Study Guide

Snow Crash Chapter 5

By Neal Stephenson

Chapter 5

  • Hiro approaches the Street, observing other people's avatars. Anyone with enough money could modify an avatar to look like whatever or whoever, but most people just rent standard avatars ("Brandy" and "Clint" being popular off-the-shelf models for women and men).
  • Being a hacker, Hiro keeps his avatar fairly simple: It just looks like him, but unlike in reality, his avatar is always wearing a simple black leather kimono.
  • Hiro emerges from his house, since he's lucky enough to own Metaverse real estate, but other people have to materialize in a Port before going into the public parts of the Metaverse. This eliminates the confusion of someone spontaneously materializing in, on, or near you.
  • As Hiro steps out of his neighborhood, he's attacked by weightless commercials and ads trying to get his attention. One of these is a former colleague trying to convince Hiro to come work for him. Hiro's not into it since most programming work these days is done in groups or worse, in factories—and we all remember that Hiro doesn't play well with others.
  • On his own for money—and he sure needs money, because he owes the Mafia the cost of a new car—Hiro decides to go looking for some intel to sell. The best place to go is The Black Sun, which is a remarkably plain black building (compared to the rest of the Metaverse).
  • A crowd of wanna-be hackers and fans is assembled outside. Luckily the laws of physics don't apply to crowds in the Street, so Hiro can just walk through them. Only a few thousand people can enter The Black Sun, so the crowd goes nuts when he steps inside.
  • Hiro looks back at the crowd. There are the usual gorgeous women, businessmen, rockstars, and fans, but one dude catches Hiro's attention. He's got a crappy black-and-white avatar, just enough for Hiro to see that he's really tall and has long black hair and a wispy mustache.
  • The guy addresses Hiro by name and asks if he'd like to try some Snow Crash.
  • This strikes Hiro as odd: Why would this dude know his name? Why would he sound as though he's selling Hiro a drug even though you can't get high in the Metaverse? And why would they name a drug after the system crash that all computer-users dread?
  • During a brief conversation, the guy offers Hiro a hypercard—a small card in the Metaverse that could contain any amount of information. Or, you know, a virus.
  • Hiro, not being stupid, doesn't take the card. He realizes that this was a meaningless conversation that was a total waste of time, and enters The Black Sun.