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

Chris McLane

One day I went out shopping for a book. My list of unread, prepurchased titles sat neatly in a stack by my disused fire-place and none of them set me alive with anticipation. I don't know what I wanted really, but I had a vague idea that there was a black book with numbers on the front that was a New York Times bestseller, and I quite fancied something clever related to code breaking or numbers. So I hopped on the subway, rode into Union Square and strolled over to B&N on 17th street and found what I was looking for on a Paperback Favourites table. I read the description, and the first few pages and decided it was good and worthy of purchase. That book was Cryponomicon. I read the first chapter or so back home on my bed, with tea and toast, and I decided the writing style was tricky, and hard to get used to in terms of rhythm, but I quite liked this tough as nails army guy in the first chapter so I stuck with it.Stephenson has a sprawling, divergent, off on a tangent way of writing, but there is such pleasure in every aspect of the subjects he explores, and his narrative ambles back over to the central plot points enough that you never feel annoyed or frustrated. If anything you feel a sense of gratitude for his skill and for his curiosity, and the manner in which he imparts complex ideas.Of all the authors I've ever read, I feel most strongly about Neal Stephenson because he has genuinely enriched my life and broadened my understanding and appreciation for history and ideas.One of the best scenes in this book follows the story of a Japanese man whose boat is blown up. His comrades are eaten by sharks and he endures hell before the end of his story. It is so vivid and alive and such a wonderful piece of writing. He took a character who could have been a foot-note in the story if he chose it to be so, and made something beautiful. That's why this is a truly great book.

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.

Eric_W

This is a book about cryptography, among other things. Lawrence Waterhouse Price is a brilliant mathematician whose peculiar talents are discovered on a routine military test. He is assigned to a very secret project known initially as Detachment 2071 until Price remarks about the unrandom nature of the group’s name, “2071 is the product of two primes. And those numbers, 37 and 73, when expressed in decimal notation, are, as you can plainly see, the reverse of each other.” Randomness is important because their job is to manipulate the decoded information they have received from the Enigma and Ultra machines in such a way so that they can achieve maximum benefit from the use of that information without giving away to the Germans and Japanese that their code has been broken. They must make sure that Allied actions maintain the appearance of randomness and ignorance. A Marine raider sergeant Shaftoe is given the task of implementing Detachment 2072 (as it became). For example, Price is stationed in Britain and there they have created machines—forerunners of the modern computer – that electrically examine the different possibilities of wheel combinations in the Enigma machine. These required large pegboards to connect the various circuits, so an inordinately large number of tall women needed to be hired as the pegboards were very high. If the Germans got copies of the personnel records, they would immediately notice a bell curve with an odd peak at one end and wonder why people working in this area were not chosen randomly, the bell curve being a random distribution. So Detachment 2072’s job would be to plant false personnel records to make sure the height distribution would be random so as not to give away any possible clues as to what they might be up to. The unit’s job is to create another layer of deception: “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 around and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious.” Price’s grandson and Shaftoe’s niece, unwittingly paired in the present, are working on a project to create a huge data haven in Southeast Asia when they discover that a sunken submarine may hold the secret of an unbreakable code that is tied in with a massive conspiracy that originated in Detachment 2072. For those who might be interested, there is a great description of how the Enigma machine worked. It was a periodic polyalphabetic system consisting of three – later four – interconnected wheels that embodied cycles within cycles. Three wheels have a period of 17576, i.e., the substitution alphabet that codes the first letter of the message will not appear again until the 17577th cycle. When the Germans added the fourth wheel, the period became 456,976. To use the same substitution letter the message would have to be longer T than 456,976 characters, a virtual uncertainty. The Germans believed their four-wheel Enigma to be undecipherable. Stephenson has a delightful sense of irony that permeates the book. Price, because of his cryptological skills, has the highest security clearance possible: Ultra Mega. The only problem is that it’s such a high security clearance the fact that it exists must be kept secret from everyone except another person with Ultra Mega clearance so he always has to be issued a lower security clearance in order to get into secure areas none of the guards or other officers are permitted to learn about Ultra Mega. Stephenson’s perception of the war is curious. The winner would be the one who succeeded in breaking the other side’s codes and then manipulated his troops’ actions so as not to reveal those codes had been broken. The plots converge on an enormous gold reserve hidden in a mine, and the ciphers hold the key. It’s a great story. Be forewarned, it’s the first of a trilogy. Stephenson has these wonderful little comments throughout the book that bring a broad grin to the face. For example, “See, you are being a little paranoid here and focusing on the negative. It’s not about how women are deficient. It’s more about how men are deficient. Our social deficiencies, lack of perspective, or whatever you want to call it, is what enables us to study one species of dragonfly for twenty years, or sit in front of a computer for a hundred hours a week writing code. This is not the behavior of a well-balanced and healthy person, but it can obviously lead to great advances in synthetic fibers. Or whatever.” Or Randy’s father dumps the contents out on a ping-pong table that inexplicably sits in the center of the rec room at Grandma’s managed care facility, whose residents are about as likely to play pingpong as they are to get their nipples pierced.” Do NOT be intimidated by the length (1000 pages) of this book. It’s loaded with fascinating detail and reads faster than 100 ten-page books.

Michelle

it took me a month to get through this book. amazing, considering my usual speed with the written word, but quite true. this behemoth refused to be devoured in my usual hours-at-a-time fashion, nope. more like very high quality cheesecake, in that it's so rich you can only take a few bites before you need to assimilate.part of the story is about a WWII GI, who happens to be so gung-ho and talented at both completing difficult missions successfully and staying alive at their completion that he gets the dubious honor of being assigned to a squad so top-secret he has no idea what he's doing there. part of the story is about a brilliant but oblivious mathematician (clearly an asperger's syndrome kind of guy) who becomes a codebreaker during the same war. and part of the story is about the computer-programmer grandson of the latter and his infatuation with the tough-as-nails granddaughter of the former. part of it is about codes (both for war messages and for computer programs) and part of it is about war (both physical and digital). all of which makes it sound very dry when it's anything but.Stephenson's typical doses of randomly-applied hilarity are out in full force here. he does an incredible job of painting the world through the individual voices of his characters...and quite often, those guys are thinking very odd things about very odd situations. the hefty book could have been trimmed by, say, 30% if it left out these random observations, sometimes comical, other times simply beautiful examples of what letters can do in the hands of a gifted wordsmith, but then we'd miss out on things like:"a red dragonfly hovers above the backwater of the stream, its wings moving so fast that the eye sees not wings in movement but a probability distribution of where the wings might be, like electron orbitals: a quantum-mechanical effect that maybe explains why the insect can apparently teleport from one place to another, disappearing from one point and reappearing a couple of meters away, without seeming to pass through the space in between. there sure is a lot of bright stuff in the jungle. randy figures that, in the natural world, anything that is colored so brightly must be some kind of serious evolutionary badass."no, i'm not recommending it to everybody. it's long and meandering and insanely technical in many places. but yes, i am gushing about it. it's lovely.

Conrad

My friend Stuart's reading this and I stupidly started spoiling one of the best lines in the book (it pops up as Shaftoe's motto) and he was mildly irritated with me. Fortunately for him, he is vastly smarter than me so while he was quite generously acting annoyed he was probably thinking to himself, "Maybe one day I will spoil math and engineering and the details of Riemann zeta functions for Conrad." Now I'm rereading it out of sympathy and it's even better than I remembered.Anyway, while I haven't yet approached the implosion that I know is coming toward the end, I am really even more impressed at the catholicity of Stephenson's concerns than I was the first time I read the book. He has insightful things to say about information theory, natch, but also Tolkein, postmodern literary criticism (OK, he's a little reactionary about this, but he's also right), the wisdom of joining the Marines, childrearing, Filipino architecture and urban planning, facial hair (can you tell I love Randy's diatribes about Charlene?), Ronald Reagan, the assassination of Yamamoto and associated dilemmas of cryptanalysis, Papuan eating habits, the 90s networking bubble...If you don't like writers who have something interesting to say about everything, I don't know why you read. If it bothers you that Neal Stephenson uses his characters as mouthpieces to voice his well-considered opinions on everything from the prospects of economic growth measured against the likelihood of revolution in the Philippines, for example, to the details of Japanese tunneldigging, then you might as well settle in with your Danielle Steele and be done with it. Stephenson knows a lot about everything, and that's unusual and should be treasured. As a stylist, he's no Hemingway. His stories have beginnings and middles but the ends are usually catastrophically bad. So what? He reveals enough about his subjects that you usually leave his books behind with the feeling that your brain is now fused in a slightly different way. And good for Neal Stephenson, and good for us.

Phil

I'm an English major. I've read a lot of books. This one, is -- hands down -- my favorite modern fiction novel. I've read it twice, recommended it to others, and I'm sure I'll read it again. There is so much to appreciate here.It is a semi-historical adventure, so there's something for fiction and non-fiction fans.The writing is justly verbose at times, and conversationally abrupt at other times. In essence, you find yourself wholly in the minds and bodies of the characters while reading every scene.The literary quality of the writing is top notch. Although, Stephenson's writing is a little easier to appreciate if you're a bit of a geek. There is a lot of mathematical / historical / technological jargon -- and some really fantastic war stories.Multiple timelines multiplied by multiple plot-lines make it a slow and tricky read, but I kind of cherished that. I hate feeling like I've read a good book too fast.If you can stay with it, the way that Stephenson ties up the stories in the end is exciting and brilliant.I think most would agree that this book sets itself apart from Stephenson's other works. I don't expect him to achieve this quality again (in my opinion, he hasn't), but I can always hope.

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.

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....

Alex

Cryptonomicon is one of those plotty books, where things happen and then other things happen, which isn't really a knock: some of the best books ever are plotty. Lookin' at you, The Count of Monte Cristo. But when you write a book about a bunch of stuff happening, it succeeds based on whether all the things that happen feel like part of a whole - whether all the threads come together. Again, Count of Monte Cristo is forever the gold standard for books like this. At their best, these books are tremendous jigsaw puzzles: a successful one is a masterpiece of planning ahead, and authors like Dumas - or George Eliot, whose Middlemarch combines the best of plottiness and the best of character analysis - take your breath away when you realize how carefully they've set up each strand of plot.Cryptonomicon succeeds at this. Stephenson throws a lot of balls in the air; the story spans sixty years, from World War II to the late 90s, and spans the globe from some made-up country near England to the Phillipines, with plenty of stops in between, and he totally pulls it off. It's an impressive feat, and I can't poke a single hole in it. Nice work, Neal!Of course, while insight into human nature isn't necessarily necessary in a plotty book, it helps to have some. Count of Monte Cristo includes some wicked heavy and smart thinking about fate and control; Middlemarch is one of the most psychologically astute books ever written. And Cryptonomicon isn't really a smash success on that front. There are some cool characters, like uber-Marine Bobby Shaftoe, but basically these are just people who do things. And it has to be said that Stephenson appears to have little or no grasp on how women operate. He clearly likes women - this isn't a misogynist book - I'm just not sure he's met very many of them.Which kinda ties into why I didn't totally love this book. It's impressively put together, but it's...well, I was reminded of David Foster Wallace very often; same conversational tone, same exceptional technical intelligence - but Stephenson is - how do I say this? - he's just not very cool. Which I know, you're like "Wait, you're comparing someone's coolness unfavorably to DFW? DFW wasn't exactly the coolest kid on the block, y'know." But he was! He wouldn't have said so, but he totally was cool. Maybe I can say it like this: DFW was a geek; Stephenson is a nerd.So this is a nerd epic. It succeeds at what it wants to be. I enjoyed it. I didn't love it.

Megan Baxter

Reading this book was a lot like riding in a car that steadily picks up speed and then stalls out. I wanted to like it a great deal more than I ended up doing. I would be trucking along, really getting into it, starting to get eager about turning the page and finding out what was going to happen next, and then...some reference to "hairy-legged academic feminists" or the "Ejaculation Control Commission" or "those things women always say to manipulate men" and my enjoyment would come to a screeching halt. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

Donnagha Dulchaointigh

I am half-way through Cryptonomicon, and here are my thoughts so far:1. Where is the storyline? Why no plot? So far, the only moderately compelling story - and this is after 553 pages - is Goto Dengo's accidental encounter with and escape from cannibals on the island of New Guinea. Otherwise, I have been unable to detect a plot anywhere in this book.2. Neal Stephenson has little narrative skill. He does not seem to know how to describe action so that the reader becomes caught up in the plot. But then again, there is no plot in this book.3. Neal Stephenson desperately needs an editor. This book would have been more effective had it been one-fifth the length. E.g., is a four-page dissertation on eating a bowl of Cap'n Crunch really necessary? In Anna Karenina, when Tolstoy spent several pages describing Levin's unsuccessful attempts to keep pace with the serfs in mowing and reaping grain, he made an important, poignant point: that Russian landowners could not physically perform the work of souls they owned. But what is the purpose of Stephenson's verbosity in so many passages throughout this novel? Does the reader gather any insight of real value? Or are these passages just so many words?4. What is the purpose of two separate narratives - one in the 1940s and one in the 1990s? I identify with none of the characters in the 1990s storyline, and this is a fatal flaw of any novel: if the reader cannot identify in any way with the main characters of a story, and especially if the reader neither likes or dislikes any of the main characters - then why read the book?5. I wish that Stephenson would not try so hard to devise cute metaphors and similes. I find them distracting, forced and at at times puerile.6. Stephenson has little narrative skill, and his writing has almost no eloquence. I would rather read a much shorter novel that is well written and that conveys a message, than 1000+ pages of logorrhea.Sorry, I intensely dislike this book. But I intend to finish it, just so that I can tell all who listen how much I detest this book _ and why I find it so ... empty and pointless. After I finish Cryptonomicon, I will return to Gogol, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Melville, Verne, Durrenmatt, Frisch, Kafka, Pushkin, Hawthorne, Joyce, Hugo, Zola, Korolenko, Lu Xun, Yu Hua, Ba Jin, Shen Congwen - in short, writers who actually knew or know how to write ...

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.

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.

Kat Hooper

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is a lengthy historical fiction set during both World War II and the late 1990s with much of the action taking place in the Philippines. In the 1940s, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, colleague of Alan Turing, is hired by the U.S. Navy to help break Axis codes. Meanwhile, Marine Sergeant Bobby Shaftoe, who's too enthusiastic and courageous for his own good, doesn't realize that his troop's job is to make it look like the U.S. hasn't broken the codes, but just happens to always be in the right place at the right time.Waterhouse and Shaftoe know each other only superficially, but their descendants, who've noticeably inherited some of their traits, meet in the 1990s storyline. Randy Lawrence Waterhouse is a systems administrator who's trying to set up an electronic banking system in the Philippines. There he meets Doug and Amy Shaftoe, a father and daughter team who are doing the underwater surveying for Randy's Internet cables. Randy and the Shaftoes eventually realize that they share a secret heritage and together they set out on a massive code-breaking treasure hunt.The plot of Cryptonomicon is clever and elaborate, sometimes exciting (e.g., most scenes with Bobby Shaftoe), frequently funny (such as when Ronald Reagan interviews Bobby Shaftoe, and when the Waterhouse family uses a complicated mathematical algorithm to divide up the family heirlooms), and always informative.Neal Stephenson's fans know (and love) that you can't read one of his books without learning a lot. Predictably, Cryptonomicon is chock full of information. If a character walks past a bank in China, you can bet you're in for a lecture on Chinese banking. If he sees a spider web dripping with dew, you'll be taught how spiders catch their prey. Character backstories are used to teach us about the history of the Jews in Eastern Europe or the familial habits of the Filipinos. In Cryptonomicon there are many pages that think they should be in a textbook on computer circuitry (and some that actually admit they belong in Letters to Penthouse). There are three pages devoted to a doctoral dissertation on facial hair and shaving fetishes, and another three pages of instruction on the proper way to eat Cap'n Crunch.These divergences interrupt the plot and make the book much longer than it needs to be, but you just can't help but forgive Stephenson (or to at least smile and shake your head knowingly as if he has some sort of uncontrollable yet endearing pathology), when you see him poking fun at himself for this very thing. In one scene, Bobby Shaftoe thinks he's in "HELL'S DEMO" when he's forced to listen to someone "explain the organization of the German intelligence hierarchy." Though the lecture causes Shaftoe to hallucinate, the reader still manages to learn something about the Wehrmacht Nachrichten Verbindungen while being thankful to realize that Stephenson knows he has this "issue."It's easy to tell that Neal Stephenson loves to do research and loves to impart the knowledge he's gleaned, or ideas he's thought up, and it's hard to criticize him for this, especially since it's all done in his clever, colorful, and entertaining style, even if it's not always relevant to the plot. And sometimes these infodumps can really set a scene. Here's a very short example:"The Bletchley girls surround him. They have celebrated the end of their shift by applying lipstick. Wartime lipstick is necessarily cobbled together from whatever tailings and gristle were left over once all of the good stuff was used to coat propeller shafts. A florid and cloying scent is needed to conceal its unspeakable mineral and animal origins. It is the smell of War."Stephenson also delights in creating quirky similes:"Like the client of one of your less reputable pufferfish sushi chefs, Randy Waterhouse does not move from his assigned seat for a full ninety minutes..."Though I skimmed a few of Stephenson's longer tangents, I was nevertheless entertained by the clever plot of Cryptonomicon. I read the novel in two formats. One was Subterranean Press's signed limited edition which was printed on thick glossy paper and embellished with new artwork by Patrick Arrasmith, several graphs, and even some perl script. My Advanced Review Copy of this book weighs 4 pounds (and it was only paperback -- the published version is hardback). I also listened to MacMillan's audiobook read by William Dufris. I'm sure Cryptonomicon was not an easy book to read out loud, but Dufris did an amazing job, even actually sounding like Ronald Reagan during the Reagan interview.Cryptonomicon won the Locus Award in 2000 and was nominated for both the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards that year. Pretty big accomplishment for a book that's not even science fiction. For readers who haven't tried one of Neal Stephenson's books yet, Cryptonomicon is a good place to start.

Rob

Though Snow Crash will probably remain my all-time favorite Neal Stephenson novel, Cryptonomicon might take the crown as his best.[†:] As I write this review, I wrapping up my third reading of this novel.BRIEF ASIDE REGARDING THE TIMING OF THIS THIRD READING: It is probably worth noting my mental state when I cracked the spine on this one for the third time. Stephenson's Anathem had just come out and I could not quite bring myself to drop the cash on the hardcover. But I was overwhelmed with the urge to read some Stephenson. Given the the brutalizing that the U.S. economy was taking (according to the news) right about this time, it therefore seemed apropos to read something that involved economics, crypto, currency, libertarianism (and flaws of same), and safety/security.END OF ASIDE AND RETURN TO REVIEW THAT IS REALLY MORE LIKE A BUNCH OF RANDOM DISCONNECTED OBSERVATIONS: Cryptonomicon manages to do a good job of not feeling terribly dated even nine years after its release. The cutting-edge laptops in the narrative still seem pretty fancy; the issues all continue to feel pertinent and relevant; the only thing that seems to set it in a particular time is an off-hand reference to "the Power Rangers" pretty late in the story.Anyway.It holds together well all these years later and is a great exemplar of Stephenson's hyperbolic style and how well he wields that style for explanatory power as well as humor.What Stephenson does masterfully here is to create an interesting story for nerds (esp. crypto nerds) that has a thinly veiled coming-of-age sub-text lathered onto a character that we (at first) don't think needs any maturation.I am talking (of course) about Randy.If you don't figure this out by the time you get to the "Pulse" chapter then you have some explaining to do. We (the readers, the nerds) are thinking that Randy is a grown-up because we (1; as grown-ups) identify with him at the outset and (2) he has all the trappings of a grown-up such as (a) a beard, (b) a girlfriend of 10 years, (c) a business plan, etc. But the Randy we start with is little more than a bearded child running away from his commitments (i.e., his career as a university sysadmin and his relationship with Charlene (though, given the circumstances described in the prose, citing the latter is probably not fair to Randy) to play with his friends (e.g., Avi, Tom Howard) and their toys (e.g., high-tech laptops, GPS receivers). We get the first hint that this late-stage coming-of-age is going on when Randy shaves off his beard to discover a grown-ups face underneath. From there it's a pretty steady sleight-of-hand unfolding through the narrative which is really quite rewarding. (Hence taking the crown as Stephenson's best.)Granted, there's so much more going on in the novel than just Randy; we could also consider Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, Bobby Shaftoe, Goto Dengo, or Enoch Root[‡:]. But Randy is probably the best place to center.------† = At the time of this writing, there is a pretty broad swath of Stephenson unread by Y.T., namely all three in the Baroque Cycle and the brand new Anathem .‡ = Root in particular fascinates me because (if what I've heard is true an he does in fact appear in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle) he seems to share a few traits in common with Tolkien's Gandalf (doubly interesting because Stephenson's Randy calls Root a "Wizard" in the Tolkien sense), Weis/Hickman's Fizban, Arthur Miller's "Old Jew", etc. I'm thinking that there is a whole taxonomy of characters to explore here of which Root is one.------See also:• 10 Science Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Actually Read Them) at io9

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