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Cryptonomicon Mass Market Paperback – November 5, 2002
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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More About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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. :)
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just fantastic, and also educational of you are a crypto fan, or want to be.Published 3 days ago by Scott Simmer
This book is the usual Neal Stephenson. Lots of information to digest, but it goes down smooth. The resolution left a little to be desired. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Thirschty
Truly...where to begin? Neal Stephenson is brilliant, and I don't toss around that moniker lightly. He weaves MANY storylines and seemingly endless characters abound. Read morePublished 7 days ago by L. A. Veronie II
I found this book in my library. After reading it, I just had to buy it for myself. Stephenson is a tremendous story teller. Read morePublished 9 days ago by PhilG
I couldn't get into this novel, for all its fame and acclaim.
The book came off to me, right from the start, as awkward and aimless. Read more
If a work of literature could be subjected to a medical diagnosis, schizophrenia would be my sentence. “Cryptonomicon” is definitely sick. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Dmitri Poletaev, author of SF/Historical thrillers
Neal Stephenson is one of the best science fiction writers since Robert Heinlein's passing.Published 21 days ago by L. Ritchey