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Cryptonomicon [Kindle Edition]

Neal Stephenson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,136 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $8.99
Kindle Price: $4.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty...or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, Cryptonomicon is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought and creative daring; the product of a truly iconoclastic imagination working with white-hot intensity.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Neal Stephenson enjoys cult status among science fiction fans and techie types thanks to Snow Crash, which so completely redefined conventional notions of the high-tech future that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if his cyberpunk classic was big, Cryptonomicon is huge... gargantuan... massive, not just in size (a hefty 918 pages including appendices) but in scope and appeal. It's the hip, readable heir to Gravity's Rainbow and the Illuminatus trilogy. And it's only the first of a proposed series--for more information, read our interview with Stephenson.

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.

Cryptonomicon is vintage Stephenson from start to finish: short on plot, but long on detail so precise it's exhausting. Every page has a math problem, a quotable in-joke, an amazing idea, or a bit of sharp prose. Cryptonomicon is also packed with truly weird characters, funky tech, and crypto--all the crypto you'll ever need, in fact, not to mention all the computer jargon of the moment. A word to the wise: if you read this book in one sitting, you may die of information overload (and starvation). --Therese Littleton

From Library Journal

Computer expert Randy Waterhouse spearheads a movement to create a safe haven for data in a world where information equals power and big business and government seek to control the flow of knowledge. His ambitions collide with a top-secret conspiracy with links to the encryption wars of World War II and his grandfather's work in preventing the Nazis from discovering that the Allies had cracked their supposedly unbreakable Enigma code. The author of Snow Crash (LJ 4/1/92) focuses his eclectic vision on a story of epic proportions, encompassing both the beginnings of information technology in the 1940s and the blossoming of the present cybertech revolution. Stephenson's freewheeling prose and ironic voice lend a sense of familiarity to a story that transcends the genre and demands a wide readership among fans of technothrillers as well as a general audience. Highly recommended.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2122 KB
  • Print Length: 1168 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0380788624
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (March 17, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC11A6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,175 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Cyberpunk Fans April 29, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Neal Stephenson's latest book, Cryptonomicon, will appeal to a wider fan base that his previous novels. Having read all of Stephenson's previous novels (with the exception of the elusive The Big U) I was surprised to find this book lacking in ultra-futuristic technology, and presented as more of a straight war story/business suspense novel. As usual, Stephenson's character development and prose is amazing, and if you work in high-tech or mathematics you will instantly realize how well Stephenson knows the personalities of these people. As with Snow Crash, the book takes a while to get up to speed, but once it does you'll find yourself not wanting to put it down. As other reviewers have mentioned, there are many potentionally confusing plot twists, so the reader must pay close attention at times or risk getting lost. Stephenson also gives a thorough grounding in the mathematics of cryptography, although the pages of formulas and explanations can thankfully be skimmed by the mathematically-challenged (like myself) without losing the story. The book also doesn't fall apart towards the end as many thought Snow Crash did - in fact, at one point you will smack your forehead when you realize how everything fits together, and you can't wait to see how it ends. Overall, an excellent read.
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277 of 299 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hacker's delight - others will enjoy it too February 15, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Stephenson's writing style is unique: flippant, indulgent and fun. He doesn't mind pausing for 2 or even 5 pages to set up the perfect metaphor. You won't see a highly delinieated plot but a playful flow from scene to scene through the book. I found the characters interesting, the story worthwhile, and the writing amazing.
I love it whole heartedly, but I'm a Computer Scientist. I understand the programs, the math, and the cryptography which comes up from time to time. People totally unfamiliar with it will find these sections boring, possibly pompous. I think you can skip over these without losing the story.
Even though the writing style is usually light-hearted, Stephenson does tackle big topics. A major focus is on the role of money in a society. He also looks at anticipation being more enjoyable than the actual event, especially in relationships.
If you're a hacker - buy it without thought. If you're not a hacker - stop by a brick-and-mortar store, read a few pages, and, if you like what you see, take a chance. Truly, I can't think of a book I enjoyed more. Besides, if you read it you'll find out what the phrase "the most cigarettes" means. :)
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165 of 179 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read. . . August 7, 2002
By Nathan
Format:Hardcover
Going in to CRYPTONOMICON, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I'd never read anything by Neal Stephenson, nor had I read any blurbs or reviews of the book. However, it had appeared on enough "Best Book" lists that I decided to give it a try. And boy am I glad I did.
This novel is fun, huge, funny, rambling, witty, and sprawling. It is clever, engaging, and well-paced. It is full of quirky, eccentric, immensely likeable characters, crazy, interesting ideas, and amusing, often hilarious, looks at various situations including, but not limited to, mathematics, life, how to eat Cap'n Crunch properly, the purpose of beards, and well, just about anything else you can think of. Obviously, then, this book is not for everyone. Those who like tight, meticulously pared-down straightforward stories may not be able to get into this one.
For me, though, as you may have guessed from the title of the review, this book was an absolute joy to read. The books chapters cycled between four main characters, and every time I finished a chapter I found myself in an awkward position: I didn't want to go on, because I wanted to keep reading about the character I'd been following. However, by the end of the first paragraph of the next chapter, I'd be feeling the same way about the next character in the cycle. It was an odd feeling, and a tribute to the skill with which Stephenson created these characters that each of them was so completely engaging.
In addition to the main characters, the settings and situations were vivid and well-drawn. Despite this books immensity and its tendency to ramble at length about inanity, it never got boring, and always retained its charm. Stephenson provides us with a very amusing outlook on life.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just finished the book - and while reading it, I recommended it to many others because I was enjoying it so much. I kept telling people "I'm reading the coolest book - you have to read it, too!" Very well written. Moves at an incredible pace, the dialogue is believable, and of course the excursions into math, cryptology, engineering, computers, eating Captain Crunch so it doesn't lacerate the roof of your mouth, and all those incredible observations about society/culture/whatever-is-in-front-of-them that only engineers and sceintists can make are the icing on what would be an incredibly well-written tale even without all that stuff.
What makes the book so excellent, though, is the believable story and the believable characters. I found that I liked all of them because they were so real - I even cared about the bad guys. Still want them to lose, of course, but as a *reader*, I cared about them, and that's what keeps driving a reader on through a story.
It's certainly a book that requires some commitment - it is very long, but I tell you, after hitting page 800, I was depressed, knowing that I had only another 110 pages of this joyful reading ahead of me. How many books have done that to you lately? In the last ten years? I read hundreds of books each year, most of them I can bring myself to enjoy even if they aren't great literature, but it is rare that I am so much enjoying a book that I begin to question if I should slow down, just so I can savor the enjoyment longer - and I did that a lot with this book.
Stephenson has a way with words that will leave you breathless and in awe at his skill at writing. His metaphors are brilliant, sometimes hilarious.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This book is a roller coaster ride of adventure. Stevenson has huge breadth of knowledge, a great turn of phrase, and a sense of humor. Read more
Published 10 hours ago by Katherine J. Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Masterpiece of Science Fiction
The start was difficult to read, but Neal Stephenson weaves together a masterpiece spanning time and space, hate and love, war and peace.
Published 14 hours ago by caroline
5.0 out of 5 stars What can I Say?
Difficult to describe- impossible to put down.
Published 3 days ago by pbird
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique
Unique style, plot characters, etc.. One of those that if you're patient & get into it.....you can't put it down
Published 4 days ago by wbmoist
3.0 out of 5 stars Wordy but very interesting story
A friend gave me this book telling me how spectacular it is. How well Stephenson dives into computers and hacking and cryptoanalysis. Read more
Published 15 days ago by ava04
5.0 out of 5 stars Computers, Codes, and Combat..what's not to like?
Great read of science/computing/math action thriller. I'm sure it's still a good story without following the algorithms and history of computing, but, maybe because Archie is a... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Archie
5.0 out of 5 stars So long
This book takes a long time to finish, but it was worth it. The length of the book is just part of it though since I also had to pause a lot. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Dell-Coriss
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must read"!
Thick as a brick, but doesn't feel like it when reading. Impressive story, characters that you feel for and wonderful use to the english language. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Rasmuss Graaf
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely first class book!
This is probably the best book of its class that I have ever read. I started to write "science fiction book" but it is really much more than that. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Stephen
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an insanely good book. The way Neal Stephenson weaves...
This is an insanely good book.
The way Neal Stephenson weaves characters, plots, science and a fair amount of historical realism is incredible. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known for his speculative fiction works, which have been variously categorized science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.
Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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