The Big U (Neal Stephenson) - Vintage Books - 1984 - 307 pages

Why had I not heard about this book until this year?  Stephenson's first novel is an excellent satire of late-20th-century college life.  The action takes place from September to May of one school year at "American Megaversity" (AM) that is based very loosely on his alma mater, Boston University.  A few of the students are actually enrolled at AM to gain an education, but most of them are just there to experience various chemicals, play loud music, terrorize/prank fellow students and generally wreak havoc on all occupants of the eight-tower, multi-plex of on-campus living quarters.  The administrative staff, led by S.S. Krupp, is primarily-devoted to damage control and creative fund-raising to justify their existence.  A group of well-armed, Eastern European janitors (?) have been hired to battle an underground rodent infestation that is resistant to normally-used traps & poisons.  The faculty is along for the ride.  In a few short months, traditional curricula and social activities devolve into floods, strikes, extreme gaming, massive acts of destruction and organized warfare.  The book should be considered an underground classic, and an impressive first effort by one of the greatest modern authors.  The story makes Animal House seem like Romper Room.  If you went away to college and lived in a dormitory, you can appreciate Stephenson's view of higher education.  Your "pay-rents" may not have the same appreciation.  [JAM 12/9/2016]