Neal Stephenson’s website doesn’t even list The Cobweb as one of his works. The reason? It was originally published, in 1996, under his pseudonym Stephen Bury. But, after Quicksilver made him a NYTimes bestselling author, it was a no-brainer to re-publish under his real name. No mention of what Stephenson might be working on now…
I enjoyed the smart send-up of everything from agricultural grants to the politics of intelligence agencies. Set in the build-up to the first Iraq war — at the time, the only one we had… ahh, those were the days — The Cobweb has two unlikely heroes. Both Clyde Banks, an Iowa deputy, and Betsy Vandeventer, a CIA analyst, pick at the frayed edges of an Iraqi conspiracy and arrive at the unlikely truth: real WMDs, made in America, for use in Iraq. Banks saves the day, directly.
The first President Bush comes across as rather quick, here. His cameo in the book is fun. The book is a thriller, with its utter implausibilities… but I sped through it more quickly than any other book in recent months. You’ll enjoy it, too.
Thanks to the Internet, I know now that listed co-author J. Frederick George really is a separate person: Stephenson’s uncle!