I usually give a very brief description of the plot in the beginning of my reviews. In this case I found it to be very difficult to do as it will have to be very vague or contain huge spoilers. Think of this book as a grandfather of The Matrix movie. The near future is a libertarian paradise: the government intervention is practically non-existent; the law enforcement agencies are private and competing with each other. Enter Hiro Protagonist (yes, this is his real name). In the beginning of the book he almost failed at pizza delivery - this is a very serious business in the future handled entirely by the Mafia. Fortunately a skateboarding courier Y.T. shows up to save the day. I need to mention her skateboard makes famous hover-board from Back to the Future look like a children bike with training wheels.
From this fairly crazy beginning the story dives headlong into giant conspiracy (there has to be one in that kind of the story), Hiro's sword-fights in real life and cyberspace/virtual reality called Metaverse, new mind-altering drugs, discussion of languages, religion, Shumer civilization, and so on. You want a mutant Aleut who is deadly with his spear against a squad of hit-men armed with guns? You can have it here. Atomic-powered Gatling handgun? Cool, here you are. Computer hackers building Metaverse and then bending its rules to suit their needs? Come this way, please.
The book was written in 1992. Since then there were a lot of books/movies/TV shows which borrowed some ideas from it, but almost all of them failed to borrow its lightheartedness; the book does not take itself seriously. I was only able to understand this after I was half-done with it. The reason for this being exposed to the (mostly crappy) things I mentioned above which did take themselves seriously. Finally in the second half of the book I got a clue when things went WAY over the top.
There were some things which bothered me, some I hated, and some I found annoying. The biggest one: the book is written in present tense. If somebody gave me a reason for this, I would be really grateful. What is wrong with past tense which was used since the dawn of times to tell a tale? Present tense makes for clumsy read sometimes.
The computer industry moves at a very fast rate even these days. As a result some info in the book is hopelessly out-of-date; this cannot be helped with any book of this genre (cyberpunk). On the related note some of the explanations of the computer-related technology were too long and boring and some were not entirely accurate, but I work for IT industry so it might be just me: I can only imagine what doctors and lawyers think about countless TV shows about their professions.
The final rating for the book is 3.5 stars, but I will round it up for the sheer fun factor and the way the book caught me unprepared with its over-the-top plot.