairs and controlling entire districts.
  • Mind Virus: The virus that steals free will and makes people mostly speak in tongues. Also implied to be the original reason different languages evolved in the first place; a mind virus in historical times made everyone unintelligible to each other, inspiring the Tower Of Babel myth.
  • Mommy Mobile: While Y.T. is skateboarding through a "burbclave" and using a magnetic harpoon to tow herself from one, there is an extended reflection on minivans. It discusses that "bimbo boxes", as they are known in-universe, are generally driven by two kinds of people: suburban moms, and their hyped-up teenage sons who believe they're more badass than they really are. One of the latter tries to shake Y.T. loose but overestimates his skill and crashes into a stone sign while she skates away.
  • More Dakka: "Reason"
  • Naked People Are Funny: Happens to Hiro and Eliot, the captain of the Kowloon. After surviving the destruction of their boat, they and Fish Eye and Vic encounter the pirate Bruce Lee. After finding out that the pirates love raping people regardless of gender, Fish Eye and Vic make Hiro and Eliot strip naked and parade them in front of the pirates. The pirates break out laughing and offer to part with a Harpoon missile in exchange for the two men. Then Bruce Lee wants to do a close-up inspection of the two naked bucks, saying that they're probably 12 gauge (meaning that their buttholes are extra-loose and droopy). Fish Eye counters saying the guys are tight and they're actually virgins in the back. At that, the pirates break out into bigger laughs before one of them starts speaking in tongues and changes the mood of the pirates. During this distraction, Fish Eye pulls out Reason...
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Raven.
  • Nerd Action Hero: Hiro Protagonist is a programmer who in real life is pretty close to broke (after having failed his pizza delivery job) and lives in a self storage facility, although he also owns a pretty large chunk of prime real-estate in cyberspace (think IP address block) on account of having been one of the guys who created it. As it happens, he is also the greatest swordfighter in the world (though he mostly gets to demonstrate it in cyberspace), and turns out to be good at other acts of action-heroism as well.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: L. Bob Rife is a composite caricature of L. Ron Hubbard and Ted Turner, and it's most certainly not an Affectionate Parody.
  • No Name Given:
    • We never learn Y.T.'s real name. At one point it's avoided by simply indicating that her mother "said her name." (Her surname is revealed in the pages of The Diamond Age.)
    • Y.T.'s mother is never referred to as anything but "Y.T.'s mother."
    • The Mafia lieutenant with the glass eye is never given a name. He even lampshades it himself: "You can think of me as that one guy." He isn't even given his nickname, "Fisheye," until halfway through the book.
  • No Social Skills: Gargoyles are considered profoundly annoying due to their main income being covering themselves in cameras and following people around, hoping to film something they can sell.
  • Not Disabled in VR: Ng was disfigured and rendered quadriplegic by a Southeast Asian war. Now he travels in meatspace in an enormous armored truck he calls the ultimate motorized wheelchair, and conducts most of his life in The Metaverse, where he walks through his mansion and drinks tea with visitors.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The FBI even goes so far as to send out 10-page memos about toilet paper use, one of which is printed in full in the book.
  • Only Known by Initials: Y.T., although she does give the expansion ("Yours Truly") at one point after a character hears it as "Whitey" and considers taking offense.
  • Plucky Girl: Y.T., a 15-year-old skateboarding courier that doesn't take an ounce of crap from anyone and is loaded with enough self-defense gear to break out of an FBI building. This is Not Hyperbole; she actually does that.
  • Portmanteau: "Burbclave" is a contraction of "suburban enclave."
  • Present Tense Narrative: Perhaps reflecting how most of the characters tend to live their lives in the 'now'.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Reason. Named for, and marked with, what Louis XIV put on his cannons: Ultima Ratio Regum, "The last argument of kings." (i.e. violence)
  • Privately Owned Society: As an example, the CIA has merged with the Library of Congress, and the resulting entity converted into the publicly traded CIC.
  • Psycho for Hire: Raven is a murderous killer and a nuclear power who will hire himself out for jobs, though he's got his own agenda as well.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: The CIC database is an open online market for intelligence agencies. Gargoyles are people that spend all day recording public places and uploading the footage in the hopes someone will buy it.
  • The Remnant: The US government is almost totally gone, with its agencies either privatised (see Privately Owned Society above) or dissolved. A small scrap of federal land still exists in Los Angeles, however, controlled by the Executive Branch General Operational Command, which has subsumed the FBI, Federal Marshalls, Secret Service and Special Forces. The EBGOC still claims the right to govern the entirety of the former United States, making it an example of this trope.
  • Retired Badass: Uncle Enzo, who served in Vietnam and is able to fight Raven to a standstill with just a straight razor, his wits, and a skateboard that conveniently disables all Raven's cute glass knives.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: It's cheaper to use billion dollar bills as toilet paper than just go out and buy some. Justified in that the US economy actually DID collapse. Most people use other, more stable forms of currency if they can. Played for laughs the first time it comes up, as Y.T. offers to bribe some cops with $500 billion. It seems like she's just being snarky, but the cops respond that that kind of pocket change wouldn't be worth it. They eventually settle on $750 billion, and she simply swipes her credit card through their in-car credit card reader.
  • Rule of Cool: It might not make sense for there to be a biker with a nuclear bomb in his sidecar, or cyborg dogs that can run faster than the speed of sound, or couriers who skateboard down highways at 100 mph, but damned if it's not cool!
  • Salvage Pirates: When Hiro and the Mafia goons get a boat shot out from under them, they drift for a while in the North Pacific in a life raft, fighting off the occasional gang of pirates who want to kidnap them and sell them into slavery sodomize them all (most likely before killing them) rather than rescue the castaways.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Hiro was responsible for programming most of the Metaverse protocol when it was getting setup. This gives him exclusive access to things like the Ninjas that that collect and delete dismembered avatars. Hiro uses this to punish people that bother him by chopping their avatars heads off and marking them to not get deleted for several days.
  • Sensory Abuse: Vitaly Chernobyl's style of music. Setting up for a gig involves programming computer equipment and positioning speakers to maximize the amount of nasty, clashing echoes.
  • Serious Business: Pizza delivery, to the extent of there being a university devoted to the study of the pizza business. If a pizza from Cosa Nostra isn't delivered within half an hour, the head of the mafia himself will come to your house to apologize. And the delivery boy will probably be wearing Cement Shoes.
  • Sharpened to a Single Atom: Raven's glass knives are chipped down to a monomolecular edge.
  • Shown Their Work: As usual, Stephenson really wants to tell you all about his latest obsession. This time it's Sumerian mythology and memes.
  • Sinister Surveillance:
    • Every corporate micronation is filled with cameras, security systems, and monitoring software.
    • Gargoyles are people that volunteer to do this by covering themselves in cameras, occasionally getting a paycheck if they record something interesting.
    • What remains of the United States government is this to a T. Everything about their employees is monitored and tracked, down to individual finger and eye movements, to prevent waste and track performance. All emails that are sent out include an estimate of how long they should take to read. Go to fast, you get scolded for not paying attention. Go too slow, you get scolded for inefficiency. Get it just right? You get scolded for being a smartass.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: Hiro threatens to do this to a mi-24 Hind, referencing the reports of Mujahedin doing so in Afghanistan. However rather than using the Mujahedin choice of combined anti-tank rifle and crew-served machine-gun fire aimed at the glass, Hiro threatens them with a 9mm handgun. While everyone else is initially incredulous, one person who should know better, the Russian pilot, is for some reason the one who falls for it. Nevertheless, nothing comes of it.
  • Sonic Stunner: One of Y.T.'s weapons is a specialized sonic explosive on her skateboard that shatters glass so she can go through windows. It's also quite handy for destroying Raven's signature weapon.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Some printings give Hiro's full first name as Hiroaki, while others say Hirohito. The latter doubles as a Meaningful Name, considering his dad's past as a WWII vet and POW.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Raven, briefly, to Y.T. near the end. He's not all that persistent, but the creepiness does take its toll when you remember that she's half his age, and he's Raven. She even thinks of him as a psychopath, though she's still attracted to him, and him to her, even after she accidentally knocks him out during sex.
  • Stealth Pun: Fisheye says of the pirates, "I'm sure they'll listen to Reason." Later, we learn that he has a gigantic gatling gun code-named "Reason."
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: It's awfully convenient how easily Hiroaki/Hirohito condenses to Hiro. Ditto Ravinoff > Raven. Of course, both Hiro and Raven chose those nicknames for themselves, so it's hardly unexpected.
  • Stylistic Suck: Behold, the lyrical genius of Sushi K:
    I like to rap about sweetened romance/My fond ambition is of your pants/So here is of special remarkable way/Of this fellow raps named Sushi K
  • Super-Speed: The Rat Things can run at seven hundred miles an hour on a straightaway. To quote:
    As part of Mr. Lee's good neighbor policy, all Rat Things are programmed never to break the sound barrier in a populated area. But Fido's in too much of a hurry to worry about the good neighbor policy. Jack the sound barrier. Bring the noise.
    [and later]
    A powerful disturbance is moving through the flame, leaving a linear trail in the light, like a cosmic ray fired through a cloud chamber. By the force of its passage, it leaves behind a shock wave that is clearly visible in the flame, a bright spreading cone that is a hundred times larger than the dark source at its apex: a black bulletlike thing supported on four legs that are churning too fast to be visible. It is so small and so fast that Rife would not be able to see it, if it were not headed directly for him.
  • Super Wheelchair: The biggest and largest ever: Ng drives a huge converted airport firetruck attached to his life-support system.
  • Tattooed Crook: Raven, though not by choice. He has an Embarrassing Tattoo on his forehead that reads "Poor Impulse Control," given as a punishment for a crime.
  • Third-Person Person: Y.T. sometimes narrates her actions in the third person, which is fitting given that her moniker stands for "Yours Truly."
  • 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: Serious Business when your pizza company is owned by the Mafia, and they really don't like breaking their word. Delivery boys who break the curfew aren't long for this world.
  • Toon Physics: The "physics" inside the Black Sun act on deliberately cartoon-y principles. Justified, in that the Metaverse is a simulation and the creators of the Black Sun specifically wrote code to adjust the physics inside the boundaries of their digital club.
    Da5id has even enhanced the physics of The Black Sun to make it a little cartoonish, so that particularly obnoxious people can be hit over the head with giant mallets or crushed under plummeting safes before they are ejected. This happens to people who are being disruptive, to anyone who is pestering or taping a celebrity, and to anyone who seems contagious. That is, if your personal computer is infected with viruses, and attempts to spread them via The Black Sun, you had better keep one eye on the ceiling.
  • Tower of Babel: The Babel myth plays a key role in the story.
  • Truce Zone: Weapons are not allowed in Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong, and they have enough weapons of their own to make sure the rule is followed. Hiro goes here to avoid people who are chasing him, but is able to keep his swords, as he's a citizen.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: If you factor the chronology of it out, Hiro was born in the 1970's and is about 30 years old, so the story takes place anywhere from 2000-2010. The book was written around 1992.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: Reason, for all its power, was technically still in beta. Unsurprisingly, its original operator is killed when the gun has a kernel panic. Hiro is able to restart it after Ng provides a patch.
  • Vagina Dentata: There is an anti-rape device Y.T. has, called, unsurprisingly, a Dentata. Too bad she forgot to take it out before consensual sex with Raven. There's even a point during the act where she thinks there's something she forgot, but is promptly distracted. Note that the Dentata isn't some kind of bear-trap mechanism, so it causes no real physical injury. Instead it activates a tiny syringe to stick the offender and pump a mix of sedatives and depressants into them.
  • Vestigial Empire: Almost every nation-state, including the USA. In most places, corporations are much more powerful than governments.
  • The Virus: Snow Crash itself, an STD that makes you Brainwashed and Crazy. "Is Snow Crash a virus, a religion, or a drug?" "What's the difference?"
  • Video Game Perversity Potential: The Metaverse, as first mentioned, describes an avatar that looks like male genitalia.
  • Virus and Cure Names: Snow Crash and Snow Melt.
  • Walking Armory:
    • Raven is completely loaded up on razor-sharp glass knives that are invisible to metal detectors.
    • Y.T. has a nonlethal variant; she's got her suit set up with multiple tasers, she's got a can of "Liquid Knuckles" which is apparently worse than mace, and even her skateboard has a huge glass-shattering explosive charge in it for emergency defenestration.
  • Wannabe Line: The Black Sun had a crowd of wannabes outside. Being as it was in virtual reality, there was no bouncer, as either you were allowed to walk in or you'd run into an invisible wall. (There were bouncers, but they were just there to throw people out.)
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • What happened to Raven's nuclear bomb dead man switch?
    • Arguably, Hiro himself. The last we see of him is his avatar entering the Snow Crash program that was going to destroy all the hackers' minds.
  • World of Badass: Even characters who only appear for a couple of scenes are totally awesome.
  • Zeerust: The novel's depiction of the Internet is based on 1990s technology. Considering that the story is supposed to be taking place sometime around 2010-2020, what isn't alarmingly prescient can come across a little quaint.