Snow Crash isn’t the only book I had time to read on my vacation; I also finished Glasshouse by Charles Stross. This one is also science fiction, but not even close to cyberpunk; it’s set in the 27th century—not exactly the near future. In this future, humans are still very recognizably human: they mostly have bodies that we would recognize as human, and they live and socialize much like humans have always done. The most advanced technology available is full-blown molecular nanotechnology, in the form of “A-gates” that can assemble and disassemble anything that’s made of atoms, including humans; and some sort of wormhole technology, in the form of “T-gates” that connect physically separated places with what appears to be a simple doorway.
With MNT comes of course immortality, since any damage to the body can be repaired, including aging. And if you are damaged beyond repair—for example, if your brain is fried—why, just restore from your latest backup. You may also have your brain modified before the A-gate (re)builds it; examples include memory excision, and merging the brains of two or more copies of yourself that have been active simultaneously.
The book takes place in the aftermath of a war that involved the forced censoring of people’s minds—just think what atrocities you could get away with if you could make everyone else forget. The main character wakes up in a memory clinic, after having had all but a few fragments of his memories from the war removed. What follows is largely a process of him figuring out what it is that he’s forgotten, and why he wanted to forget. The memories were painful, but there’s more to it than him wanting to be able to sleep at night.
My only complaint with this book is that the bad guys’ plan is slightly far-fetched; it seems to me they could’ve accomplished what they wanted with far less trouble. I’m guessing this is yet another case of the author having thought of what he wanted them to do first, and then inventing the motive afterwards.