I actually enjoyed this novel, mostly because Neal Stephenson presented such vivid characters with actual depth. The reader is able to figure out the characters for the most part without being told. You can see their development and growth as characters. I love it when authors do this, but I have found a trend that many science-fiction authors focus more on what is happening in the world because of technology, rather than the characters. As a result, the characters are one dimensional, at best, perhaps two dimensional. Stephenson however gives his characters so much time in the novel that they are able to become three dimensional.
I found Stephenson outlook on the future very bleak, especially the "Sacrifice Zone". It is sad when the world because so caught up in money that parks, even national ones (or state was it?), are not worth the price of fixing up or restoring to their previous condition. However, considering that the U.S. at this time has become city-states controlled by corporations and criminals, it is realistic to assume this would happen.
The metaverse in this novel seems to be like the matrix universe in that film. Although I have never seen Matrix, I know that it is a movie about a virtual reality world controlled by robots. Here, the difference seems to be that people know about the virtual world and can control it themselves to a certain extent. Overall, I found the humor sprinkled through out this novel to come at a time when things were at its worst, indicating that the author may have been worried about the future, but was also hopeful about it as well.