The story unfolds in parallel threads, existing in the past and the recent-present, that reveal the plot in a fun way. Stephenson takes you all over the world and across time while letting you get to know some fun personalities. All of this happens at a brisk pace that will keep the listener engaged.
If you enjoy the idea of cyphers, the pre-history of computers and learning about some contemporary technology this book will entertain you. But don't assume that it's all about the tech. It's full of activity, from diving, combat, digging, hacking and excellent conversation.
William Dufris is a gifted narrator (I rarely encounter anything less with Audible these days) who expertly reads while inhabiting a large variety of characters of different sex and nationality. He's a one-man acting troupe, but you won't be cognizant of his efforts. You'll just enjoy the narrative.
The bottom line is that I looked for opportunities to listen to this whenever I could and I was sad when it was all over.
I've read a lot of Neal Stephenson, so I knew to expect brilliant writing that didn't necessarily go anywhere for a while. I'll say this, for once he didn't write a terrible ending. Maybe it's not brilliant, but it wasn't one of his books that falls apart at the end.
I really liked the book, but I really went on faith through hours, and hours, of narration. I commented a number of times to my husband, a computer scientist, that I'm not really enough of a geek for this book. Also, that I knew he'd love it, because he is.
I was engaged in the story, but not in that ignore my family and responsibilities way, until the middle of the second to last download. At that point, the characters finally took on life for me, and I really cared about what was happening.
I would be cautious in my recommendation to read this. For Stephenson fans or for those very interested in the history of computers and cryptology, I'd say it's a definite read. For others, I'm not sure they would want to get through the long descriptions.
Gardening Geek/Fishing Freak/CADninja
After listening to Snow Crash I thought I was ready for some more Stephenson. Boy was I wrong.
This book had me wanting to claw my eardrums out. I only finished it so that I could write a review with a clear conscience. I fully sympathize with those who could not push through like Bobby Shaftoe through an enemy line.
There are brief entertaining moments, corns in the turd if you will. Particularly the WWII segments involving Goto Dengo. But these are followed by mind numbingly boring overly descriptive droning about things normal humans don't care about.
Long sections of this book are like sitting in The Dentist's chair having your molars removed while attorneys stand around explaining to you in legal jargon how The Dentist is suing you for breach of contract because your teeth didn't pop out as easily as expected.
I suspect that I am simply not smart enough to "get" this tome. Too many characters to keep up with in two different time lines. Too much obscure math that I don't understand, and don't want or need to understand, and I'm an electrical designer.
I have Anathem sitting on a bookshelf at home, staring at me, mocking me. It just may end up in a used book store.
Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?
Cryptonomicon is just so good. I was expecting a cyberpunk story, but I wasn't expecting to learn the crazy math, history of computers and war. It feels like reading about the Vietnam War and the Nazi with the infrastructure of code breaking on a data island, but set in the past.
There are some laugh out loud moments. For example, the theory of masturbation was totally funny. Cryptonomicon almost felt like it was written as a comedy, thriller action, that only geeks will like. The story is not so hard to follow because you can quickly get into the plot.
The best way to describe Cryptonomicon is, imagine a techno geek in the Second World War, but with modern day inventions to win the digital war.
To sum up this review, if Neal Stephenson needed a director for the movie, Quentin Tarantino would be a good match because the book almost reads like a mockery of an adaptation of history on WWII. Poking fun at the Nazi madness.
Picking up the book always put me off of diving into this story, as the thickness of the book just made me reflect that I couldn't invest the time necessary to get into it. This made it an excellent choice as my first Audible listen, and I didn't regret it.
William Dufris does an amazing job capturing the voice of the different characters... the needed character reminders of "Randy said" or "Shafto commanded" start to become noticeable, due to the fact that they don't seem to be necessary... at no point was I confused as to who was saying something, due to Mr. Dufris spectacular voicing.
From a few dozen books I've bought on Audible (most of them quite good), this is the only one that made me actually get out here and rate it.
Besides the novel itself, William Dufris does a great reading, really puts his soul into it.
A must for any geek who's into computers, UNIX, math, crypto, or WWII.
Yes, Neal Stephenson's stories require that you pay attention as you listen, because he densely loads them with information. For this reason, among others, I would not place his novels into the category of "Escape Fiction." Nor "Thrillers." "Cryptonomicon," in particular, disturbed and upset me, sometimes, although at other times it made me laugh out loud. His graphic descriptions of heinous atrocities committed during the Second World War definitely upset me. He also describes -- repeatedly and in vivid detail -- the anguish, discomfort, distraction, and obsession that men apparently suffer from sexual abstinence. Perhaps I ought to know better by now, but this depiction of male horniness -- although rendered hilariously in "Cryptonomicon -- did surprise and disturb me. It made me feel a bit sorry for men (although I expect that every single one of them would prefer horniness over childbirth, if they had to choose). It also, single-handedly, explains the Mars/Venus phenomenon. Like all of Neal Stephenson's novels, "Cryptonomicon" includes lots of technology, science, and math, which one needs to grasp at least a little bit in order to follow the story. People without a pretty cerebral inclination might not enjoy it, as it places a lot of demands on the forebrain. Throughout the novel, Stephenson refers to Japanese as "Nipponese," and Japan as "Nippon." Even the American soldiers in the story called the Japanese "Nipponese," or "Nips," rather than "Japanese," or "Japs." I kept expecting him to explain this nomenclature, but he never does; and I don't think the WWII soldiers actually used this nomenclature. Perhaps Mr. Stephenson is displaying respect and political correctness, at the expense of verisimilitude? William Dufris does an excellent job, as always, of narrating this book. I especially appreciated his rendering of the difficult German/Australian accent of one of the characters. Finally, although Audible doesn't provide for rating the production quality of their audiobooks, I do wish to communicate a strong message regarding their production of "Cryptonomicon." The copy that I downloaded had bookmarks approximately every hour, evenly spaced, not even corresponding to chapter breaks, or even sentence breaks. Audible, please don't do that. Please don't space the bookmarks much further apart than 3 or 4 minutes; and please make them correspond to some logical breaking point. Thank you. Glad to have gotten that off my chest.
Unwrap the unnecessarily *sassy* and *irreverent* talk, 12 minute long tangents on math problems that have no bearing on the story, military inaccuracy, lack of character depth and narration that overly emphasizes these attributes and you have a tedious exercise in writing that never quite gains momentum. After 16 hours I could take no more; quite painful to do to a 2 credit book but my cheapness only goes so far.
Easily in the bottom 5 books of my past 50.
The narrator almost entirely ruins listening to this book, which was a tremendously good read. Glaringly he mispronounces the frequent Philippine words and place names. He narrates sentence by sentence rather than appreciating the developing line of the story being expressed. I would not have used up two credits for this if I had payed enough attention to sample the quality of narration beforehand. My bad.........
I read Cryptonomicon years ago, but downloaded the book to give it a listen -- and it was an absolute joy. It's a generations-long story that has kept me company on the road for many hours. Never has math been more interesting and intriguing.