by Neal Stephenson

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Bouncing between World War II and the World Wide Web, Cryptonomicon follows the exploits of Lawrence Waterhouse, a young mathematical genius and cryptanalyst. Waterhouse is assigned to Detachment 2702, a highly secret Allied outfit attempting to crack the Nazi Enigma code without the enemy's knowledge. Fast forward to the present, where Waterhouse's grandson Randy stumbles upon a massive conspiracy rooted in his grandfather's original work — a conspiracy that represents the path to a future of ultimate freedom or universal totalitarianism. "[Stephenson] is the hottest science fiction writer in America." — Bruce Sterling, Details

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060512804
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/05/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 1168
Sales rank: 59,070
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 2.92(d)

About the Author

Neal Stephenson is the bestselling author of the novels Reamde, Anathem, The System of the World, The Confusion, Quicksilver, Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac, and the groundbreaking nonfiction work In the Beginning . . . Was the Command Line. He lives in Seattle, Washington.


Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 31, 1959

Place of Birth:

Fort Meade, Maryland


B.A., Boston University, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Let's set the existence-of-God issues aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate. After about three billion years of this sometimes zany, frequently tedious fugue of carnality and carnage, Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse. Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo-which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.

As nightmarishly lethal, memetically programmed death-machines went, these were the nicest you could ever hope to meet. In the tradition of his namesake (the Puritan writer John Bunyan, who spent much of his life in jail, or trying to avoid it) the Rev. Waterhouse did not preach in any one place for long. The church moved him from one small town in the Dakotas to another every year or two. It is possible that Godfreyfound the lifestyle more than a little alienating, for, sometime during the course of his studies at Fargo Congregational College, he bolted from the fold and, to the enduring agony of his parents, fell into worldy pursuits, and ended up, somehow, getting a Ph.D. in Classics from a small private university in Ohio. Academics being no less nomadic than Congregational preachers, he took work where he could find it. He became a Professor of Greek and Latin at Bolger Christian College (enrollment 322) in West Point, Virginia, where the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers came together to form the estuarial. James, and the loathsome fumes of the big paper mill permeated every drawer, every closet, even the interior pages of books. Godfrey's young bride, nee Alice Pritchard, who had grown up following her itinerant-preacher father across the vastnesses of eastern Montana-where air smelt of snow and sage threw up for three months. Six months later she gave birth to Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse.

The boy had a peculiar relationship with sound. When a fire engine passed, he was not troubled by the siren's howl or the bell's clang. But when a hornet got into the house and swung across the ceiling in a broad Lissajous, droning almost inaudibly, he cried in pain at the noise. And if he saw or smelled something that scared him, he would clap his hands over his ears.

One noise that troubled him not at all was the pipe organ in the chapel at Bolger Christian College. The chapel itself was nothing worth mentioning, but the organ had been endowed by the paper mill family and would have sufficed for a church four times the size. It nicely complemented the organist, a retired high school math teacher who felt that certain attributes of the Lord (violence and capriciousness in the Old Testament, majesty and triumph in the New) could be directly conveyed into the souls of the enpewed sinners through a kind of frontal sonic impregnation. That he ran the risk of blowing out the stained-glass windows was of no consequence since no one liked them anyway, and the paper mill fumes were gnawing at the interstitial lead. But after one little old lady too many staggered down the aisle after a service, reeling from tinnitus, and made a barbed comment to the minister about the exceedingly dramatic music, the organist was replaced.

Nevertheless, he continued to give lessons on the instrument. Students were not allowed to touch the organ until they were proficient at the piano, and when this was explained to Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, he taught himself, in three weeks, how to play a Bach fugue, and signed up for organ lessons. Since he was only five years old at the time, he was unable to reach both the manuals and the pedals, and had to play standing-or rather strolling, from pedal to pedal.

When Lawrence was twelve, the organ broke down. That paper mill family had not left any endowment for maintenance, so the math teacher decided to have a crack at it. He was in poor health and required a nimble assistant: Lawrence, who helped him open up the hood of the thing. For the first time in all those years, the boy saw what had been happening when he had been pressing those keys.

For each stop-each timbre, or type of sound, that the organ could make (viz. blockflöte, trumpet, piccolo)-there was a separate row of pipes, arranged in a line from long to short. Long pipes made low notes, short high. The tops of the pipes defined a graph: not a straight line but an upward-tending curve. The organist/math teacher sat down with a few loose pipes, a pencil, and paper, and helped Lawrence figure out why. When Lawrence understood, it was as if the math teacher had suddenly played the good part of Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor on a pipe organ the size of the Spiral Nebula in Andromeda-the part where Uncle Johann dissects the architecture of the Universe in one merciless descending ever-mutating chord, as if his foot is thrusting through skidding layers of garbage until it finally strikes bedrock. In particular, the final steps of the organist's explanation were like a falcon's dive through layer after layer of pretense and illusion, thrilling or sickening or confusing depending on what you were. The heavens were riven open. Lawrence glimpsed choirs of angels ranking off into geometrical infinity.

The pipes sprouted in parallel ranks from a broad flat box of compressed air. All of the pipes for a given note-but belonging to different stops-lined up with each other along one axis. All of the pipes for a given stop-but tuned at different pitches-lined up with each other along the other, perpendicular axis. Down there in the flat box of air, then, was a mechanism that got air to the right pipes at the right times. When a key or pedal was depressed, all of the pipes capable of sounding the corresponding note would speak, as long as their stops were pulled out.

Mechanically, all of this was handled in a fashion that was perfectly clear, simple, and logical. Lawrence had supposed that the machine must be at least as complicated as the most intricate fugue that could be played on it. Now he had learned that a machine, simple in its design, could produce results of infinite complexity.

Stops were rarely used alone. They tended to be piled on top of each other in combinations that were designed to take advantage of the available harmonics (more tasty mathematics here!). Certain combinations in particular were used over and over again. Lots of blockflötes, in varying lengths, for the quiet Offertory, for example. The organ included an ingenious mechanism called the preset, which enabled the organist to select a particular combination of stops-stops he himself had chosen-instantly. He would punch a button and several stops would bolt out from the console, driven by pneumatic pressure, and in that instant the organ would become a different instrument with entirely new timbres.

The next summer both Lawrence and Alice, his mother, were colonized by a distant cousin-a stupendous badass of a virus. Lawrence escaped from it with an almost imperceptible tendency to drag one of his feet. Alice wound up in an iron lung. Later, unable to cough effectively, she got pneumonia and died.

Lawrence's father Godfrey freely confessed that he was not...

Cryptonomicon. Copyright © by Neal Stephenson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Interviews Given that your novel is 928 pages long and extremely complex, it's not easy to briefly summarize. But if you were being held up at gunpoint, and your life depended on giving a two-to-three sentence description of Cryptonomicon, what would you say?
Neal Stephenson: My first sentence would be that Cryptonomicon is meant to be a good yarn, because I believe that if a novel doesn't work on the good yarn level, then it won't work on any other level either. Then I would try to explain why I think crypto is interesting and relevant. So sentence two would probably be used to point out how crypto played a major role in winning the Second World War and how it is of great importance today for anyone who needs to keep secrets from powerful entities such as governments. But that would seem a bit too simplistic to me, and so in sentence three I would try to explain the importance of crypto on some deeper artistic level, and with any luck my interrogator would either wander off to find a copy of my book, or fall asleep long enough for me to make my escape.

bn: What is that thing on the cover, anyway? And why is it there?
NS: It is an alchemical symbol for gold. Gold ends up being pretty important in this book. If we tried to come up with a single cover illustration that depicted every character, setting, and event in the book, it would end up looking like a Where's Waldo? poster, so we decided to go with simplicity.

bn: The science -- or is it an art? -- of cryptography plays an extremely important role in this novel. Where did you research the codes that play a part in this story?
NS: Cryptography -- the invention of new cryptosystems -- is definitely a science. People who go about it artistically are likely to get their lunches eaten. Cryptanalysis -- breaking into someone else's cryptosystem -- seems to be more artistic. At least that was the case during World War II, when it was done with pencil and paper, and cryptanalysts relied heavily on a kind of sub-rational approach. I have some old U.S. military crypto manuals on my shelf here, and they state explicitly that it's no good trying to do this sort of work rationally, that all the important breaks come as sudden, unexplainable flashes of insight. It is pretty high-flown stuff for an old military manual.
Cryptonomicon has two storylines, one set during World War II and one set during the present day. The crypto world changed enormously during that span of time. For researching the codes of the 1940s, it was easy enough to consult literature such as Andrew Hodges's Alan Turing: The Enigma and David Kahn's book The Codebreakers. Researching modern-day crypto is almost hopeless because the field changes too fast. Fortunately I got to know Bruce Schneier, a crypto expert and author of Applied Cryptography. He and I came up with the idea of incorporating a new, original cryptosystem that he has invented, called Solitaire, into the actual text of the book. The novel has a technical appendix written by Bruce that explains how the system works. Crypto changes so fast that this was the only way I could think of to include modern-day crypto content that would not be obsolete by the time the book was published.

bn: Cryptonomicon seems to suggest that in the future, cryptography may be one of the main tools or weapons used in global power struggles. To what extent is this a fictional device?
NS: No extent whatsoever, because it has already happened in World War II. It is a bit difficult for many of us to appreciate just how important crypto was in that war. I think that this is partly because the breaking of the Enigma code was not made public until 1974, after most of the Baby Boom had already gone through its formal education, and so the books that we read when we were in school never mentioned it. We learned about Patton and Rommel, the Battle of Stalingrad, the development of the atomic bomb, and U-Boats, but never a word about crypto. Now that the secret is finally out, we're in an era when nobody learns any history at all, and so the Enigma story has largely been buried.
In the future, the circumstances may not be quite as dramatic as they were in World War II. But the Internet and other technologies can give a lot of power to certain organizations, such as governments and corporations, that have been known to behave malevolently. Crypto is a defensive weapon that everyone who uses the Internet should know something about.

bn: How was the experience of writing this novel different from the experiences of writing Zodiac, Snow Crash, and The Diamond Age? What do you feel you have learned about writing fiction over the course of these four novels?
NS: I guess like one of those World War II cryptanalysts, I've come to accept that in writing a novel, most of the good stuff happens in some nonrational, preverbal way, and that there's no point in fighting it.

bn: We hear that Cryptonomicon is the first of three related novels that you are working on. Can you give us any hints about where the story will go from here?
NS: It might be three. The number isn't fixed. But I can tell you that it's going to start out by going backwards. The next one to be published takes place farther in the past.

bn: What's your favorite color?
NS: I'm sort of fascinated by '50s colors right now -- not the bright colors used in interior decorating but the stuff that they picked out when they wanted something to be unobtrusive, like an IBM card reader or a piece of lab equipment. I guess that means metallic, industrial grays. But now, if you want to make something unobtrusive, you make it a sort of off-white. What causes our definition of "unobtrusive" to change with time, I wonder?

bn: How do you really feel about Captain Crunch breakfast cereal? (Note from the interviewer: If you are wondering why we asked Neal this question, it's a fair bet that you haven't yet read Cryptonomicon.)
NS: Before I dig into the bowl, I feel animal craving. After I'm finished, I feel ashamed. While I'm eating it, I feel generally happy, but with a continual nagging sense of anxiety that the cereal in the bottom is going to get mushy before I can reach it.

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Cryptonomicon 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 339 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that never seems to end, and when it finally does, you wish it would go on forever. The writing of Neal Stephenson is absolutely second to none. It is intelligent, dense, and full of metaphors that make one laugh out loud. It also traverses multiple timelines in a compelling fashion. The characters are unforgettable -- similar to those found in Catch-22, these characters will be with me forever. If you are into straightforward plots, do not like tangential meanderings about the mathematics behind one's sexual drive, and are not at all interested in technology, then this book is definitely not for you. If you love history, technology, scientific writing, and sheer quirkiness, this book is a must read! Just give yourself about a month to get through it -- it is not a fast read by any stretch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first Neal Stephenson book, but it definitely won't be my last! He combines nerd-level mathmatics and cryptography with a Catch-22-like military pseudo-history and throws in some treasure hunting and philosophy/theology for good measure. And where else are you going to get a step-by-step instruction manual on how to best enjoy your Cap'n Crunch?
harstan More than 1 year ago

In 1942, the US Navy assigns Captain Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse to Detachment 2702 in Bletchley Park, England, home of the Allies cryptography team. The Axis¿ codes have been previously broken. Thus, the job of this top-secret team is to keep the Nazis in the dark that the Allies know the deepest military secrets of Germany and Japan and use the information to maximize the war effort. Heading up the effort is US Marine Bobby Shaftoe.

In the present time, Lawrence¿s grandson Randy Waterhouse has inherited the family¿s brilliant math gene. Using computers, he, like his grandfather is a cryptographic expert. Working in Southeast Asia, Randy is developing an encrypted massive data warehouse to keep out corporate and government spies. Randy works with Bobby¿s granddaughter Amy. However, as the present ties back to the past, everyone wants to either steal or shut down the efforts of Randy and Amy.

The mind-boggling CRYPTONOMICON shows why Neal Stephenson is both a New York Times best selling author and a cult hero. The story line is actually two major plots that fully tie together in spite of the fifty plus years' difference. The charcaters feel genuine and the audience will root for Randy to best his opponents. However, this opus belongs to cryptography, which takes on an identity of its own. Although the depth of detail might turn off some readers, as at times it becomes difficult for those of us who think math is a second language to fully understand the coding provided by Mr. Stephenson, the fabulous novel remains fast-paced and exciting. Readers will devour the tale, codes and all. Set aside several days and enjoy the best cryptographic-based tale since Poe¿s Gold Bug introduced the concept to literature.

Harriet Klausner

Mark Kit More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. Excellent presentation of math concepts and elements of information theory in an unbelievably intresting manner. Science wrapped into a thriller. History is presented with astonishing mastery as well. From this book I learned a lot about the war in Pacific - subject almost untouced where I came from (Russia).The flavor of 1990th on the West coast is another point I cannot omit. I lived in Seattle then and Cryptonomicon seemed to take me there once again- with a hint of nostalgia. A bit envy to those who open this mazterpiece for the first time...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are like me you may be weary of the 1,000+ page count, but i found myself wishing it was 2,000! Incredibly smart and entertaining
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book 3 times now, and it actually gets better each time I read it. Terrific plotting, great informative detail, and a great sense of humor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not finish it. After 375 grueling pages i finally gave up without having a clear picture of where the story was heading and how the parallel events of the past and present could eventually relate to each other. Just wasted a few bucks. Cut my losses and move on to the next one. But before i leave i have to say this. I am an avid reader and purchased numerous books in the last year. Some books are so absorbing that i could not put them down. This book almost sucked every desire i might of had of ever reading again. I just hope i can again find the joy in immersing myself in a good story.
LittleKellyGoose More than 1 year ago
"This is one of those books that never seems to end, and when it finally does, you wish it would go on forever"  RIGHT ON THE MONEY!
Roonabeck More than 1 year ago
I read this when it first came out, and loved it. I suspect you need to be somewhat of a geek or techie to appreciate it, though.
jbu More than 1 year ago
I loved this book - I especially appreciate that Stephenson himself seemed to enjoy the math of cryptography, and it added to the story - not a distraction at all. Don't be worried about the size of this book. The pages will fly by and you'll wish there were more.
kamas716 More than 1 year ago
Told in two timelines, which happen to be interconnected, this book seemed more like two different books thrown together. However, both stories are told at a breakneck pace and are extremely interesting.
doc_rock More than 1 year ago
this quote should answer the question, "should I read this book?" The room contains a few dozen living human bodies, each one a big sack of guts and fluids so highly compressed that it will squirt for a few yards when pierced. Each one is built around an armature of 206 bones connected to each other by notoriously fault-prone joints that are given to obnoxious creaking, grinding, and popping noises when they are in other than pristine condition. This structure is draped with throbbing steak, inflated with clenching air sacks, and pierced by a Gordian sewer filled with burbling acid and compressed gas and asquirt with vile enzymes and solvents produced by the many dark, gamy nuggets of genetically programmed meat strung along its length. Slugs of dissolving food are forced down this sloppy labyrinth by serialized convulsions, decaying into gas, liquid, and solid matter which must all be regularly vented to the outside world lest the owner go toxic and drop dead. Spherical, gel-packed cameras swivel in mucus-greased ball joints. Infinite phalanxes of cilia beat back invading particles, encapsulate them in goo for later disposal. In each body a centrally located muscle flails away at an eternal, circulating torrent of pressurized gravy. And yet, despite all of this, not one of these bodies makes a single sound at any time during the sultan's speech. It is a marvel that can only be explained by the power of brain over body, and, in turn, by the power of cultural conditioning over the brain.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't know who the heck this guy is. I have always hated the whole Hollywood-esque 'it's-O'Henry-meets-Stephen-King' type of description, but it's kind of appropo here because I don't know how else to verbalize the obtuse collection of thoughts, apparent influences, topics, characters, and so forth that Stephenson calls upon to tell this amazing story. So, here goes: It's like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. meets Hunter S. Thompson meets Richard Feynman meets Mother Goose, among so many others. I have never seen science, math, history, and literature crash together and erupt into such a beautiful mushroom cloud. I have gone from amazement at his knowledge to being curled up into the fetal position in fits of hysterical laughter and back to sheer awe as I have gotten to know each of his characters and adore them. Even the ones who are miserable human beings. A colleague turned me on to the book, and I don't know whether I should be more grateful to him for that or to Stephenson for writing it. I'm not done with the book yet, so one might decide that my review is a bit premature, but this book is so good that even if the ending sucks it still will have been well worth reading. I can't wait to start in on the Baroque cycle.
AppleBird on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wacky, wonderful, thought provoking, overwhelming at times, and very funny.Stephenson can even describe a non-disclosure agreement such that it is funny...
kkisser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books you have to just let unfold and enjoy, letting it carry you along (and not just because it's over 900 pages long). The lengthy digressions about cryptology (complete with equations) and history and math and well, everything. It's a brilliant book, the sort of thing that takes over your brain and camps out in your dreams for the days and weeks you'll spend reading it. And that is a good thing! By the end, Stephenson had me convinced that the Allies won WWII, not through superior tactics and firepower, but through superior math.
kaipakartik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first book of Neal Stephenson's that I picked up was Anathem and I found that to be really tough going. This one though turned out to be a totally different beast( and a beast it is, at around 1100 pages). I was hooked in the first 100 pages(although admittedly it took me really long to finish)Cryptonomicon connects two story lines one based in World war 2 and the other in 1990s internet era and they are connected by some strange family coincidences.There is a lot of math and computer science going on here and Neal Stephenson does an admirable job of explaining it all. This is a geek novel if ever there was one with the most developed character being a fantasy card playing, slightly round around the paunches unix loving geek.The novel is very detailed in everything that it does and Stephenson takes great pains to explain everything that is being talked about and even goes so far as to provide equations. Heck there is a perl script thrown in with the actual text and the appendix contains a treatise on Solitaire by Bruce Schneider of all people.This being a world war novel, Stephenson takes it into his hands to talk about the various cultures the novel is based in from Germany to Philippines to Japan(which he refers to as Nippon). In fact Nippon and Germany are disparaged and dealt with a tad harshly but then again the most heroic characters turn out to be a German and Nip so its certainly a weird mix,One thing though that clearly comes through is the fact that Stephenson clearly loves to write about Crypto and the world war.
TheoClarke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A broad sweep through over sixty years of cryptography in a thriller that examines the effects of warfare and the commercial opportunities in modern communications. The narrative flickers between the Second World War and the late 20th century while shifting its from the personal to the geopolitical. Stephenson offers an engaging account of technical detail and rich psychological profiles of his characters. A masterpiece.
susanlgreen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Took most of the summer to read, not smart enough for this story. Learned 3 things:1. When trying to fairly share a deceased love ones possessions among family members, use an x and a y component, one being the actual monetary value, the other being the emotional or special value to the individual2. The idea of a Nerd-vana, a bazaar for computer nerds which would appeal to both the array of computer gadgets, but also the physical space necessary for a pleasant and private experience3. That by moving one stone or rock from the side of a stream or river, the sound of the moving water will change to the trained ear.
michaeleconomy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stephenson is like a real geeky tom clancy
pauliharman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Long, but worth it in the end. Interesting blend of fact and fiction, comparing a fictional present day with World War II.
skraft001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A long book at 928 pages that is densely written. The story lines do move along pretty well for the most part with some exciting sections where several plot lines were all hitting their stride. Overall quite a satisfying read.
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neal Stephenson¿s massive, eclectic, fascinating and occasionally hilarious Cryptonomicon defies categories (and editing). It¿s a wide-ranging and exciting historical novel that also manages to be an ur-text for techies and geeks. Briefly ¿ although where Stephenson is concerned, that¿s a relative concept ¿ Cryptonomicon traces the history of three generations of two very different but equally representative American families: the math-n-engineering-focused Waterhouses, and the hardy and adventurous warrior Shaftoes. Lawrence Waterhouse and Bobby Shaftoe play key roles at many junctures and on several fronts in WWII, and their grandchildren Randy and Amy meet up in a very modern business-technology venture. The book¿s title is nod to the Waterhouse clan¿s gift for cryptography, with Lawrence both creating and breaking codes with the help of novelized historical figures such as Alan Turing, and Randy leveraging his crypto skilz to protect ¿ and gain ¿ secret knowledge that¿s vital to increasing his company¿s value for its shareholders.All this sounds immensely dull, but Cryptonomicon is anything but. It¿s sometimes uneven, and its ending is perhaps a bit rushed (endings are Stephenson¿s bête noire) but this book is loaded with memorable characters, scenes and tasty historical tidbits. It¿s also the pre-sequel (written before but set historically later) to Stephenson¿s monumental Baroque Cycle (those who have read that work will already have recognized the Shaftoe and Waterhouse names). How does one select and present a microcosm of Stephenson¿s genius? Well, there is a well-known scene in this book in which Randy Waterhouse eats a bowl of Cap¿n Crunch breakfast cereal ¿ and nothing else happens. It goes on for pages, and it¿s one of the more riveting sequences you will ever read.Highly recommended.
AramisSciant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Long but excellent read that combines a historical novel with fantastic science fiction about espionage and cryptography. Though a bit technical at times, it never stopped being absolutely fascinating.
celephicus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although this is very much a historical novel, it is written by an author known for his science fiction (SF). Thus, it is stocked by SF bookshops, shelved under SF in libraries, reviewed by SF reviewers, etc (you can probably see where this is going). The actual SF content is fairly minor. The characters are all competent or brilliant. They also seem to have no inner life, no self-doubt, they just seem to exist to propel the action forward. And there is plenty of that, and plenty of ideas.Laurence W.'s teen idea of sex (often with just himself) is childish in the extreme, and backs up my case that Crypto... is a novel for SF readers, who are emotionally (if not always actually) 15 y.o. males.I also think that the author's grasp of history is, well, a bit shallow. He has read a lot of popular history books, but has he read them well enough to synthesise a new view of history? His history is fairly conventional. Great things happen because great (exceptional) people make them happen. Stephenson has often been compared with Thomas Pynchon's early work, say up to Gravity's Rainbow). How does Pynchon view the forces of history? Something vast and unfathomable, ineffable even (look it up). The characters in GR are pushed by the new power structures gelling at the end of WW2 whose culmination was the building of the rocket, which ushered in the cold war, ICBMs, etc. One character, Slouthrop, rebelled against these forces, and his character is dismantled by these forces, his wave function diffusing, becoming nearly zero at all points in space. At the end of the novel, the flow of time stops altogether. At least it finished properly, and instant prolongs to infinity.Crypto... just seems to speed up when the author realises that he had better finish up.And why title it with a name that recalls Lovecraft's Necronomicon, a book that if read causes madness, if not the summoning of alien evil from far dimensions. The book in Crypto.. is just a crypto manual, whose worst side-effect is somnia (antonym of insomnia).
wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in a only slightly alternative (but even more paranoid and corrupt) version of reality, a story set mostly in WW2 Pacific rim and more or less present day. Mainly about codes, making breaking and using but also a war story. Includes some real people as minor characters and a few family generational chains. I got a bit confused in the beginning with the Waterhouses and Shaftoes but soon got the hang of it. Occasional blasts of cryptography that can be easily skipped. I am not usually good at long books but it managed to keep my interest through most of its nine hundred pages.A cut above the average.