Neal Stephenson’s classic novel Snow Crash features a drug/virus of the same name. We first hear of it when Raven asks Hiro if he would like to try some. Shortly afterwards, Da5id tries it, and suffers the consequences.

We later see characters who seem to take the drug repeatedly. Why? What are its positive or attractive effects?

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    We are never told exactly what effects Substance D, from A Scanner Darkly, gives its users either. I think because it doesn't matter: not so much because those details would distract the story i.e. use of a drug aside from the effects or regardless of the effects, but because the story is about use of a substance in absence of the effects. The users have developed both behavioral and physical dependencies on the thing simply to keep them going. Look at how the phrase “chasing the dragon” has come to mean continued use of a mood–altering substance even when it fails to do so. Mar 26, 2018 at 23:08
  • So, my point being: if you need to ask, then it was probably never described and probably never will be. Mar 26, 2018 at 23:09
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    Uh... the titular Snow Crash was a digital pseudocode masked as a video file in VR designed to crash the minds of those who could understand it. It killed the minds of those who it targeted, they were left vegetables. No one took it repeatedly. The climax of the book was literally Hiro trying to stop it from affecting a large concert in cyberspace that would have been vulnerable to it.
    – Radhil
    Mar 26, 2018 at 23:44
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    @Radhil The point of Snow Crash is that it is an information virus targeted at the human "operating system". As such it can be spread in many ways, including video, drugs, blood and sex. Mar 27, 2018 at 8:26
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    @PaulJohnson if I may quibble, the Metavirus is the multi-instantiated virus targeted at the human OS; Snow Crash is the particular weaponized versions (physical and virtual) of the Metavirus propogated by L. Bob Rife.
    – gowenfawr
    Mar 27, 2018 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


Shortly afterwards, Da5id tries it, and suffers the consequences.

Da5id is the first and, so far as we know, only character to try the Virtual version of Snow Crash. All our other experiences with it involve the Physical version.

It is fair to say, based on our sample size of two (Da5id and Hiro), that the Virtual version relies upon the susceptibility of hackers to curiosity and a feeling of invulnerability, or to involuntary exposure (as Hiro is threatened with later, or via the benefit concert). It's not designed to get you hooked; it's designed to wipe you out.

We later see characters who seem to take the drug repeatedly. Why? What are its positive or attractive effects?

Juanita explains this (page 200):

"It's not a drug," Juanita says. "They make it look like a drug and feel like a drug so that people will want to take it. It's laced with cocaine and some other stuff."

and, as Hiro later explains to Ng/Lee/Enzo (page 404):

"Here in the First World, everyone has already been vaccinated, and we don't let religious fanatics come up and poke needles into us. But we do take a lot of drugs. So for us, he devised a means of extracting the virus from human blood serum and packaged it as a drug known as Snow Crash."

So - it's positive effects are exactly what you'd expect from a cocaine-based drug which has been mixed properly, in a controlled environment, with other drugs designed to make it a pleasurable ride and landing. (Unlike your corner drug dealer, L. Bob Rife is probably paying people to process it with quality control, not just diluting it willy-nilly to improve the margin.)

  • Excellent explanation. I must have missed that detail in Juanita’s description.
    – jsm
    Mar 29, 2018 at 6:56

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