Study Guide

Snow Crash Visions of America

By Neal Stephenson

Visions of America

Abkhazia had been part of the Soviet f***ing Union. A new immigrant from Abkhazia trying to operate a microwave was like a deep-sea tube worm doing brain surgery. Where did they get these guys? Weren't there any Americans who could bake a f***ing pizza? (1.42)

This is a typical American strategy: delegating the grunt work to the lowest man on the totem pole, typically immigrants. Here we see that it doesn't always work so well, since one of the Abkhazians started a microwave fire that caused Hiro to receive the Delayed Pizza of Doom.

"I wasn't really happy when I was a hacker. I never thought about the important things. God. Heaven. The things of the spirit. It's hard to think about those things in America. You just put them aside. But those are the really important things—not programming computers or making money." (34.50)

So sayeth the brain-dead hacker chick Y.T. interviews in the Falabala camp of Griffith Park. She's got a point, that life in America encourages materialistic pursuits and thoughts—but how seriously should we take her obsession with her new religion, given that they had to burn out her brain to convert her?

And the Feds are real serious about duty. Duty, loyalty, responsibility. The collagen that binds us into the United States of America. (37.3)

This makes it sound like a lot of fun to work for the Feds. Are Americans really so dull when it comes down to it?

It's young Studley, the teenaged boy, who like every other boy in this Burbclave has been taking intravenous shots of horse testosterone in the high school locker room since he was fourteen years old. Now he's bulky, stupid, thoroughly predictable. (4.15)

If you think America's got a drug problem now, just wait until you see future America. The drugs of the future will be more pervasive and scarier than anything we can dream up now. Start 'em young and you'll have 'em hooked for life.

Getting into Fedland is a drag…She has to sign a ten-page document—and they actually make her read it…Basically, it just certifies that Y.T. is not a terrorist, Communist (whatever that is), homosexual, national-symbol desecrator, pornography merchant, welfare parasite, racially insensitive, carrier of any infectious disease, or advocate of any ideology tending to impugn traditional family values. (41.26-30)

Good job, America—you're on your way to bureaucratizing yourself out of existence. Plus, if you don't deal with undesirables like racially insensitive folks, guess what? They're going to start their own enclaves and continue to be racially insensitive. Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good if you're going to be realistic about your interactions with the world.

"No surprises" is the motto of the franchise ghetto […]

The people of America, who live in the world's most surprising and terrible country, take comfort in that motto. Follow the loglo outward, to where the growth is enfolded into valleys and canyons, and you find the land of the refugees. They have fled from the true America, the America of atomic bombs, scalpings, hip-hop, chaos theory, cement overshoes, snake handlers, spree killers, space walks, buffalo jumps, drive-bys, cruise missiles, Sherman's March, gridlock, motorcycle gangs, and bungee jumping. (24.73-74)

So basically, most Americans checked out from reality and enclosed themselves in reliably mediocre franchises in order to escape from the horrible weirdness that America has become. The suburbs have become a refuge from both the past (because America's history is checkered with atrocities that no one really wants to think about) and the present (same deal).

For a fee, you can drive into a Snooze 'n' Cruise franchise and umbilical your bago. The magic words are "We Have Pull-Thrus," which means you can enter the franchise, hook up, sleep, unhook, and drive out without ever having to shift your land zeppelin into reverse. (39.5)

This, friends, is truly the American way: total mobility, the freedom to range throughout this entire glorious country… and never having to put your trailer into reverse. Can we get fries with that?

Hiro is bulletproof up to his neck, but that just means the New South Africans will be going for a head shot. And they pride themselves on marksmanship. It is a fetish with them. (40.11)

The racist whites of America now mostly belong to franchises like New South Africa, where they can glory in their guns and their whiteness. What better place to set up a cult of the marksmanship fetish?

But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It […] slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s when Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets. (3.2)

We must be living pretty sweet lives in real-time America if we're using storage units for their intended purposes rather than for housing. Lucky us.

"Well, the function of the Raft is to bring more biomass. To renew America. Most countries are static, all they need to do is keep having babies. But America's like this big old clanking, smoking machine that just lumbers across the landscape scooping up and eating everything in sight. Leaves behind a trail of garbage a mile wide. Always needs more fuel." (14.61)

To hear Rife talking about his idea of America, well, it's no wonder he came up with a plan to dominate the human race. He makes America sound like a mobile trash-compactor, with humans as the trash.