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Until a man turns twenty-five (so Stephenson sayeth) he believes he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world, and the reason for this is simple: the young man questing against evil is omnipresent in Western literary myth. Randolph, for instance, is on a quest, though he’d never articulate it as such. He’s biding his time, clocking in at the code mill, waiting for portents and wisely noting things he sees in MMA.

Young women who read the right books come to this belief as well, of course. But they face another evil, differentiated by the fact that it is real.