I never take differing opinions and/or thoughtful criticism as personal attacks. I welcome them! (Not personal attacks!)
I haven’t finished Snow Crash, meaning I have yet to read a single Stephenson book in its entirety. It is certainly not a good base for an opinion of a writer. Based on the 179 pages I’ve read so far, he is clearly talented, but I think Gibson’s vision is more interesting, probable (given when the Sprawl books were written), and believable. The believability factor is important to me, but I know that is not the case for everyone.
Neuromancer was the first cyberpunk book I read. I believe there was a brief discussion of Voodoo towards the end of it, while Case was in orbit with the Rastafarians. It certainly wasn’t central to the book, but it was there. I think.
Being the disorganized type, I then read Burning Chrome, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero. I probably should have read them in order, but I’m generally a reader of opportunity – if it’s at the library, I’ll check it out, regardless of series ordering. I’ve also read Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Pattern Recognition. There were also several good short stories in Mirrorshades. I didn’t like The Difference Engine all that much. Virtual Light has eluded me thus far.
What I liked about Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy was the gritty reality of the world it took place in. To me it seemed like a very possible potential future, particularly when the state of the world in the early 80’s is considered. The world of Snow Crash comes off as too much of a lampoon (delivered with a wink and a nudge) for me to see it the same way. The Mafia running a (global?) pizza chain? Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong? Judge Bob’s Judicial System?
Certainly, there are similarities between the worlds depicted in Neuromancer and Snow Crash – widespread use of designer drugs, corporate supremacy over governments, and pervasive computing & virtual reality being three of the things that pop into my mind, but Gibson incorporated these ideas into Neuromancer a good 8 years before Snow Crash.
I’m enjoying Snow Crash enough that I will pursue Stephenson’s more recent work, but I can’t place him on the same level as Gibson based on it. With subsequent reading, my opinion may change. I know there are many novels that influenced Neuromancer (some of which UBiK kindly included in his post), but aside from several of Philip K. Dick’s, I haven’t read them. As a musician, I know art is an evolutionary thing. Those who claim to be totally original are full of crap. Always.