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 Watrehouse and Detatchment 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 grandaughter, 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.
©1999 Neil Stephenson (P)2009 Macmillan Audio
I used to be sorta blind. But now I can sorta see. (Bill Callahan)
I loved this book.
Sure, it was massive. And I take what the other reviewers said about there being unneccessary diversions though the book.
But the fact is that, despite its size, I didn't want it to finish. I love Neal Stephenson's style. He can capture a complicated mesh of emotions with a single sentence- sometimes a single word. His writing style is loose and very very funny. The story itself rambles around in a massively entertaining meander through the decades- but it gets you there in its own good time.
I disagree with comments that it's so full of technical jargon that you need to have a degree, an anorac, or a specialist knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons esoterica to get it. All the technical stuff is explained for non-technical folks like me, and it's nearly always very daft, and very funny.
It being funny and daft doesn't mean that it is without a moral compass. There is a strong 'under-story' that will, at times, capture your heart by creeping up while you're not expecting it, and getting in there by stealth. Neal S's writing style makes this happen seamlessly.
A word for the narrator. He pulled the story along with a slick and beatifully timed delivery. Good at accents, so you know who's saying what. It's an understated delivery, but it's exactly how it should be. He presents the words without imposing himself onto them.
However: This is not a life-changing book. It is enlightening, but never profound. It is a book that will entertain you rather than tranform you. You may think that 42hours (or 900+ pages) is too much of an undertaking merely to be entertained. I'd argue that you'll know whether you like it or not within the first hour of reading it- so the commitment is only until then. By the time Bobby Shafto and his team have knocked over the money carriers you should have an idea of whether you want to keep reading.
So- go on. You've nothing to lose!
Good story, and a prospective on the Second World War from many prospective...
Good insight into the development of modern computing and hacking
A tome of knowledge and insight that's worth absorbing slowly over the course of its epic runtime. Sequences of drama amd action are crystalised in Stevensons gripping blockbuster style but the real worth is most often coded into the subtext.
I would recommend this book to most of my friends, for some it may be to techie.
The way the the author manages to span multiple timelines and geographic locations, then weave it all together into a coherant story.
I read the book soon after it was released. The narration matches my own characterisation of the protagonist which makes the audio book a very pleasant listen.
Yes - but it is a long one so probably not possible
Having read Stephenson's Quicksilver over a couple of months and having tried to get going on Anathem (currently put to one side, but that's partly because it's a hard copy brick) I thought this would be a good medium for Stephenson's brilliant but voluminous style. Boy was I right! I typically listen to audiobooks for about 2 hours a day (commuting) but sometimes a little more when I travel for work. This must have taken me over a month, but I really enjoyed it and was quite sad when it was all over.
In a way it doesn't feel like one immensely long opus, because there are actually 2-3 different narrative strands being brought together here, each of which has its own eddies and diversions. Stephenson loves to fit in some (sometimes gratuitous) mathematical and scientific digressions, which I personally enjoy, but I imagine could be a bit tiresome if you're really just looking for character and plot.
Fundamentally, this is a tale of the interaction of mathematics with the material world and of the impact that this apparently theoretical discipline can and does have on the world in which we live. There's quite a bit of philosophy and history thrown in too. Stephenson always writes with the assumption that his readers are as curious about everything as he himself is and seems to be at his best when exploring the hows and whys. His characters are vehicles for this and work perfectly well, if they're a little flat at times, this rarely feels like it really matters.
William Dufris's reading really brings the whole thing to life and simply being able to sit back and absorb the story, rather than wading through a punishing 1000-odd pages of novel is a much more manageable way to enjoy this book. For me, anyway.
I'm considering re-listening to Cryptonomicon right away. It's a completely immersive experience and it's one of the only audiobooks where I could just sit an listen without needing to do something else at the same time.
each storyline is gripping and they connect together in satisfying ways. There is a grand, philosophical arc to the story expressed in its own way in each narrative of the book, but there is also great small scale detail which adds lightness and accessibility.
William Dufris is an excellent narrator. He manages to give each main character his own distinctive voice (though Bobby Shaftoe probably sounds a little dumb). I especially liked the theatrical, surreal quality he brings to Douglas McArthur.
If the world is on the line, make sure the geeks are on your side.
I've listened to a lot of audiobooks and this one may be my favourite.
A couple of stories nested together, that all intertwine at the end. Has some weird sex scenes in but it's 99% a fantastic tale of a whole bunch of weird people
I'm a geek and I enjoyed the technical detail, but elsewhere there were too many rambles with limited payoff. I'd also say there were a few loose ends and the odd detail or explanation lacking. But overall a thoroughly absorbing story.
A note on the narration: it was as good as I have ever heard. the characterisations fit, and the range and consistency of voices was excellent.
slow at first. possibly because the chapters are it of order. audible, this needs to be fixed
"An amazing performance"
I read this book years and years ago, but I was quite impressed with the production of this audiobook. The voice acting was spot on.
"Awesome story, terrible pace"
Neal is unquestionably a master of words and prose. Too bad get easily carried away. There were way too many unnecessary deviations to the main story that honestly just demotivated me. But it was definitely a cool book.
"Fantastic. Amazing. Worth the effort!"
The narrator Dufris brought this complex story and set of characters to life. Loved it.
"The Best Book I Have Ever Read"
It is difficult to chose one element. This story mixes social and scientific ideas with a World War II war story, cryptology and the world of tech startups in pacific asia, along with many digressions along the way. Somehow Neal Stephenson manages to make it work seamlessly.
The thing that sets this book apart is how Neal Stephenson manages to incorporate both complex scientific ideas in great detail, to the point where you might be able to implement a simple crypto system after reading this book, but also complex social ideas. E.g. there's a wonderful scene where one of the main characters - a nerdy programmer type - is present at a meetup of leftist social science and literary types about technology and the "information super high way" (aka. the internet), and it is honestly quite funny.
I'm not sure. All three of protagonists and several of the supporting characters are all very interesting, well written and complex characters.
Dufris' narration is great. He is able to enhance the atmosphere of the wide ranging scenes and he brings the characters to life.
It made me laugh on several occasions.
Loved it, very masterful telling of a historically based war plot. Mixed in with a solid description of crypto.
"Absolutely loved it"
Brilliant and delicious from start to finish, Cryptonomicon is at once instructive and entertaining. Stephenson has yet to disappoint, and Dufris is a lovely narrator.
"Good book though bounced around a bit"
Felt confused a bit as I went to different points in history with apparent flashbacks to give the planned 'oh so that's what they did'. Overall very good. Reader was great. I preferred baroque cycle series.
"Could not follow"
Recording skipped around to the point it could not be followed. Gave up on it after a few hours.
"Tough to Follow sometimes"
a tough one to follow for the casual listener. lots of jumps back and forth from character to character and time to time with no apparent relation for the 1st 1/3 of the book. Good story though.
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