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Books–The Big U September 20, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Memory, Other.

This was Neal Stephenson’s first novel, I guess.  He is one of the authors of my generation that often makes me think “I could never write something this good.”  I re-read Cryptonomicon and the entire Boroque Cycle this year and intend to re-read The Diamond Age as well.  Anyway, his first book made me think “I could write this well.” 

Not that it isn’t a good read, and very funny in spots–it is.  The Big U takes place at the author’s alma mater, Boston University, during the Silber administration, and chaos is a central feature.  During the last quarter of the book the campus is the site of all-out war between a terrorist group and various other factions on campus.  O.K., it is far-fetched, but there are a lot of things about it that ring very true, such as the University carving out a secret agreement with the Federal Government to store nuclear waste under the campus.  It is only towards the end that the characters seem to hemmorhage verisimilitude.  And Stephenson’s descriptive passages began to seem more tedious than masterful.

Although The Big U takes place on a college campus during the same time period when I was in college, I didn’t find it as nostalgic as I thought I would.  I was a commuter, so I didn’t get the same residential experience that was depicted in the novel.  Although there is much that I do remember, such as the computer environment of campuses of that era, much was unfamiliar to me. 


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