A friend recommended Neal Stephenson to me with the caveat that I would want to start with one book and, if not avoid, treat the other without the rose-tinted lenses of hype that color it.
Flash forward to a used bookstore two weeks later. Both books staring at me from the sf/fantasy shelves. I didn't have my phone and I wanted something genre to read today. I couldn't remember which one I was supposed to check out first. Turns out I picked right.
'Snow Crash' is set in a near-future where an exhausted Federal government has ceded much of its land to private corporations and other interests. Housing developments - roads - prisons - government agencies and military - the mafia - you name it, all act as separate political entities and much of business carries on through the Metaverse. The Metaverse is the three-dimensional internet with a whole coded world separate from reality. Its beginning to have real-life impact. Hiro Protagonist and Y.T. have stumbled onto a conspiracy that threatens the stability of what's left in America (and, why not, the world) whose means have roots stretching back to the Babylonians and Sumer.
Many of the aspects of this novel have become well-worn tropes and scads and scads of pages are devoted to articulating the dense historical evidence and theory behind the Snow Crash virus. It all felt fresh. I loved it and wanted there to be more. The characters, Hiro especially, don't hold up to reader scrutiny, but the plot was so good I can't fault the book for the drones that moved it forward. The problem I had was the ending of the book precisely at the moment when there could have been some payoff for following the characters.