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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Thoroughly engaging and entertaining throughout. Smart, funny, touching, harsh. This book is complex and fascinating and even at 910 pages it goes by like a breeze. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Justin Smith
Started a bit slow but boy did it pick up. The writing and research done is amazingPublished 3 days ago by Wayne Ysaguirre
Challenging to follow the different story lines placed throughout time, but overall an excellent read.Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
Amazing book. You'll think you've taken a college course (or several) by the time you're done.Published 5 days ago by Daniel Dadmun
People who liked The Imitation Game and are old enough to remember the 20th century -- don't bother with those mental exercises that are supposed to prevent Alzheimer's, just read... Read morePublished 6 days ago by L. Moore
Checked the plot online to see if I was missing a stupendous change in plot, action, or characters. I wasn't. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Thor Dehr
In reading this novel now, 5-8 years later. Loved it the first time.Published 8 days ago by F. P. Sylvia
There is a lot to like about this book: the complex plot, the well-drawn characters, and an interesting introduction to the world of cryptoanalysis. I might read it a second time.Published 11 days ago by Lillian
Big baroque cycles from massive novels grow. This book is the seed pod carrying the dna for all Stephenson's subsequent multi-dimensional epochs. Just yummy! Read morePublished 13 days ago by avid