The Cobweb is a novel written by Stephen Bury, the pen name of well known cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson and his uncle J. Fredrick George.

Clyde Banks is a sheriff in a small Iowa town. He is happily married to Desiree, and has a five month old daughter. His wife, who is in the Army Reserve, is called into the Middle East to assist in a crisis, leaving Clyde to care for their daughter. A few days later, an exchange student is found murdered in a lake, and Clyde investigates. He finds a rather sinister plot by the university where one department uses federal grant money to perform some somewhat shady research for... gasp...Saddam Hussein who Clyde's wife has just gone off to fight... the plot thickens.

The Cobweb, by Stephen Bury (the nom de plume of Neal Stephenson and uncle J. Frederick George) is a techno thriller set in the days leading into the Gulf War. Its hero is Clyde Banks, a deputy sheriff in a small Iowa town. While Clyde is merely looking to replace his boss in the upcoming sheriff election, he is also unraveling a mystery surrounding murder, corruption, and bioweapon research at nearby Eastern Iowa University.

You'd think that the federal agencies in Washington, D.C. would get involved. We see the picture of Betsy Vandeventer, a mid-level CIA analyst, who gets too close to the truth and is "cobwebbed" for exceeding her duties. While the politicos in various three letter agencies play bureaucratic shuffles, Clyde is left with little support to actually prevent a biological holocaust.

But first, Clyde has to change a diaper. You see, his wife was called to duty when her Reserve unit was mustered.


The Cobweb isn't science fiction. It's a mainstream thriller, akin to the Dorothy Parker Spenser novels, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series, or Arthur Mayor's Joe Gunther mysteries. It examines technology issues related to the present day in further depth than most would, however.

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