First published: 1984 | Takes place: Unspecified
Before Neal Stephenson was dazzling nerd literati with Snow Crash and The Baroque Cycle, he focused his manic prose on Boston. His literary debut, The Big U, kicks off with this warning: "What you are about to read is not an aberration: it can happen in your local university too. The Big U, simply, was a few years ahead of the rest."

The Big U is American Megaversity — a thinly veiled, absurdist skewering of his alma mater, Boston University (where, in the late '70s, Stephenson spent as much time as humanly possible dicking around on BU's mainframe computer). All the action takes place in the enclosed universe of the Monoplex — a giant, Swiss-cross-shaped "sensory-deprivation experiment" that's part Warren Towers, part shantytown, and part walk-in mall — where the school's deranged undergrads stage live-ammo firefights in the cafeteria, skirmish with dog-sized radioactive rats, and hack computer worms with explosives.

And then there's that cult that worships the neon Big Wheel (Stephenson's stand-in for the Citgo sign).

Sounds pretty much like BU how we remember it, actually.


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