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The Cobweb

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,316 Ratings  ·  137 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
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Spectra (first published 1996)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 28, 2008 Joe rated it liked it
A mediocre Stephenson book is better than no Stephenson book at all.
Nov 22, 2015 Choko rated it liked it
Shelves: political
*** 3.25 ***

I have to be honest, I did not enjoy this book very much and only finished it because I have an illness - a compulsion to finish every book or series I start, of go insane thinking about it with a feeling that I have something hanging over my head and it makes me feel twitchy!!!

I realize this is not a shining recommendation for the book, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone I know anyway... I am not dissing the author - I adore most of his work and he is one of my all ti
Oct 20, 2007 Bryce rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 04, 2009 Guy rated it really liked it
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
Poetic Justice
Oct 14, 2012 Poetic Justice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Feb 01, 2012 Ric rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2015 Raj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, thriller
I enjoyed this political thriller, set just before the onset of the first Gulf War. It draws two very different threads, eventually weaving them into a single whole, although I'm not entirely sure how successfully. The first thread involves deputy sheriff Clyde Banks, his campaign to be elected sheriff and the discovery of a dead foreign student at the bottom of a local lake. The second involves Betsy Vandeventer, a lowish ranking CIA agent, who writes a report that ruffles some feathers and mak ...more
Apr 10, 2015 travelgirlut rated it liked it
Another random book choice while waiting for others to come in off of holds. I didn't care one way or the other for the actual story in this one, but I really enjoyed the main characters. Clyde was great. Betsy was mostly great, though I have a beef with the authors about her. If you're going to make one of your characters declare themselves Mormon, you should at least have them play that role or explain why they're not playing it properly. Betsy claims to be Mormon and then acts nothing of the ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Susan rated it liked it
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.
Feb 20, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
Great book based on biological warfare and American government; Funny, hard to put down.
Mary Davidsaver
Jan 07, 2016 Mary Davidsaver rated it really liked it
I have a great time reading, or in this case listening to, books that have terrorists meet up with deputy sheriffs in northeast Iowa and getting thoroughly trounced. The fictional Iowa towns and the people in them were spot on for characterizations. The main characters were likable and smart. Much more so than the government types that were only looking to keep their jobs. I know more about Balkan turks than I did before. It was an entertaining romp on the path that led up to the first Iraq war ...more
Scott Corley
Mar 20, 2016 Scott Corley rated it really liked it
An interesting premise that is more relevant today than when it was published since this is a terrorist book written well before 9/11. George is great balancing force to Stephenson and keeps him grounded in the history of the time without allowing him to get too insanely esoteric.

It is a smart novel and especially engaging for those, like me, who remembers Desert Storm as the first big, extensive news story of their life. Although events are dramatized, they are based in fact. Throughout the nov
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

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
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
Jan 15, 2013 Traummachine rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2010 Chris rated it liked it
"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
Jul 23, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2013
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.
Dec 26, 2011 Brittany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 28, 2011 Ben rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2008 Wendy rated it really liked it
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
Jun 25, 2014 Andrea rated it liked it
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
Christopher Litsinger
Oct 22, 2014 Christopher Litsinger rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Really deserves 3.5 stars. This is a nice suspenseful political thriller set during the first Bush Gulf War. It was interesting how real people were mixed into the story- although any time I hit George H.W. Bush talking, I heard it in the voice of Dana Carvey doing a Bush impersonation.
Worthy of note- there is nothing very science fictional about this story.
Ivan Idris
Feb 03, 2013 Ivan Idris rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
I wasn't expecting a Neal Stephenson book to be a thriller when I listened to this book a few years ago. This was high action with lots of bodies. A small Iowa town with a small college is the setting. The Sheriff's deputy (who is thinking about running for sheriff) gets wind of some strange goings on. Seems explosives are being formulated somewhere around town. It's a real romp.
Aaron White
Jun 11, 2016 Aaron White rated it liked it
This is no Snow Crash or Diamond Age. Of all the Stephenson books I've read so far (published prior to this one) this is the worst of the lot. It isn't terrible, it's just not as good as the others. There is no signature futuristic alternate world, that Stephenson writes so well. I found myself getting bored with the book and not wanting to pick it up. It does pick up nicely near the end and kept me reading the climax.
Feb 25, 2014 Shannon rated it really liked it
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
Max Nemtsov
Sep 20, 2015 Max Nemtsov rated it it was amazing
В очередной раз — нет ничего лучше туго скроенного политико-шпионски-конспирологического триллера о людях, которые занимаются своим делом и при этом знают, что делают (это не тавтология, а не сильно очевидное по нынешним временам уточнение). Мило и весело, картинки из жизни закулисья американской администрации очень знакомы.
Feb 10, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Even though it was written in the 90's it provokes a lot of thought regarding how terrorism could be being created in America without us having any idea what is happening. Great pacing, great story. Neal Stephenson's books are always smart and a great ride!
Scott Hunter
Jul 27, 2014 Scott Hunter rated it it was amazing
This book was one of those "oh well, I don't have anything else to ready right now" kind of books and turned out to be a suprisingly great read. Great characters, good writing and a unique story that was not sci-fi related at all. I really recommend this one.
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Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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“Clyde had a theory that women had a book, a homemade, photocopied three-ring binder called "Surprising Things to Do in a Relationship," which they passed around to one another, adding pages from time to time, hiding it under the bed. He figured that Desiree could run home tonight and add a new page.” 3 likes
“The people who know the most are not allowed to ask questions—or even to make suggestions. The least common denominator sets the standards. Just wait until you see Washington, Betsy—these goddamn car salesmen and small-town lawyers come into town every two years not knowing their ass from a hole in the ground, and this enormously sophisticated and powerful and dangerous system is at their mercy. The Agency distorts information to fit the half-assed policies they scheme up.” 1 likes
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