A compelling, largely accurate satire of modern higher education that gets progressively more surreal, crazed and violent as it goes along. This was Stephenson's first published novel and you can tell - every apparently pointless chunk of bizarre exposition is actually important, the book is no longer than it needs to be, characters aren't picked up and dropped like a toddler with a toy and the "Guns make the USA Great, everybody should have one, preferably several" bullshit is at least minimally disguised and not the whole point of the story. (Btw, Stephenson, the refutation of your argument on this is splashed all across the news these last few days...I mean years...I mean decades..I mean the last century. Let's face it, reform has been over-due in your country since the end of the era of the Wild West.)
Anyway, the only book by this guy that I've read and thought was better was Zodiac, which manages to remain grounded in reality through-out instead of jumping the shark (or giant rat) like this does.