Snow Crash Excerpt

“The Alaska Highway — is the world’s longest franchise ghetto, a one-dimensional city two thousand miles long and a hundred feet wide, and growing at the rate of a hundred miles a year, or as quickly as people can drive up to the edge of the wilderness and park their bagos in the next available slot. It is the only way out for people who want to leave America but don’t have access to an airplane or a ship.

It’s all two-lane, paved but not well paved, and choked with mobile homes, family vans, pickup trucks with camper backs. It starts somewhere in the middle of British Columbia, at the crossroads of Prince George, where a number of tributaries feed in together to make a single northbound highway. South of there, the tributaries split into a delta of feeder roads that crosses the Canadian/American border at a dozen or more places spread out over five hundred miles from the fjords of British Columbia to the vast striped wheatlands of central Montana. Then it ties into the American road system, which serves as the headwaters of the migration. This five-hundred-mile swath of territory is filled with would-be arctic explorers in great wheeled houses, optimistically northbound, and more than a few rejects who have abandoned their bagos in the north country and hitched a ride back down south. The lumbering bagos and top-heavy four-wheelers form a moving slalom course for Hiro on his black motorcycle.

All these beefy Caucasians with guns! Get enough of them together, looking for the America they always believed they’d grow up in, and they glom together like overcooked rice, form integral, starchy little units. With their power tools, portable generators, weapons, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and personal computers, they are like beavers hyped up on crystal meth, manic engineers without a blueprint, chewing through the wilderness, building things and abandoning them, altering the flow of mighty rivers and then moving on because the place ain’t what it used to be.”

The byproduct of the lifestyle is polluted rivers, greenhouse effect, spouse abuse, televangelists, and serial killers. But as long as you have that four-wheel-drive vehicle and can keep driving north, you can sustain it, keep moving just quickly enough to stay one step ahead of your own waste stream. In twenty years, ten million white people will converge on the north pole and park their bagos there. The low-grade waste heat of their thermodynamically intense lifestyle will turn the crystalline icescape pliable and treacherous. It will melt a hole through the polar icecap, and all that metal will sink to the bottom, sucking the biomass down with it.

This book is incredible. One of my absolute favorites. Check it out if you’re into cyberpunk. Makes a great ambient audiobook.