I swore I'd finish this book. It was meant to be research, as I've gotten into my head to write cyberpunk, a genre I have no experience with (I do this often) and want to get a good feel for the genre. This is one of the classic works of cyberpunk, and a great reminder of why the word "classic" sends me running for the hills.
I stuck it out to page 295, despite still not being certain the plot had actually shown up. I was determined but you, Neal Stephenson, you defeated even me with your:
- sexism: It's all well and good to point out that there's sexism in the IT industry, but then turning around and labeling every woman who doesn't meet your standard for smart a "bimbo" is gross. Calling a family minivan a "bimbo box" is even grosser.
- creepiness: You are an older white dude. I do not, repeat, not need you writing about any kind of sex things from the POV of a 15-year-old girl. Y.T. is a pretty cool character in a book otherwise almost devoid of female representation, but you writing her thinking about things like hooking up with Hiro (who is twice her damned age!) is fucking scuzzy as hell, dude.
- prose: You write like a jacked up hipster who thinks his every written word is God's gift to literature, and you infodump too much. Stop drinking your own Koolaid, man. What you do isn't that cool.
- racism: Maybe you were trying to satirize how people view people of color. I'm not sure, since some of your main characters espoused these ideas. But white guys don't get to satirize that shit. Because when you have roughly Middle Eastern people being called "jeeks", driving taxis, and all gathering together to smoke from giant hookahs--when your one Latina character is described as the typical Fiery Latina stereotype--when your descriptions of your black/Korean character come off creepily fetishized--you're just being creepy and racist. Note to sci fi authors everywhere: Writing a POC main character doesn't make you magically not racist.
- ideas on mythology: I can't even here. I will explode if I try to describe what you did with mythology. Suffice it to say, the nonsense in this book put me in mind of fringe conspiracy theorists who believe aliens called the Annunaki taught the Egyptians how to build pyramids and use symbols in Egyptian art that they don't understand as "proof," and let me tell you, dude, that is not a good place to be.
- impossible to follow story: What the fuck was even going on? There was so much infodumping that had nothing to do with the plot and I was constantly lost trying to wade through it. If your reader doesn't know what's going on when they're more than two-thirds through your book, you are not a genius, you are a hack.
I concede this one to you, Neal Stephenson. You outlasted even my tenacity. Mazel tov?