While I was reading “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson I was reminded several times of similar situations and themes that occurred in the blockbuster trilogy The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions. While both “Snow Crash” and The Matrix trilogy fell with the genre of science fiction, the similarities went way beyond just the prominent role that technology played in each.
In The Matrix and its sequels, humans are depicted as existing in two different worlds: the real world, and the virtual world of the Matrix which exists unbeknown to the majority of mankind. The same storyline occurred in the earlier published “Snow Crash”, in which the protagonist Hiro spends time going back and forth between the real world and a Second Life-like virtual world known as the Metaverse. In both cases, humans’ interactions within the virtual worlds can have effects outside in the real world. For instance, in The Matrix, when a person is killed in the virtual world their body also dies in the real world. Similarly, in “Snow Crash” the Snow Crash drug that exists in the Metaverse also has mind-altering capabilities in the real world due to the effects of a computer virus.
Both stories also have similarities that extend beyond the actions of each plot. In The Matrix, the safe haven for humans in the real world is an underground location known as Zion which is a reference to Jerusalem. In this place, the humans are shielded from the robots and machinery that occupy Earth in the real world. “Snow Crash” also makes reference to ancient civilizations when the characters discover that the human brain is hardwired to operate with a basic programming language that dates back to the Sumerian culture. According to Wikipedia, in 586 BC Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians (from the Sumer region) which marked the end of the First Temple Period in Jerusalem.
In addition, both stories place a high importance on the computer coding that occurs within the virtual worlds and how it extends to the real world. In The Matrix trilogy, Neo is eventually able to make the connection that there is no difference between the coding within the Matrix and how reality operates. This is depicted in scenes in which Neo is able to view both the Matrix and the real world through a lens of lines of code. Stephenson placed an emphasis on software coding in “Snow Crash” by suggesting that Sumerian language was responsible for the fundamental cognitive processes of the human brain, regardless of the language spoken by the individual. In that sense, computer coding extended beyond the virtual world to the real world just as it did in The Matrix.
Lastly, and more on a superficial level, both stories incorporated ironically low tech weaponry for the protagonists in the virtual worlds. The Matrix dealt primarily with firearm combat in the action scenes, but The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions both featured a more prominent use of more historical weapons such as samurai swords. Based on all the aforementioned similarities, it would not be far fetched to ascertain that Hiro’s carrying of a samurai sword in “Snow Crash” may have influenced the prominence of samurai swords in The Matrix trilogy.