The Big U – Neal Stephenson

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Casimir Radon’s introduction to American Megaversity is fraught with red tape, Newspeak and enrollment procedures based on the catch-22 principle. Having struggled long and hard to afford a college education, Casimir has come up against the awful truth. What is he doing at the Big U? Meanwhile, unhappy roommates John Wesley Fenrick and Ephraim Klein (Business and Philosophy, respectively) wage sonic war with massive stereos; drug aficionado Dex Fresser becomes the leader of a cult that worships a neon sign, a dilapidated red fan, and other curious appliances; class president Sarah Johnson locks horns with the Airheads and the Terrorists, her dorm’s female and male factions; Virgil Gabrielsen, resident genius, hunts down “the Worm”, an insidious glitch in the all-important college computer system. As the Apocalyptic plot thickens and boils, a small band of unlikely heroes tries to foil the scheme of Crotobaltislavonian freedom-fighters who have seized control of the radioactive waste dumped beneath the university, and to survive a campus-wide live-ammo civil war, and to avoid the plague of bats and mutant rats, and to get through the spring semester…

If George Orwell had written a novel more like Animal House (the movie) than like Animal Farm (the book), and if Orwell were a young American whose early twenties were spent in the 1980s, and if Orwell counted among his concerns the origins of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, Dungeons & Dragons, computer piracy, and heavy-metal rock versus Bach fugues, the result would perhaps have been similar toThe Big U

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