The Big U and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
  • List Price: $15.99
  • Save: $2.13 (13%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
The Big U has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Some visible wear, and minimal interior marks. .
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Big U Paperback – February 6, 2001

See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$3.75 $0.01

Best Books of the Year
See the Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
$13.86 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

The Big U + Zodiac
Price for both: $25.27

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


"An entertaining and sometimes murderous satire on campus life." -- --New York Times Book Review

"Satire is Stephenson's major." -- --Los Angeles Times Book Review

About the Author

Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem; the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World); Cryptonomicon; The Diamond Age; Snow Crash, which was named one of Time magazine's top one hundred all-time best English-language novels; and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 71%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380816032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380816033
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #629,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known for his speculative fiction works, which have been variously categorized science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.
Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Customer Reviews

I read this book for the first time shortly after it's publication in '84.
Most of the characters were one-dimensional, the satire wasn't particularly deft, and the plot wasn't nearly as compelling as Stephenson's later novels.
I don't know how anyone can take this book seriously or say it has much to do with college in the eigthies.
James C. Dascoli

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By lizvelrene on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
A wise man once told me not to write a book right out of college, that I should go out unto the world and get some experience first. Neal Stephenson did not hear from this wise man.
I guess any Neal Stephenson fan is going to read this book anyway, since he wrote it, and any book he wrote is going to have some degree of wit and imagination to it, so let me just warn all of you Stephenson fans: don't expect much. Really. It's messy, the structure is lousy, the narrator is unnecessary, etc etc. The story's been done many, many times over (read Fool on the Hill by Ruff, Moo by Jane Smiley, or even Tam Lin by Pamela Dean or White Noise by Don Delillo, for more entertaining/insightful looks at college life). So basically your only draw is to see how Stephenson's developed along the way, and your answer will be: a lot. The good points? It's not completely without merit: the Go Big Red Fan Thing Whatever it is sequence is funny the first time, several characters are likeable, and a few bits of obscure knowledge seep through. The style is already well on the way to the Snow Crash / Cryptonomicon casual-smartass-genius tone (I discount The Diamond Age, which is a bit different though equally good) which makes most of it at least mildly entertaining even when the plot is wandering. Still, one can see how this book went out of print - if it wasn't Stephenson, it wouldn't be back.
If you're not hard-core Stephenson fans already, I would recommend reading any of his other books first. This book barely hints at what the writer is capable of.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "regehr" on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Picture university life gone wrong: the students and faculty do whatever they want, the computer randomly munches files, giant rats live in the sewers, and the sub-basement holds nuclear waste. In the second half of the book the student population degenerates into bicamerality (as Snow Crash readers know, Stephenson has a thing about Julian Jaynes) and a small-scale war breaks out on campus.
The Big U is a hilarious, manic satire on life at a big public university in the United States. Stephenson has great riffs about the nonsensical nature of a large administration, the bizarre varieties of people who wouldn't be able to survive outside of academia, and the architectural ugliness of recently constructed university buildings. Although it's funny, The Big U is conspicuously a first novel: the dialog often fails to ring true, the tone changes unpredictably, and the use of the first person was almost certainly a mistake: most of the book is in third person and the narrator is never developed into a real character.
Stephenson's novels feature physically unimpressive male protagonists who are nevertheless intelligent, resourceful, and competent at a wide range of technical activities, especially computer programming. These protagonists are often interested in female characters who are their intellectual equals but are also physically attractive. These two classes of characters combined with detailed, tactical action sequences and at least one lavish multi-page description of heavy weaponry epitomize Stephenson's novels. In other words, he writes books for nerds.
The Big U is a fun book. I believe that it tanked when it came out in 1984 not so much because of its flaws but because it was ahead of its time: Microsoft and the Internet had not yet entered the public consciousness and books for nerds were just not yet socially acceptable.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Liam Proven on November 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Neal Stephenson has gathered legions of fans with his sassy, streetwise SF sagas such as /Snow Crash/ and /The Diamond Age/, but he didn't start there: his first two books were satirical contemporary novels. /Zodiac/, subtitled "the eco-thriller", received some acclaim and modest commercial success, but his début, /The Big U/, sank almost without trace and copies now change hands for startlingly large amounts of money.
It's recognizably Stephenson, but in an early, immature form. It's the story of a year in the American Megaversity, the eponymous Big U, an improbably large educational institute with a distinctly diabolical feel. In the Big U's four towers live and work its 40,000 students; it is so vast that it is a world unto itself, with its own government, police force and culture, including multiple feuding tribes. Its huge sewer system is the location for live-action roleplaying campaigns lasting days. Its inhabitants seldom leave the building, and in their incarceration, they go a little crazy.
The narrator, Bud, is a freshly-minted associate professor who has the misfortune to be "faculty-in-residence": he lives with the students in E07S. Thus he is privileged to witness the joys of life as a student in the Big U. These include the battle between the Systems of John Wesley Fenrick and Ephraim Klein, who share a room and an obsession with hifi, but regrettably not musical tastes; the oratory of Dexter Fresser, whose part in the Stalinist Underground Battalion is only slightly hampered by the vast amounts of drugs he takes; the multiple factions of the Terrorist alliance, such as the Droogs, the Blue Light Specials, the Flame Squad Brotherhood and the Plex Branch of the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army (Unofficial).
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
The Big U
This item: The Big U
Price: $15.99 $13.86
Ships from and sold by

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?