I've heard that these two novels by Neal Stephenson take place in the same universe.
What connections exist between the two novels and what is the time-line like?
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The Diamond Age can be seen as set in the same universe as Snow Crash, many years later. This reading is based on a connection between Y.T., a major character in Snow Crash, and the aged neo-Victorian Miss Matheson in The Diamond Age, who drops oblique references to her past as a hard-edged skateboarder. This would set The Diamond Age some 80–100 years after Snow Crash.
Further supporting evidence to connect these two novels include:
- Stephenson's short story "The Great Simoleon Caper" which refers to both the Metaverse seen in Snow Crash and the First Distributed Republic seen in The Diamond Age (another short story which fits in the Diamond Age milieu and even shares a character is "Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of Tribes of the Pacific Coast").
- references to Franchise-Organized Quasi-National Entities (FOQNEs) in both novels.
When taken as part of Snow Crash's timeline, The Diamond Age provides insight into the setting of its predecessor. In a conversation with Miranda, one character tells her that the nation-states of the world collapsed when electronic communications started using an untraceable relay system that made it impossible to enforce taxes on online transactions (which was later used as a plot element in another of Stephenson's works, Cryptonomicon). Deprived of their funding, large-scale governments collapsed, and small, voluntary governments like the burbclaves depicted in Snow Crash emerged in their place.
Both novels deal with an almost "primitive tech" replacing a current, worldwide use technology, in the sense of the reprogramming of the mind through ancient Sumerian chanting in Snow Crash (which also uses allusions to Babylonian prostitutes passing an information virus like a sexually transmitted disease), and the idea of nanotechnology propagating and communicating through sexual intercourse, passing from body to body like a virus. Both novels use an ancient, almost primitive threat to modern, "Western" technology and ideology (The Raft in Snow Crash and The Fists of Righteous Harmony in The Diamond Age). Stephenson explores the idea of the tech divide and its social and economic ramifications to the extreme using these violent, but not all together surprising, social revolutions.