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 could not finish this book. With that said I feel it was well written. Neal Stephenson is very well versed on cryptology. Most of the story is related to this science. If the reader is not highly interested in cryptology, which I am not, then this book becomes more tedious than entertaining.
This should be an ultra classic for anyone who loves epic novels and literature about the role of technology and learning in history and culture. The linking of World War II and nearly present day (1990's) events in a plausible, but fictionalized, account of how cryptology has influenced history is engaging and interesting.
This is a very complex plot that is "timed well" in terms of the transitions from one character or time to another. The characters are believable, round, and are people who the reader can sympathize with and the plot seems relevant to world events that most curious people can connect with. When the plot turns away from a character who the reader is engaged in and back to another whose story the reader has been dying to continue, the reader is kept very much on the edge of their seat until the finale.
I'm not sure... I devour books too quickly to keep track of the narrators, but he did a great job. This was probably the best narration I have encountered in an audio book! The voices are memorable.
Sometimes lives are connected by threads as complex as secret code... and genius and humanity are found in strange places...
Stephenson is definitely a literary genius who transcends genera and should have a place among the great authors of many lifetimes.
I missed a few key points here and there throughout the book while daydreaming. The book does require more than your passive attention to enjoy.
The WW2 part of the book was fun and I enjoyed the characters. The present day characters were far less realistic and shallow. The main story / plot could use some condensing and organization (sorting out).
There was more than one time when I thought to myself "hurry up and be over". It seemed to carry on in places. Maybe the abridged version would be better.
Performance was great. Audible producers seem to have a big stable of some very good talent.
I like it even more than Snow Crash. The narrator does a fair job, but he reads Bobby Shaftoe as an imbecile and keeps mispronouncing 'eruditorum' as 'eruditorium' for some reason. Besides that, he does a pretty good job.
I really enjoy the way the author describes every event and thought from the perspective of the character. A tremendous amount of detail is paid to adding logical details about math, computer science, and technology in general from the early 30's up to the late 90's. It's a joy to read at times but becomes exhaustive at others.
Nope, it's more of a casual journey through the book rather than a captive tale that I was dying to listen to at every available moment.
Love to listen in the car and while exercising.
This is expertly written by a very talented author, and he's funny, making similes and metaphors that frequently made me smile and sometimes even laugh out loud. William Dufris is an outstanding narrator and his performance keeps this very enjoyable, but also very long (40 plus hours) from slogging into tedium. He has the timing of a stand up comedian.
I don't even know where to start. Crypto and geek from WW2 to present. Great characters, excellent performance.
I enjoyed William's performance - would be pleased to hear him again. Less enthusiastic about Stephenson...
the backstoy regarding WWII
The swedish conflict scene and "love" story.
No. It spent way too much time on unnecessary details.
I enjoyed William Difris' ability to perform multiple characters deftly. Even the rather goofy voice of Sargent Shaftco grew on me over time. He's a quality performer.
I felt like Neal Stephenson could have spent less time on such agonizing detail specific to code breaking, software firewalls, etc. Much of this detail didn't advance the story at all. He had a capable hand writing some of the action scenes and interpersonal dialogue. I truly wish he had spent more time on these parts of the books. From my own personal perspective, I dislike abridged versions of any book; but in this case - a much heavier hand by his editor would have helped the story along and allowed the listener to enjoy his capable creative abilities.
Finally, the finish of the story seemed a bit convenient - more like the author wanted to finish the book than provide a more complete view of what happened the various characters.
Yes, a few things -
This is a very long book. That's not necessarily bad in and of itself, but I often felt that some of the extensive extremely detailed descriptions of scenery and such could have been left out without losing anything. Given the choice, I would have preferred an abridged version of the audio book, which cut out some of those long-winded descriptions, but kept the story. I would think as much as 1/3 of the book might be cut without harming the story.
The frequent use of the F word seemed unnecessary. I get that when a Marine is thinking or speaking, they're likely to use that kind of language, but unless it was a direct quote from Bobby Shafto, there are other ways to better express such things.
There were several places in this audiobook that I found quite confusing. I suspect much of this was because of the performance, and may not have been as confusing in the written form. For example, the story would often jump to a flashback, without any warning or indication something was changing. One second you're hearing about Bobby Shafto in the 'present' (from his point of view), and the next it's describing the time that he was on a beach being shot at from a cave overhead. I'm guessing that in the original written book, the flashback may have been in italics or had a *** or such dividing it from the previous paragraph, and that just didn't get translated over to the audio form.
Lastly, the ending seemed rather anti-climactic. The book started very slow, then built momentum as it went on, but when the end came, it sort of wrapped up some remaining loose ends of the story and then ended. There wasn't a 'big' ending. I kind of feel like maybe this could have been split into a couple of books. If it went about 3/4 the way through and found a good stopping point, the last 1/4 or so could have been the beginning of another which continued on to tell us more of what happens to Randy and the epiphyte gang beyond where this book ends.
It's very hard for me to name a book that is similar. Zero Day and Trojan Horse, by Mark Russinovich, are both modern day techno-thrillers, dealing with terrorists and digital attacks, so in some ways those are close. Kill Decision, by Daniel Suarez, is also similar in that way. However, they're all much shorter, and flow better, and they don't have the historic / WWII aspects that this book does.
It was generally entertaining. He did a good job of doing different voices and accents where appropriate. I can't imagine how long it must have taken him to perform/record such a long book!
Inspired might be the wrong word, but I do find that it gave the numbers part of my brain a workout, and have recently found myself thinking of things in a crypto or neurological way from time to time. It's definitely given me an enhanced different perspective on some situations.
I think I'll give the story 4 stars, with only the somewhat weak ending holding it back. The performance was good, but some kind of clue that we're going to flashback or changing characters or chapters would be helpful, so that gets 4 stars as well. However, overall, I'm going with 3 stars, because of the sections where things seemed to get very long winded with little purpose, the descriptions of scenery and locations are the most prominent examples which stick in my mind.
The narrative is intermittent and entangled with big slabs of maths-speak. I tried rewinding to listen to the same part several times to try to understand the maths (I'm not a maths person) or the more detailed elements of the encryption systems, but soon grew tired of this exercise and let those (tedious) sections roll over me. There was still plenty there to capture my attention and keep me listening through the lectures. This is a perfect book for your programmer friend.
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!
"A milestone in fiction"
Where to start...who but Neal Stephenson could write a book so epic in scope, seamlessly weaving a tale from the hayday of computing, WW2 wartime espionage and contemporary eCommerce underpinned by the fascinating field of cryptography. To call the book gripping is like describing the South Pole as "a bit nippy" Superlatives are rarely merited. In this case they are.
"wonderful if very long book"
This is a superb book which I enjoyed listening too very much but it is not without flaws and peculiarities.
To start with it is arguable that it is unnecessarily long. One or two reviewers on Amazon have suggested that the author could have done with a good editor, and there is some truth in that; in some places the detail is mind-boggling and quite difficult to follow, particularly in an audiobook. However, I confess that I liked the detail - it must appeal to the inner nerd in me I think - and I do like books that explore the byways of history away from the main road, as it were. And the storyline is satisfyingly complicated and hooks you in gradually; do stick at it as it improves a lot after the first section.
Narration is excellent - indeed it makes the book. I do like William Dufris' style, amused and kinda laid-back, and he brings the book brilliantly to life, and his characterisations are perfect.
Not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure, but five stars for me.
"The many levels of understanding and deception"
War is not just about bullets but concealment and secrecy, we are living proof of this reality, the the war on terror is fought in the networks and in communications and messages, in lies and half truth. This book works within all this elements but begins at beginnings of the second world war exposing what effect cryptography, Allied Codebreakers and tactical-deception had on the european and pacific fronts, and how those ideas changed our world. We are introduced two to sets of characters one set in WWII and the others in in the late 1990s this group is related through blood to the first ones and share some the interest of their relatives in cryptography and communications. We are exposed to history at its most brutal, and intelligent, some truly funny episodes and dialog mixed with high adventure, mathematics, ideas, philosophy, programing, geeks, super geeks, dentists, soldiers, submarines and lawyers. There are plots, subplots, ramblings and thoughts expounded in all seriousness and some just taking the piss.
This is more than a book it is an experience. A work madness and genius; madness because of its reach genius because of it erudition and entertainment value.
The reader manages to create voices for all the characters and move through the book with amazing ease. .
"Outstanding Translation of a Classic"
I'd already read Cryptonomicon, a couple of times, prior to listening to it. I couldn't have been more pleased. Dufris captures the essence of this weighty journey admirably, and his intonation and studied understanding comes across with real heartfelt sympathy for the motley collection of characters and rich locations both historical and contemporary. I couldn't have been happier at the treatment of what I believe to be Stephenson's finest book.
"There is a good book somewhere"
I really tried hard with this book. I listened to it for about 6 hours before I gave up. There is a good story in here somewhere, but the narrative is plagued with pointless epic similes that add little to the enjoyment and deviations leaving the listener wondering where they are in the tale. I wonder if the author was paid by the word count?
"Excellent capture of the book"
I first Cryptonomicon around 10 years ago, and find myself rereading it every couple of years. Part WW2 spy thriller, part modern day geek drama, part introduction to basic cryptography, it is all brain candy.
On my last reread, I tried this audiobook version, and was extremely happy with how it captured both the tone and the charcters of the book.
William Dufris tone and consistent delivery manage to capture the underlying humour and bring life to Neal Stephenson's baroque prose. He manages to evoke the different settings and characters through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) use of accents
I definitely recommend this.
"Deep and technical, but accessible."
Underneath all the cryptography and tech, Cryptonomicon has a great story with well rounded, modern characters. The original novel features graphs and diagrams to explain pretty technical topics like frequency counting and van eck phreaking, but you don't notice them missing in this audio book, as the narrator carries you along with the in depth descriptions while progressing the narrative.
It's ensemble cast, split across two timeframes, provide plenty of variety, the occasional laugh, and lots of relatable geeks. It's a very long book, but it never drags. Once it's over, you want to find out what the characters are up to.
Like a piece of cryptography, patterns and associations begin to emerge the more you delve into this story. About two thirds of the way in, the disparate strands of the timelines and characters begin to come together in the most riveting way.
Worth 40 hours of your life? - Absolutely.
I really enjoyed Cryptonomicon. It's a dense story which requires the reader to involve themselves in a bit of brain work. Suprisingly, for an author who has a reputation as a cyberpunk I found the narrative of this book reminded me of authors such as Ken Kesey and predictably Joseph Heller. For some reason it reminded me alot of Kesey's 1992 book Sailor Song, which is hardly a bad thing.
Only down point; about half way through Neal starts recounting a letter a character is writing for Playboy, which goes on wayyyy too long. Stephenson obviously enjoyed writing that part too much.
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