Review of 'The Cobweb'

The Cobweb by Neal Stephenson, and George J. Frederick

the_cobweb.jpg Published before 9/11, Cobweb takes place immediately prior to the Gulf War. Deputy County Sheriff Clyde Banks is just a small-town policeman but has been around and knows when something is not right. While investigating the discovery of a body in the local reservoir he notes some oddness going on at the East Iowa University with their enrolment of students from Iraq who seem to have taken a keen interest in chemistry. Banks making friends with another foreign student has not entirely gone unnoticed casting himself in a fairly bad light as well…Meanwhile a low-ranking CIA agent Betsy Vandeventer is investigating the same thing but thwarted at every step as she tries to make her theories known. Will they both be able to get through the small-town and government politics (including the titular “cobweb” approach to dealing with outspokenness - blanket it with needless bureaucracy) to make their fears known before it is too late?

Quite a different book from others by Stephenson who is more well known for his Science Fiction. This is billed as a “satirical thriller” and I hope it is satirical as if it is only half true in it's descriptions of the politics in Washington it is chilling indeed. I did find this aspect fairly tiresome as it is explored in detail, driving the point home again and again the point about the self-serving (and self-defeating) attitudes of those at the various governmental institutions. This story is fairly dated in not talking about 9/11 but that actually makes it even more chilling - That a plot like this could have been undiscovered immediately up to the tragedy in New York.

Don't read this expecting a thriller but it is intriguing anyway.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2015-08-10

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Arrow Books

Publication Date: 1998

ISBN: 9780099478850

Other reviewed books by Neal Stephenson: