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Cryptonomicon | [Neal Stephenson]

Cryptonomicon

Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.
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Publisher's Summary

Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

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

What the Critics Say

  • Locus Award, Best Novel, 2000

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Mark A. Bentley Northern Virginia, United States 03-13-13
    Mark A. Bentley Northern Virginia, United States 03-13-13 Member Since 2011

    Utility Infielder

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    "Outstanding... and not just for geeks"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Cryptonomicon to be better than the print version?

    Yes -- because I started on the print version years ago, and got stuck on it. The recorded version carried me through several cross-country trips, and was thoroughly engaging.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cryptonomicon?

    It's difficult to pick one out -- there were several that stick with me. Enoch Root's scenes were all pretty memorable.


    What does William Dufris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    When reading a book, I tend to voice characters in my head in a way that I would probably speak. In a piece like this, that intertwines real characters from history with very well-defined fictional characters, who run the gamut from nerdy intellectuals to gung-ho Marines, Dufris' incredible range really adds to the story.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    "Part one of a 12 part story."


    Any additional comments?

    An exhausting book. I had no idea how all these characters and plot elements would (or could) tie together. But they did. Stephenson's mind is a wildly complex place...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Johann Lake Elizabeth, CA, United States 02-22-13
    Johann Lake Elizabeth, CA, United States 02-22-13 Member Since 2012
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    "An amazing dramatic comedy of math and history."
    What made the experience of listening to Cryptonomicon the most enjoyable?

    This is the second Neal Stephenson book I've read and among the most enjoyable. I would put Crytonomicon in my desert island collection.
    It's difficult to write a review and both touch on it with any depth and not include any spoiler alerts.
    It covers several intersecting and parallel tales which at first appear random and a little chaotic, but now knowing Neal Stephenson it's worth noting that a characters impact, importance, and direction of a character cannot be denoted by early "screen time".
    This book was well narrated and well edited. The characters are distinctly written and portrayed. Actual character evolution makes Crytonomicon something you can become emotionally invested in.
    A strong recommendation for those who have a fascination in math or coding.
    I have neither and loved the book.


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    The emphasis should be on the plural, plots. Each story can more or less stand on its own and and does for the most part until it comes very near to the conclusion. Each story is well illustrated with consistent characters and a fluidly unpredictable, while consistent, plot.
    No story lags as I recall, but if an element did it is not long before a transition to the next story.


    What does William Dufris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He depicts the characters very well and establish a distinctive vocal Idenity to each that surpasses their basic biographical information. I felt as if he conformed to and played against established stereotypes. As characters and the marrative evolved so did Dufris spearhead patterns. As the chapters grew more sympathetic, stressed, or analytical so did their visual picture.
    A side note though. My father read this as a print and was disappointed, not by the work done, but by the fact that the characters appeared differently in his internal narrative than in the Dufris's portrayal.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    "No clue"

    Literally that phrase.


    Any additional comments?

    Enjoyable and complex.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas 02-22-13
    Thomas 02-22-13 Member Since 2009

    I like Irish and Swedish crime thrillers and sociological exposes concerning African American life from Colonial times to the end of WWII. Recently I have taken a real liking to the works of Neal Stephenson and Fyodor Dostoevsky as well.

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    "Cracking Cryptonomicon"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes but with guarded words. Prepare to commit to over 40 hours of intense mathematical and historical discourse told with a lot of wit but seemingly without any direction until the last 3 hours or so.


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    Not really. It's not that kind of book. In Stephenson's first two SciFi masterpieces he makes use of his creativity for imagining a possible technological dystopia but as the two time periods in this novel are the (then) present of the late 90's and WWII era America, The Philipines, Japan, China, Europe and all the seas in between, he has to rely on actual math and while some of it is over the head of most (or at least this) listener(s), he also makes use of his remarkable wit of which we have only heard snatches of up to this point. There's no real suspense although there are a few suspenseful situations. Stephenson's unique outlook on the world and his remarkably well-realized characters reminds me of John Updike for some reason, perhaps for the fact that they seem like real people who think about real things rather than just some made-up characters.I found myself laughing like crazy for seemingly no reason just for the "oh so ordinary but so true" way some of the characters talk. Stephenson is certainly one of the most versatile writers out there. There is so much here and , as someone who majored in East Asian Studies and lives in Japan, he hit the nail on the head at least as far as Japan is concerned but he steers away from just idolization/damnation of other cultures but sees them from a basic human standpoint without being either cynical or preachy. You don't really realize he is toeing this line but he is. I think the expression "Nips" was used a bit much but it gave a sense of period and albeit it a terrible slanderous word, it is marginally less grating on the ear than the more common slur "Japs." Interestingly enough, I don't think the German equivalents were used even once. Fancy that.


    Which character – as performed by William Dufris – was your favorite?

    Probably Randy although his German accents are pretty interesting as he demonstrated in another book "The Murder of the Century." His Japanese accents sound strangely Native American and his Filipino accents sound Mexican but his basic dry wit narrator's voice is probably my favorite. The narrators for the audiobooks must be handpicked by Stephenson himself because after listening to each I couldn't imagine a better reader for either one. He has decent variations and his Douglas MacArthur and Ronald Reagan voices had me laughing with incredulity. His Shaftoe voice took a while to get used to because he sounds just like a mindless grunt which, although his behavior over most of the novel reflects as much, it cheapens him a bit.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I laughed at some of the asides such as General Mills calculation of making Cap'n Crunch nuggets the same size as teeth so as to be ergonomically eaten and Randy's ex-girlfriend's research on "shaving pornography" as a sort of indirect hint to get him to shave off his beard not to mention the absolutely batsh*t ridiculous handling of the furniture-to-be-bequeathed using an interactive x y graph in which hopeful relatives of Randy (all genius IQ mathematicians and scientists) lug the items they want all over the parking lot comparing monetary and emotional value with the x and y values. Basically, half the time, you're thinking, "Where the heck is he going with this?" It's a fun and geeky ride but a long one and there is a payoff but it doesn't come until about the 37 hour mark. For me, it was worth it but I can see how some might see it as a "too little, too late" sort of deal. On the bright side, without revealing any spoilers, the ending is the most clear cut of all the Stephenson SciFI novels so far.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Metcalfe, ON, Canada 02-13-13
    Kim Metcalfe, ON, Canada 02-13-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Made me look forward to the commute"

    I'll admit that I thought the story took a while to really get going, but long before I got anywhere near the end, it was in the "can't put it down" category. It's not often that I identify with characters as much as I did with some of the folks in this book. I also really enjoyed most of the digressions (the math ones especially, stockings/furniture not so much).

    Whatever they are paying the narrator is not enough. He was great, and managed to produce a wide variety of accents and emotions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Charles Nicholasville, KY, United States 02-13-13
    Charles Nicholasville, KY, United States 02-13-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Couldn't finish the book..."

    I don't think I was committed to the book. When they explain some cryptography by telling you equations and spitting out numbers, it's hard to focus on. I'm a geek/nerd by nature and this stuff is interesting however I think I'd need to see it on paper to understand it. I wasn't attached to the characters either.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Old Man Parker Kailua-Kona, HI, United States 01-16-13
    Old Man Parker Kailua-Kona, HI, United States 01-16-13 Member Since 2009

    Me am Pop-Surrealist Tiki-Artist living and making Art on the active volcanic "Big Island" of Hawaii. Aloha.

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    "Awesome. This is a review in Haiku"
    If you could sum up Cryptonomicon in three words, what would they be?

    Epic. Lush. mind-expanding.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It's hugely intelligent. It takes you in new unexpected turns at every chance, with characters you really grow to enjoy. Hyper violent World War Two action scenes to super-nerd semi-science fiction to deep mathematic oceans of code breaking. The true history of the world is revealed.


    Have you listened to any of William Dufris’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Breaking a WWII code reveals the secret to the war, and mankind's purpose in life.


    Any additional comments?

    Here is my review in Haiku form:

    breaking a code
    reveals WW II debt
    Godzilla

    (I use the Term Godzilla here as Godzilla is referred to in the film "Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" in which Godzilla has origins rooted in Japan's World War II past. While, Godzilla is still a mutant dinosaur created by the atomic bomb, he is also described as an incarnation of those killed or who were left to die at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Pacific War.)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shaul Petah Tikva, Israel 01-16-13
    shaul Petah Tikva, Israel 01-16-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Every second of this book captures me"
    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cryptonomicon?

    Everything, I found that every sentence in this book is fascinating. I was bored even for a second. Even the slow parts of the book kept me interested and engaged.


    What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

    I still find it hard to belive than one person can voice so many people.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Pittsboro, nc 01-12-13
    Amazon Customer Pittsboro, nc 01-12-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Parallel Lives"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Listening to books often provides a startlingly different perspective than reading. SnowCrash's faults of extreme didactic-ism were highlighted while listening to what seemed interminable lecture after lecture, read, to my ears, in an affected and irritating manner. On the other hand Cryptonomicron, if not improved, was certainly not "diminished" by the narration. It took a while to accept Dufris' sometimes heavy handed characterization of some of the main characters, but as the stories wound on, what seemed affected early on, became less problematic later. As with Snowcrash there's a LOT of lecturing going on; but Stephenson works the lectures into conversations in a far more adept fashion. And the plots, while fantastic, were grounded in lots of solid research...eg there really WAS a German sub, U-234, that was supposed to bring material that might allow Japan to construct an atomic bomb before the war's end.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Gotu's construction of Golgotha.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no way! I actually pulled out the hardback copy to get details straight several times.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Wellington, New Zealand 12-24-12
    Ted Wellington, New Zealand 12-24-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Wonderful yarn"
    If you could sum up Cryptonomicon in three words, what would they be?

    Imaginative historical fiction. Stephenson painted a rich picture of the human side ww2 events.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cryptonomicon?

    The interaction of the fictional Bobby Shaftoe with the historical MacArthur reminds me of the best of Turtledove.


    What does William Dufris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Dufris did a solid job of representing the characters.


    Any additional comments?

    The idea that our technology has somehow made us 'different' than the bright people of the past is strongly challenged by this book. Good writing of a good story. Slightly abrupt ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Great Book, but Audible version has an error."
    Any additional comments?

    I loved the book, but the Audible version had a serious error. The Audible version is broken into ~1 hr 15 min audio chapters (not book chapters). These 2nd and 3rd of these audio chapters are out of order. I notified Audible of the problem, but I can see from other reviewers that they've done this before as well...several years ago.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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