Cryptonomicon

ISBN: 344254193X
ISBN 13: 9783442541935
By: Neal Stephenson

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About this book

Dank Snow Crash genießt Neal Stephenson Kultstatus unter Science-Fiction-Fans und Technologie-Freaks. Das Buch hat die konventionellen Vorstellungen der High-Tech-Zukunft derart neu definiert, dass es zu einer sich selbst bewahrheitenden Voraussage wurde. Wenn dieser Cyberpunk-Klassiker groß war, dann ist Cryptonomicon riesig, enorm, gewaltig -- nicht nur aufgrund seines schieren Umfangs (circa 900 Seiten), sondern auch in seinem Reiz. Es ist der zeitgemäße, lesenswerte Nachfolger von Die Enden der Parabel und der Illuminatus-Trilogie. Darüber hinaus ist es auch das erste Buch einer geplanten Serie. Cryptonomicon zoomt durch die ganze Welt und rast verschwörerisch zwischen zwei Zeiten hin und her -- dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und der Gegenwart. Die zwei Helden aus den 40er-Jahren sind der glänzende Mathematiker Lawrence Waterhouse, ein außerordentlicher Kryptoanalytiker, und der übereifrige, morphiumsüchtige Bobby Shaftoe von den US-Marines. Sie gehören zum Sonderkommando 2702, einer Alliiertengruppe, die versucht, die Kommunikationskodes der Achsenmächte zu knacken. Gleichzeitig ist sie bemüht zu verhindern, dass der Feind dahinter kommt, dass ihre eigenen Kodes bereits geknackt sind. Unter dem Strich besteht ihre Aufgabe aus einer Täuschung nach der anderen. Dr. Alan Turing, der ebenfalls zum Sonderkommando 2702 gehört, erklärt Waterhouse die seltsame Arbeitsweise der Einheit: "Wenn wir einen Konvoi versenken wollen, schicken wir erst ein Beobachtungsflugzeug hinaus... Das Observieren ist natürlich nicht seine eigentliche Aufgabe -- wir wissen schon längst, wo sich der Konvoi befindet. Seine eigentliche Aufgabe besteht darin, selbst beobachtet zu werden... wenn wir dann kommen, um sie zu versenken, schöpfen die Deutschen keinen Verdacht." Diese ganze Geheimnistuerei spiegelt sich in der Gegenwartshandlung wider, in der sich die Enkel der Weltkriegshelden -- der unnachahmliche Programmierfreak Randy Waterhouse und die schöne und starke Amy Shaftoe -- zusammentun, um in Südostasien eine Offshore-Datenoase zu schaffen und nach Möglichkeit auch den Verbleib von Gold aufzudecken, das für die Schatulle der Nazis bestimmt war. Um den paranoiden Ton der Geschichte abzurunden, taucht der mysteriöse Enoch Root, einer der Topangehörigen des Sonderkommandos 2702 und der Societas Eruditorium, mit einem nicht dechiffrierbaren Verschlüsselungskonzept aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg auf, um die Protagonisten von 1990 mit verschwörerischen Verbindungen zu verwirren. Cryptonomicon ist von der ersten bis zur letzten Seite Neal Stephenson vom Feinsten: knapp in der Handlung, aber erschöpfend präzise im Detail. Jede Seite enthält eine Mathematikaufgabe, einen zitierbaren Insider-Witz, eine faszinierende Idee oder ein Stückchen beißender Prosa. Cryptonomicon ist zudem voll gepackt mit wahrhaft seltsamen Figuren -- irren Technologie- und Kryptofreaks und mehr Kryptologie, als man jemals brauchen wird -- vom gegenwärtigen Computerjargon einmal ganz abgesehen. Vorsicht: Wenn Sie dieses Buch in einem Zug lesen, könnten Sie einer Informationsüberlastung (und dem Hungertod) zum Opfer fallen. --Therese Littleton

Reader's Thoughts

Coco

I'm shocked by the critical acclaim this book received in the sci-fi category but I suppose even a turd can float. Two stars is really pushing it. Maybe a star for the number of laughs I got per 100 pages. This is the work of a technically inept egomaniac. He does have some technical background (he drops Unix hints and anagrams the name of a supposed deity who dies and then later comes back w/ no explanation??) However, it's not enough “savoir faire” for any of the content to make sense. It might sound dangerous to some but just plain stupid to computer geeks such as myself. It's obvious that this is not his first book by the way that the author is allowed to recklessly abandon the main plot (or any of the 4 sporadic narratives) for 70-100 page tangents. If he hired a first yr EE student to clarify some basic principles, snipped about 500 pages and got some ritalin, this book might be tolerable. Like many technical books or movies, I was utterly disappointed. Why did I continue? First, it was a gift and I would feel ungrateful if I didn't give it a fair chance. Secondly, there are many alternating plots that the reader would naturally be led to believe that the lives of these men parallel each other in a different time and place. If you like mysteries, you can almost imagine how these people are related. This would have made the book entirely more interesting. But then nothing. I finished the book and whipped it across the room. Later, I skimmed the last half of this 900+ PAGE SLEEPER to see if there was an overlooked morsel of evidence that made all these separate lives connected which would have made all of the silent pain and suffering from that book worth something. Nothing. Exactly what I got from the book: nothing.

Jeff

I read this book and I really liked it.I liked the book a lot, but things about it have made me develop a whole speil. The story was great, interesting historical/thrill fiction. But! He could have easily cut a good 1/3 out of the book and it would have been fine. Mr Stephenson loves taking a long way around to describe things, and to compound the problem, his characters like to take the long way around to say things too. So you have this recursive loop of masturbation.For example in one chapter the characters are trying van eyc phreaking, apparently this is using an antenae to read the signal off of monitor cables and such to get an image. This is fine, but rather than having the characters do it, see it works, and have it established as plot point later, he decides to give us 8 pages of what is on the computer. An interesting piece about the origins of fetish, but it has nothing to do with the book. The whole book was full of this stuff. I just wanted to yell shut the hell up and get on with the story!Also if there is a clever way of saying something he goes out of his way to do it, for example he calls sunburns, radiation burns. While true, it doesn't come off as clever, just one of those science geek things where they wink and whisper, "Most people don't know sunight is radiation! hehe we are smart!" Granted he assumes that the reader is in on the joke, but it still bugged me.Which is all too bad, I liked the storyline a lot, it was interesting, the way he went from WWII to the present was nicely done. His descriptions of how crypto and counter crypto both then an now were interesting as well.I was talking to another friend of mine about this and he agreed only about another one of his books, Snowcrash, i think, and he summed it up as, "I get it, nanotech is cool, now move on with the story."In game terms this is like playing a game of titan, it takes forever, you have fun while you are playing but you never want to play again.

Tracey

---------------Previously read Aug 2003It's been a while since I've had to work so hard on a book, but Cryptonomicon was well worth it.Randy Waterhouse, a computer whiz and all around nebbish, is the grandson of Lawrence Waterhouse, a math whiz and all around nebbish; the book follows their semi-separate stories. Lawrence is recruited by the US Armed Forces to break various crypto codes during WWII, while Randy works for a company that is developing a secure data storage facility in the South Seas.Their lives intersect at various points with members of the Shaftoe family - Bobby, the WWII marine who is either very good or damn lucky (or both!), and Amy, a marine recovery diver - as well as other characters, one of whom I'm slightly embarrassed I didn't see coming. I also wish I knew more about the activities in the Pacific theater during WWII - although I didn't feel it was required.The two storylines are rollercoasters - looping, curving and soaring through somewhat parallel timelines, and somehow ending in more or less the same place. This book expects you to be smart, and rewards you accordingly. There is history, humour, horror and even a couple of love stories along the way. A definite recommendation to anyone who is looking for a challenging read and is willing to get lost in its 900+ pages for a while. I'll be putting this on my ReReads shelf....

Arun Divakar

I couldn't do it ! 'It' here refers to the act of finishing the book. Beyond a certain number of pages, my mind felt like a glass full of muddy water in which the silt somehow refuses to settle down. The book is not to fault, maybe I just am not ready for this yet.Stephenson is an interesting kind of author for he knows quite a truck load about quite a lot of things. In the pages I went through, there were discourses ( through the character's mouths of course) about things as varied as the second world war, cryptoanalysis, the economic,social,political & historic statistics of Manila, gender biases and so forth. There are three different stories which Stephenson has mixed into one single cauldron to bring out this book.Maybe long after Snowcrash & Anathem , I will get back to this. For now, goodbye Necronomicon....er....wait wrong book ! Goodbye Cryptonomicon ! (There..I knew something was wrong with the other name).

WK

3.5/4.0This is a brilliant book.Not science fiction, really. More like history-of-science fiction. A World War II cryptography/adventure/treasure hunting story, with an overlarge dose of modern international computer corporation politics thrown in for good measure. Full of digressions, which are part of the feel of the story. If you don't like getting sidetracked, then avoid it. Unfortunately, even with all its brilliance, it has notable problems.1) The ending is poor, which is a huge disappointment from a 1,000 page novel.2) There are no good women characters. None. This is a boys-and-their-toys story, and the females have the same personality depth as cheap cardboard. Not super surprising from a war story, but still frustrating, especially given the modern day scenes.Still, it's fascinating, and absolutely worth reading. But it's not as worth reading as Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, which is (basically) the same genre but without the flaws.

Clif Hostetler

Aspire for fluency in geek speak? Is "Big Bang Theory" your idea of reality TV? Then I recommend this Moby Dick of nerd novels. Jay Clayton in his book Charles Dickens in Cyberspace calls this book the “ultimate geek novel” (pg. 204-211) and draws attention to the “literary-scientific-engineering-military-industrial-intelligence alliance” that produced discoveries in two eras separated by fifty years, World War II and the Internet age. That's a good concise summary of the book. Stephenson writes with a fascinating droll humor that lets the reader forgive him for explaining cryptography and mathematical problems in excruciating detail. This book offers an insight into the world view seen through the eyes of a genius. Everything that might be a beautiful sight or interesting view to others will appear to be an example of hidden intervals or patterns to the mind of a genius.This is a turn of the century (20th to 21st) book that strives to pattern itself after a 19th Century novel in that the author uses hundreds of words in those locations where a dozen words would be adequate to carry the plot forward. However, the writing is so entertaining that the reader wishes that even more words would have been used. Stephenson repeatedly branches out on multiple subjects in independent essays that could easily be lifted from the book and used with slight editing for a standup comedy routine. However, the comedy routines would probably go over best in a college town where some physicists or mathematicians are present in the audience.My tech-geek friends read this book over ten years ago, and they all recommended it to me. It wasn't available in audio format at the time, and I didn't want to invest the time required to read a book this big (928 pages, 42 hours audio). So I never got around to reading it. Then about a year ago it became available on Audible.com. So as usual, I've made it through a famous book about ten years after it's been read by everyone else.I highly recommend readers of this book refer to the Wikipedia article on this book. It explains which characters are fictional and which are historical, and it helps explain the nature of the various story lines within the book.I can see how this book was even better when read at the height of the dot-com and fiber optic cable bubble. Techie geekie things were newer then, and it appeared that we were entering the utopian age of Aquarius that would lead to perpetual prosperity. Does anyone remember the promises made that the new information age would be free of recessions and business cycles? Since ten years have elapsed since it was published, the reader can detect some signs of the book's age by noticing that there are no smart phones, iPads or iPods (it was the zenith of the CD Walkman era). Windows NT was new then. It was pre 9-11 so the emphasis in the book is on the inconvenience of customs inspections over that of security checks prior to getting on board.Most of the book can pass as plausible historical fiction. But there are a few Stephensonian inventions that definitely belong in a science fiction novel. Below are some of the imaginative examples:Qwghlmian -- is a fictional language that allegedly hails from some fictional British islands in the North Sea. It has 16 consonants and no vowels making it nearly impossible to pronounce. To complicate things further, there are two mutually non-comprehendible dialects of the language, Inner Qwghlimian and Outer Qwghlimian. Confusing the mid-glottal with the frontal glottal can, in one instance, completely change the meaning a sentence.Rocket propelled submarine -- This book has the WWII era Germans advancing in submarine technology parallel with their development of jet engines in airplanes. Supposedly this quiet and new generation of hydrogen peroxide propelled submarines could stay below water for days.RAM made from plumbing -- A character in this book constructs a digital computer with addressable random access memory (RAM), and it was made from plumbing parts and other primitive stuff. It happens during WWII which was the pre-transistor era, thus he used drain pipes filled with mercury with electrical level sensors that created the binary signals necessary for a functioning digital computer. (If a computer like that were made today, EPA would declare it to be a Federal Superfund Site for toxic cleanup.)Some quotations I found interesting:A comparison of atheists and church attendees:"… the post-modern, politically correct atheists were like people who had suddenly found themselves in charge of a big and unfathomably complex computer system (viz. society) with no documentation or instructions of any kind, and so whose only way to keep the thing running was to invent and enforce certain rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor…. Whereas people who were wired into a church were like UNIX system administrators who, while they might not understand everything, at least had some documentation…. They were, in other words, capable of displaying adaptability."A paraphrase of the fine print on a typical investment prospectus:"Unless you are as smart as Johann Karl Friedrich Gauss, savvy as a half-blind Calcutta bootblack, tough as General William Tecumseh Sherman, rich as the Queen of England, emotionally resilient as a Red Sox fan, and as generally able to take care of yourself as the average nuclear missile submarine commander, you should never have been allowed near this document. Please dispose of it as you would any piece of high-level radioactive waste and then arrange with a qualified surgeon to amputate your arms at the elbows and gouge your eyes from their sockets. This warning is necessary because once, a hundred years ago, a little old lady in Kentucky put a hundred dollars into a dry goods company which went belly-up and only returned her ninety-nine dollars. Ever since then the government has been on our asses. If you ignore this warning, read on at your peril — you are dead certain to lose everything you've got and live out your final decades beating back waves of termites in a Mississippi Delta leper colony.Still reading? Great. Now that we've scared off the lightweights, let's get down to business."The difference between physicists and engineers:"There is a kind of unspoken collusion going on in mainstream science education: you get your competent but bored, insecure and hence stodgy teacher talking to an audience divided between engineering students, who are going to be responsible for making bridges that won’t fall down or airplanes that won’t suddenly plunge vertically into the ground at six hundred miles an hour, and who by definition get sweaty palms and vindictive attitudes when their teacher suddenly veers off track and begins raving about wild and completely nonintuitive phenomena; and physics students, who derive much of their self-esteem from knowing that they are smarter and morally purer than the engineering students, and who by definition don’t want to hear about anything that makes no … sense. … The engineers love … their issues dead and crucified like butterflies under glass. The physicists … want to think they understand everything."

Keely

Neal Stephenson likes to throw weird shit together and see if it sticks. The more recent his book, the more likely it is to resemble a schizophrenic's curio cabinet. Your average Phillip Pullman will add a little wacky trepanning to his fantasy trilogy for that refined edge of esoteria. Meanwhile, Stephenson will have an exiled member of Italian royalty who works in 'demolition real estate' and knows Escrima thanks to an intense trepanning session with Horace Walpole, Duke Orford. Which I believe is an accurate summary of the next William Gibson book.One man's premise is another man's plot.I liked it better when Stephenson used the bizarre as a spice to flavor a driven, exciting story. Though spices may make a dish delectable, they aren't palatable on their own; you need some meat. I guess what I'm saying is: who the fuck wrote Snowcrash and when will he write something else?

Andrei Alupului

I usually roll my eyes at blurbs on books, especially when they're as reductive and simple as the ones I'm about to cite, but "electrifying" and "a hell of a read" seem like the two most fitting ways to summarize my opinion on this book. I had a tough time putting this down. It's not a challenging book, but it's also not a stupid book and I was surprised to find how "literary" it actually is. Outside of that, and really most importantly, it's an absolute blast to read.Clearly a lot of research went into the writing of this and it's unbelievably thorough and generous in its presentation of all this information. Even when it gets into the mathematics and theory behind cryptography it never stops being comprehensible and it's very clear that Stephenson had a strong desire to not dumb anything down and to simultaneously not allow himself to get too obtuse or evasive. It's a really skillfully managed balancing act. I realize that accessibility is not a virtue unto itself, but it really is favorable for this particular story, because the majority of the labor done by the reader here shouldn't be to glean the meaning of the text so much as to keep up with it and figure out its applicability.This book reminds me of David Fincher's film "Zodiac" in a lot of ways. Both of them are, as a result of the obsessive nature of their topics, obsessively structured themselves, reflecting not just the obsession of the characters within the works but also the obsession of the creators themselves. Both of them are packed to the gills with detailed information. Both of them are unusually long, although they're both so absorbing that this is a non-factor, or at least it was for me. The major difference between this and "Zodiac," however, is the fact that while that particular film zeroes in on one singular person/mystery/topic, this book seems to jump and tear and grasp at everything in its wake. The fact that it doesn't feel unfocused despite this really blows me away.

Clouds

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far). Cryptonomicon is a difficult book for me to review.In many ways it’s amazing – so why not the give it the fifth star?In many ways it’s infuriating – so how did it get the first four stars?Simple answer? It’s too long! Crypto clocks in between 900-1100 pages, depending on which copy you get – and the story is a rambling beast, full of whimsical tangents, studious digressions, chatty dialogue and endearing anecdotes. It’s an absolute pleasure to read – I find Stephenson’s writing a joy – but it goes in so many directions at once that it’s too often becalmed in the midst of the telling; any sense of forward momentum is diluted by the all-encompassing approach. Often you’re not sure which way is forward! For me, this book is the perfect example of the ethos that…“The journey is more important than the destination.”I learned from this book. I learned about cryptography, maths, military tactics, history, engineering, business tactics, phreaking, currency, mining, academia, etc. But I also learned how to kick-back and enjoy the journey of a book – to stop waiting for the next plot development point to come along like clockwork.Months after reading Crypto I came back to Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, the sequel/prequel trilogy to Crypto and I loved it! To enjoy a book properly, I need to be in the right headspace – I need to know what I’m getting into and adjust my expectations accordingly. I didn’t have the right hat on for Crypto – so I really enjoyed it, but still kept having little tantrums that it wasn’t doing what I felt it should. My experience with Crypto helped me develop the right mindset to fully enjoy The Baroque Cycle, and if I didn’t have so many other books on my list, I’d be tempted to go back to Crypto a second time and see if I can now appreciate it more on the second go-around.This is the book I was mid-way through when I got married. Some people sit up nervously on the night before their wedding – I just read a couple of chapters of Crypto and sparked out. I read this on the flight for my honeymoon (between rounds of mushy newly-wed kisses). I finished it around the pool and on the beach. In much the same way that Blue Mars will forever be linked with the birth of my son, Cryptonomicon will always bring to mind, for me, wedding bells and a feeling of glorious happiness.Bobby Shaftoe, Randy Waterhouse, Lawrence Waterhouse and Enoch Root are all excellent characters – and the affection I feel for each of them is further enhanced by their association in my mind with the love I feel for my darling, bookworm wife.P.S. Don't mention the lizard.P.P.S. My only gripe with this book - and it's not even a gripe so much as an observation: Is this actually sci-fi? At all? No? Good. Just so we're all in agreement then.

Apatt

This book took me over a month to read, with a couple of short books sandwiched in between. It is not a good sign for me when I need to take two breaks to finish a book. However, this is not a book that I can dismiss regardless of whether I like it. I have several friends who love Cryptonomicon to bits and they are smart, discerning readers. I remember when I finished reading Twilight I was kind of glad that I didn't think it was very good. Had I found it to be an amazing classic I would have no credibility left among my peers. With Cryptonomicon the problem is the opposite, I am kind of disappointed that even though I like some of it, on the whole I don't particularly care for it. Still, better to be accused of being a philistine than to write a dishonest review just to be up with the Joneses eh? Cryptonomicon is a hard book to synopsize, I feel nonplussed just thinking about how to describe the basic plot in a few sentences (so I won’t). The novel is set in two timelines 1942 and the present (or the 90s, the “present day” at the time the book was written). There are several narrative strands that gradually intertwine toward a single ending. The book is also hard to categorise, part historical fiction, part thriller, some element of cyberpunk, a bit of romance and (thankfully) a substantial amount of comedy. This novel seems to be more character driven than the other Stephenson books that I read*. The central characters are quite well developed and are generally interesting and likable but unfortunately I could not invest in their adventures. I think this has more to do with the plot they are embroiled in rather than any deficiency in their development. The structure of the book is quite complex and there does not seem to be much in the way of momentum in the pacing, it also seems to be somewhat incohesive. The frequent switches in narrative strands made it difficult for me to remember what each character is up to the previous time they appear. On the positive side the book is often very funny, the main saving grace as far as I am concerned. Lines like this just crack me up “You know what this is? It’s one of those men-are-from-Mars, women-are-from-Venus things.” “I have not heard of this phrase but I understand immediately what you are saying.” “It’s one of those American books where once you’ve heard the title you don’t even need to read it,” Randy says. I laughed out loud quite a few times while reading the book. On the whole I find it to be well written, with some wonderful turns of phrase, another factor that prevent me from giving up on it. Some of the cryptography and hacking scenes are also fascinating.Of the four Neal Stephenson books that I have read Cryptonomicon is the hardest to get into, and even by the end of the book I still wasn't really into it. It is clearly too good to dismiss out of hand and I always admire Neal Stephenson for aiming his writing toward an intelligent readership; I am not sure I can claim to be a proud member of his target demographic but kudos to him for respecting his readers. Regrettably this book turned out to be one of those "good but not for me" books. I wouldn't like to dissuade anyone from reading it, but I can't honestly recommend it either. If you are interested but doubt I suggest you read a few more reviews and decide for yourself whether it seems likely to appeal to you. I suspect you never know until you actually try it though.*In order of preference: Snow Crash, Anathem, The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon.

Brooke

*Re-reading this book, started early January 2009Note: This review is from my blog, circa 2005.I finished reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson about a week ago. It took me over a month to finish, not because it wasn't great and exciting, but because it was 937 fucking pages long! I have to say that Neal Stephenson is one of the most interesting and unique authors I have come across in some time now. The book had three main characters/story lines, and each of them had it's own strongly independent voice, yet strung together with a unifying, sardonic edge. I don't think I'll bother much with plot summary, as it was very complex and spanned the course of at least 60 years and about 10 different countries. What I really loved about it was that the three main storylines that all seem so separate at first, come together over the course of the novel through family ties, etc, but are unknown to the modern characters because of war time secrecy, among other things. I have never studied WWII in much depth, but this book brought it all to life extremely vividly and from perspectives I have never read about before. Although this book was in the science fiction section (probably because of the author's other novels) it is definitely more of a history novel. For instance, it had real historical figures as characters, such as Alan Turing in close relation to one of the main characters. Not only is it interesting from a historical war-time perspective, it is also extremely nerdy in its math and cryptographic details...not to mention computer programming and the history of how the modern computer came to be invented as a result of WWII cryptologists needing to break codes. Although the majority of the characters are fictional, I do think that most of the historical elements are well preserved and not too overly exaggerated. However, I am no expert. Basically, I couldn't put this book down, in spite of its weight. ;) The story was compelling, the characters multi-dimensional and interesting, and the locations and events intriguing. Also, in the original hard back edition that I got from the library, there are a large number of typographical/grammatical errors that many have speculated to be a hidden code! Not that anybody has broken it...I'd give my left toe to know what Mr. Stephenson is hiding in that book.

Russell

** spoiler alert ** Arrgh! I don't remember a book that I both liked and didn't like this much!Alright, a quick intro snipped from Amazon:"Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods--World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, cryptanalyst extraordinaire, and gung ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They're part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702, and he explains the unit's strange workings to Waterhouse. "When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first.... Of course, to observe is not its real duty--we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed.... Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious."All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroes--inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe--team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers. To top off the paranoiac tone of the book, the mysterious Enoch Root, key member of Detachment 2702 and the Societas Eruditorum, pops up with an unbreakable encryption scheme left over from WWII to befuddle the 1990s protagonists with conspiratorial ties. "Whew!Stephenson takes 918 pages to spin his yarn and in the end I enjoyed most of the ride but I wondered what was the point. After 918 pages, that's not a good thing.Pros:1) It's a long book. If you like to settle down to a long book, this will do.2) There is a strong pro-libertarian theme running throughout.3) Some of his writing is quite good, entertaining, thoughtful, fun, thought provoking, well done.4) He puts out some ideas that are really sharp. His discussion on Athena between Root and Randy got my little hamster wheels turning inside my head. He does this a few times.5) Math. Not much but he uses actual math. And it fits with the story.6) Cryptography. He uses actual cryptography and it also fits with the story. Cons:1) It's a freaking long book. If you like your books to be in the 200 - 300 page range, give this one a pass.2) It just... ends. All the characters suddenly lose all the depth and charm Stephenson had imbued them with and it just stops. I think he should embarrassed that 900 pages weren't enough to end this in a satisfactory manner.3) Was there a character not obsessed with sex? No? Right, right, I come from a Puritan background where I was beaten for having impure thoughts, but still, sex was a constant theme for just about every single character. It got really tiresome.4) Potty mouths. The lot of them.5) Sometimes his writing just sucked. Flat out bad. I wondered if he eschewed an editor.6) Bobby Shaftoe's death. At the start of the scene where he dies, I thought "This would be the worst possible place to have him die after all the crap he went through" and, of course, he dies. Lamely.So do I recommend this book? No, not really. It has some stellar moments, mired in dross. If you still want to read it, well, caveat lector.

Fiona

I am FINIIIIIISHED! I thought it didn't have an ending! I thought Neal Stephenson kept sneaking to my house and inserting more pages in the back while I was asleep! I thought he would never be appeased until I begged him to stop with a deck of cards, morse code and a wide variety of pleading looks!This is a massive boy book. A MASSIVE boy book. It's got overwhelmingly male characters, and they do really boy things, like coding, and shooting things, and drawing logarithmic graphs about the last time they masturbated. I kept being surprised that I could open this book and it didn't immediately smell overpoweringly of old canvas and sweat. And I say this in the most endearing way, generally speaking - the characters in this book have no idea, none at all!, that I am not One Of Them, so I got to romp about with the best of them, messing about with submarines and mid-nineties hacker politics.I should probably tell you at this point, that two of my favourite things as a mid-teenager were vintage pen-and-paper codebreaking and rambly adventure stories, so I was in my element. This book is very exclusive in many ways and I am sure that in any other context I would get the rabbit in headlights look of someone who knows they're about to be accused of being a fake geek and who doesn't know *quiiite* enough what they're talking about to put those (wholly ridiculous) accusations to rest - but as it was, for most of the time I was reading this, it was me and my comfy chair and my knitting and the printed word of Neal Stephenson, and I could slot myself into that narrow band of intended audience and roam around at my leisure. This book is a boy book, and while I was reading it, I was a boy. Which is a cack-handed way of saying that I am a nerd and I don't get to talk about polyalphabetic ciphers you break with frequency analysis and a pad of graph paper very often, and Cryptonomicon made me feel as much at home as I could possibly have wished for. Which is nice.It's also a cack-handed way of saying I feel, in some way, like I shouldn't have felt at home? It was so chock-full of Tech Men and Soldier Men and Men Who Do Things Despite Slash For Their Womenfolk, that I genuinely felt like I was empathising on the wrong side of the divide at some points. Like I was having to sneak in and pretend I had a metaphorical moustache. Very odd. Ladies of Goodreads, is that a thing you understand? Men of Goodreads, when you read something very female led, like say Jane Eyre, or Rebecca, or whatever it is you emancipated chaps read these days, how do you feel? I've rarely felt that this strongly (*cough*Gorky Park) it was very odd. At any rate I am interested by how/how strongly this manifests itself in other people.Back to the book! It's an info-dump; there is almost more info-dump than plot. Some of it I knew already and that was comforting, some of it really fired me up for playing with numbers a bit more. While I've been reading this book, I've been occasionally meeting a friend who's teaching me the basics-and-then-some of statistics, and I get the same feeling from that of channeling my enthusiasm into something practical, something that someone else is excited about as well. I liked the info-dump.It starts off really slowly. There is basically no plot for probably the first two-fifths; certainly the first third. It is full of inside references and totally devoid of beginning, middle or end. If this bothers you, don't read it. It bothered me, for a while - that's why I put it down and came back a few months later. Or that's one of the reasons. The other reason is that it's NINE HUNDRED PAGES LONG AND NEAL STEPHENSON IS STILL TALKING.In the end, I put it aside often, but always came back. There are very few books I can say that about, and of the others they were almost entirely written by Frenchmen. This book is not like those books. If you ask me, it's worth having a go at, and if you get 60 pages in and go cross-eyed at the tiny font, don't worry. You won't have missed much, and it's a nice place to come back to. I might even read it again, but it probably won't be for a while. A long while.

Erez Schatz

Greenspun's Tenth Rule of Programming says, that any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc informally-specified bug-ridden slow implementation of half of Common Lisp. (Including Common Lisp, added Robert Morris)Lisp, to qoute L. Peter Deutsch, can make you realise that software could be close to executable mathematics.Cryptonomicon is surprisingly similar to the previous paragraph, both as an analogy to the book, and for the useless use of computer-based qoute, just for the sake of it.To start with, this book is way.... too.... long.Just way too long. No real way of getting around it. Cryptonomicon fails to carry its own weight, even if it didn't have so much of it. It *is* a page-turner, which is good, seeing as it has so much of those, but more because there is very little actual content. Rather than drawing you in, it lets you drift over; instead of using the breadth of scope to mean something, it really doesn't. The 2 WWII parts are more of a time-line rather than a story, and the third part, the actual story, is very weak, and no real connections other than some obvious ones, that is, don't expect any last minute golden thread that will tie it all. There is a lot of fanfare around and in the book, and there's a whole lot of research thrown in for good measure, but there isn't much of a point, where you surface out of a 10 page description that is painstakingly detailed, with as much story in it, as if you took a break and went to read an encyclopaedia. Other such detailed descriptions include a 5 pager about the cars going in or out, a pornographic description of cereal eating, each of those gives the reader no added value other than to be impressed by the writer's way around words, which a good editor would've red-marked away had this been a debut piece.Characteristics is shoddy, which is amazing for such a large novel. With 1100+ pages in paperback, some character development is expected, but characters here rarely act, and mostly react, being moved from place to place by the circumstances and the background characters that appear and disappear, without any excuse than the sake of pushing the plot forward, toward a very dull and, strangely enough, rushed, ending, which is not ever partially a conclusion and is an ending simply because the book ends there, leaving many threads hanging in mid-air. The only glimpses the author allows us into the mind of the characters is when a mathematical, military, or technological problem is in need of being solved. Other than that, there is a lot of inner monologue, but hardly any glimpses into the actual "inner" parts, resulting in characters moving from one state of mind to another with little to no reasoning.This is a book that haven't decided whether it wants to be "techy" or about technology, resulting in parts "for the layman" and parts that demand some knowledge in computer tech to understand. This is a book that attempts to tell us a lot, which is basically how good is the author in finding yet another meaningless, but semantically cool, metaphor. This is a book that might've been, minus about 400-500 redundant pages and plus about 100 pages to close the remaining threads, a fun, intelligent read. At current state, its a smart-alek, overly self-important, and hardly elegant.

Ben

Though I'm giving this book four stars, I am a little disappointed in it. For the first time, Stephenson's wordiness got to me. At first, it is all fun and "character building" and enjoyable to read. But after working through 700 pages and still hitting long stretches about Randy's fascination with dust devils as a kid or how he had really bad wisdom teeth years earlier, I got a little frustrated. I had the feeling he was striving for length instead of letting the story dictate the number of pages.I am also what I assume to be a rarity in that I read Anathem before Crytonomicon. I actually liked Anathem a lot more. This is partly because everything felt necessary. I actually didn't want it to end, whereas I was ready for Cryptonomicon's ending.I don't mean to be too negative, because I believe this is a great book. The two WWII storylines were the highlight for me. Loved Lawrence and Bobby and pretty much everyone else from that era. Especially enjoyed the Admiral Yamamoto scene. I was less impressed by the main storyline set in the present. Simply didn't enjoy Randy and Avi and their group of geeks as much. I came around on Randy a bit, mainly due to his Captain Crunch habit, but Avi had no such saving grace. Still, it was a masterful blending of multiple storylines into a cohesive and enjoyable experience.

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