The Cobweb
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The Cobweb

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  1,707 ratings  ·  113 reviews
From his triumphant debut with Snow Crash to the stunning success of his latest novel, Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson has quickly become the voice of a generation. In this now-classic political thriller, he and fellow author J. Frederick George tell a savagely witty, chillingly topical tale set in the tense moments of the Gulf War.

When a foreign exchange student is found mur...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Spectra (first published 1996)
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Joe
A mediocre Stephenson book is better than no Stephenson book at all.
Bryce
This is a great story about the events that may have been going on prior to the Iraq war. I loved the way Neal referenced how Washington works. Having spent some time there myself, it brought up some interesting analogies. You see, I know how the government agencies work, and Neal is dead on. I also loved the way he developed the Sheriff and his character. A very entertaining read. Who knows, perhaps the plot is plausible.
Guy
Aug 04, 2009 Guy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
Filled with humor and biting irony, "Cobweb" is the best book on the US government that I've read. It's also the best book on the Midwest, and the fact that it manages to be both at the same time is further proof (as if this were necessary) that Neal Stephenson is a treasure.

Fortunately for me, Stephenson spends most of his time in the Science-Fiction / Fantasy genre, but this book, written in his early days, is a classic thriller in the mode of John Le Carré and Robert Ludlum. Since that's not...more
Poetic Justice
Rarely, if ever, can a joint venture in fiction writing leave such a complete feeling at the end. One example is this one. Another is Interface, predictably enough by the exact same duo.

The writing is so seamlessly forged, it's impossible to tell where one author stops and the other begins. Fast paced, flowing, genuinely funny at times, witty and sarcastic in its entirety, it's one of those books easy on the eye, but engaging enough to let the reader finish it in one go.

Lots of main characters,...more
Ric
Ok, you got me. Red-handed. I surrender. I admit it. I am one of the foreign students that the authors are talking about, who came into this country on the merit of just my brains, who went through the grist mill of a post-graduate program, who found a job below my qualifications, worked at it until something better came along. Yes, all true. And the wonderful thing that happened along the way was ...

... the melting pot, where:
 cultures change, society adopts, people transform, foreign to local
...more
Michael Murdoch

From his triumphant debut with Snow Crash to the stunning success of his latest novel, Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson has quickly become the voice of a generation. In this now-classic political thriller, he and fellow author J. Frederick George tell a savagely witty, chillingly topical tale set in the tense moments of the Gulf War.

**When a foreign exchange student is found murdered at an Iowa University, Deputy Sheriff Clyde Banks finds that his investigation extends far beyond the small college

...more
Susan
Slow start but very exciting at the end. Dated because it's about the first Gulf war. Not really an alternate history, but a possible behind-the-scenes intrigue.
Susan
Great book based on biological warfare and American government; Funny, hard to put down.
Janet
Feb 23, 2014 Janet added it
Shelves: fiction, sff, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed Neal Stephenson's Zodiac and Snow Crash, and loved The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon. I completely & totally bounced off of the Baroque novels. I put the first one down at about page 300, only to have a friend tell me that "it really picks up after about page 400". Sorry, nothing should be that bloated.

The two novels that he wrote with his uncle, and published under the name Stephen Bury, are The Cobweb and Interface. I really enjoyed both these books when I originally r...more
Althea Ann
I believe this was the only novel by Neal Stephenson that I hadn't read, so, in the interest of completism, of course I had to read it.
Sadly, I have to admit, it wasn't that good.
Being dated was part of it - it's a political thriller, and well, we know know more about Saddam and his alleged WMDs than Stephenson did when he wrote it.
Stephenson's main point here is: Foreign grad students in the sciences could actually be plants working for enemy governments, using our labs and resources to create...more
Traummachine
I came across this book about a year ago in Barnes & Noble, and I'd never heard of it. Apparently this was written by Stephenson and his uncle, each using a pseudonym (Stephenson's was Stephen Bury). It's the 2nd of two unrelated novels they wrote together, this originally published in '96, and Interface in '94.

This was written (and is set) shortly after the first Gulf War, and the plot is all about terrorists on American soil, subterfuge and double-dealings, etc. While this isn't necessaril...more
Chris
"Watch out for the iguanas," Larkin had told her. Betsy hadn't understood the reference until recently. But now she saw iguanas all over Washington, people who sat sunning on their rocks, destroying anything or anybody who came within tongue's reach, but doing nothing.


The book centers around several situations in the time just before the first Gulf War, detailing a few different plot lines: DC intel analysts and insiders, a smarter-than-expected deputy sheriff in a big small town in Iowa, and a...more
Paul
Slowly but surely Neal Stephenson is creeping up my favourite author list. He has a eclectic genre list that he writes, from modern thriller, cyber books to fantasy.

Cobweb is set in the time of the first Gulf War, when Iraq have invaded Kuwait. In small town America a body of an Arab student turns up following a boating accident; but this student has been consuming alcohol. The local deputy sheriff suspects something fishy and starts to dig around the local university where the student was from....more
Brittany
I just became aware that Stephenson also sometimes writes (or perhaps wrote) under the pseudonym Stephen Bury, and that he had too books I'd never read or heard of. It was like Christmas came early.

As someone said below, a mediocre Stephenson novel is better than no Stephenson novel at all, and I'm not even sure I would call this a mediocre Stephenson novel. It's definitely an early one, and it's pure political thriller, not science fiction at all.

You can feel him bursting to get all his clever...more
Ben
A thoroughly fun, interesting, and cynical romp around the US; from the scientific labs of a midwest research university to Washington DC. The combination of Stephenson's prose and story-telling skills with George's historical knowledge results in an engrossing thriller that questions and criticizes (most explicitly) the federal bureaucracy and the western system of fairly blindly accepting foreign students to drive our university's research programs. While the characters and world clearly didn'...more
Wendy
Simply put, The Cobweb is an enjoyable read. It is clearly a work of fiction -- I found there were just too many coincidences that all tie up nicely for me to totally immerse myself in it as if it were a "real" tale. Yet ... there are plenty of interesting, humorous bits that combine to show the humanity (and humor) of the characters.

I enjoyed the book for it's portrayal of folks in the midwest as intelligent, practical human beings. It was an interesting juxtaposition to have the country lifest...more
Andrea
Jun 25, 2014 Andrea rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Ignored these books for a while despite Stephenson's name on the cover because I'm no sucker for that Clive Cussler/Dirk Pitt gambit. Also, not a fan of political thrillers. This was a pleasant surprise. A light political thriller, yes, but richly leavened with Stephenson's wit, depth of character and scientific nerdliness. My apologies to Frederick George if these were his contributions! It touched on several topics dear to my heart including foreign student visas, the politics of university re...more
Ivan Idris
I happen to like science fiction and books by Neal Stephenson. This review is about “Cobweb” written by Neal Stephenson and Frederick George. It’s not a science fiction book, but more of a political thriller. A slightly satirical thriller.

Just before the Gulf War starts a brave Deputy County sheriff discovers clues of a conspiracy in the East Iowa University. The suspects are a group of Arab students. A CIA analyst in Washington finds similar clues. Senior management is, of course, not happy wit...more
Shannon
I got turned onto this writing duo from reading "Interface", which is a stellar book as well.

This book is also quite good - and at one point became a page turner. (the kind you wake up at 3AM to read a few more chapters)

This book had less science fiction in it than I prefer but was a great thriller nonetheless. 4.35/5
Sid
Huge huge Stephenson fan. This book, not so much. I can't complain about the out-dated nature, the book was from the late 80s/early 90s, and pertains to the first Iraq war from a "what-if" scenario regarding WMDs, bio-terrorism, political maneuvering, and the subversion of our intelligence community.

Early Stephenson could have used more character development of characters other than the main few who had adequate development, but the side stories which develop the less important characters that a...more
Poe
I love his books from the first page all the way through, despite never really knowing where it's all going until the last chapter - which is always disappointing, because the story could go on a while longer!

Also, I haven't found another author who writes female characters better. Or maybe it's that they're always viewed through the eyes of men "madly in love with them" and completely at their mercy which makes it amusing and adorable.
Betsy was great, too.

Topic-wise, Cobweb wasn't what I would...more
Sarah
The pacing was a bit wonky at times: when you're in a scene it's very carefully described and there are lots of details. To the point where it seemed slow at times. But between scenes time would elapse with almost no acknowledgment to how much time and very little elaboration or explanation of what happened in between. The POV skips around often and characters had feelings or beliefs but I didn't really know why because that part wasn't described. It was also a bit anticlimactic. But for all tha...more
Robert
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Javier
Not bad. Rather similar to "God's Fist", with a bit of Sthepenson's sense of humour and reminiscences about the Palouse.
Remo
El ayudante del Sheriff de un pueblecito de Iowa se encuentra con el asesinato de un estudiante de la Escuela de ingenieros agrónomos del condado. La investigación se irá expandiendo hasta llegar mucho más allá de lo inicialmente supuesto. Un único ayudante de Sheriff se las tendrá que ver con algo mucho más poderoso que él.
Me encanta el estilo de Neal stephenson, que escribió esta novela, al igual que Interface, con su tío. Dos thrillers que enganchan completamente, por la historia y por el est...more
Mad Russian the Traveller
This is the second book by this combination of writers (Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George), and it is still in the category of mainstream thriller involving political intrigue. The story takes place during the run-up to the first Gulf War. The premise of the story is that part of Saddam's biological warfare production was being done at various universities in the US with Iraqi exchange students using funding from the US gov't. Much of the action takes place in the Midwest, and the characte...more
Emily
Another early Neal Stephenson book - this one involves a national security issue that connects a strait-laced FBI agent, a midwestern agricultural university, and a smalltown sheriff who is unusally smart and competent. Although the subject is kind of serious, you can definitely hear Stephenson's distinctive voice. Especially in the sheriff character - his internal dialog is reminiscent of Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon. I thought the pieces of this story fit together better than "Interface" - a fu...more
Michael Bouchard
Eh. Not my normal type of book. First half I couldn't wait for it to be over. Second half I was interested enough to enjoy it.

Looking forward to another Stephensen book, probably Snow Crash.
Matías Kornacher
It is a strange book, a bit confusing or boring. I didn't like it very much.
Erin
This was a very interesting book, not least because it takes place around the time of George H.W. Bush's war in Iraq. The novel was written in the mid-1990s, yet manages to foreshadow certain elements of 9/11 in ways that are disturbing to see now. Although plot elements reflect common themes in the thriller genre, the authors take care to make their characters believable and sympathetic. Deputy Sheriff Clyde Banks, in particular, really made the book.
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Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, cryptography, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff...more
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