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
probably not. it was way too long.
Definitely not. But it was interesting enough in some parts where I didn't stop.
Some parts felt like they were out of place (like chapters back and forth). I think the book is in great need of an editor who can cut out some useless parts and then it can be turned in a great book with a few hundred pages less... :-)
Say something about yourself!
I would recommend this book to a friend with the disclaimer that they should have a decent background with math and computer science. However; I felt that the author took detours that weren't necessary contributions to the story. If you were to take these detours out the book would had been 5-10 hours shorter. Ouch!
Less detours. Really.
The scene that described the invention of the first digital computer!
I have already recommended this book to several of my friends!
The story about riding in a bus behind a truck loaded with pigs... Made my side hurt laughing so much...
This book is long but well worth the read. The characters were very interesting and the story keeps you engaged the entire time. At first it was hard to follow the two different story timelines...
I stuck with this book for the first three hours but just couldn't get involved in it. It's not that it jumps from time and place, it just doesn't hold you in any place. I've rarely left any book unfinished but I've left this one.
Clearly the writer had a command of the history and technology underlying this story. The read was thoroughly entertaining and gave insight into little discussed yet interesting topics. The book is long with numerous side stories, some of which bear little direct impact on the plot. There was for example, an endearing vignette on the perfect way to consume Captain Crunch cereal that exposed perhaps excessive understanding of obsessive, compulsive character. The portrayal of the key Marine was beautifully done and you would swear you have met this person somewhere else. The history of China and the Philippines during WWII was graphic but portrayed that era in an understandable manner.
Stephenson is truly excellent at several things: (1) weaving narratives around subjects he is obviously quite taken with (in this case cryptography, mathematics, music and their interplay), (2) creating a rich world by presenting various aspects of a story from different characters' perspectives. This book has both of these aspects, though I do agree that at times the story can lag, if one can become immersed in the world the author has created, its extremely rewarding.
The character of Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse is unique and extremely entertaining. I'm a scientist and technophile, and I enjoyed this made-up individual's take on mathematics and the world in general.
William Dufris performs admirably, tailoring his voices to various characters perfectly, adding to the depth of this book.
At 40+ hours, this book will be with you for awhile. I listened to it over the course of several weeks.
i loved Stephenson's Reamde novel but i couldn't take this Cryptonomicon. After 10 hours of listening i skipped ahead a bit, then i skipped a bit more and after about 4 more hours i gave up (the book has over 40 hours of listening time). There is so much tangent stuff that the book could be about 6-8 hours long without it. The math problem descriptions, math explanation are boring and in many cases come across as confusing; even though it might be easier to glean the idea from a written book; in audio format- it just doesn't work; not for me (and i am good in math).
the narrator does a great job but the story is too convoluted and too damn long that i could not bear it. I enjoyed portions of the story but after while i was left wondering when the "real" story will start.
I could work out the general outlines of the plot but with so much tangent around it, i lost interest.
I listened to and liked Snow Crash and Diamond Age, and i listened to and loved Reamde.
yes, i would but i would read reviews first (i didn't for Cryptonomicon), and i'd see how long the audio file is.
i cannot say if i did, but i liked his performance. i think it kept me going for much longer than i would keep reading an actual book.
i'll chalk this up to my incompatibility with his writing style in this book. I liked the premise, and for the parts i could follow i enjoyed the story telling. There was just too much extra.
Extensive detail along with many richly developed characters.
The plot jumps back and forth between WWII time frame and modern time. This leaves the reader wondering how the path from then to now came to be and how it all ties together.
When Shafto meets his son.
Definitely not - it's over 40 hours!
It is a long, long book but in the end I was sad it was over and even thought it could have been a little longer. The characters feel real and deeply developed. You can get bogged down in some of the inane details but overall it works and even provides some "facts" about cryptology and WWII...
I have recommend this book to several people I really enjoyed the book.
There were several great parts some laugh out loud funny some gruesome some fascinating.
One of more interesting thing is the book was not written that long ago but shows its age in the technology depicted. sometimes you just don't notice how fast things are changing.
but that's not a problem at all with the book being enjoyable.
Never heard a book narrated by William Dufris before but I will look for his name he did a wonderful job with this book. I still wonder how people like him do this .
there are parts of the book with some of what I would call plot holes or things that just don't ring true, but they are minor and don't detract from the book. If you are at all interested in computers Cripto WWII or just want a great book to read I strongly recommend this book.
Perennial student and teacher; Currently undertaking an expedition of this thing we call life.
I would listen again because it is so jam packed with science and theories and explanations of the mathematics of code making and breaking. I understood about 1/4 of everything that was written on first listen, but was still able to follow the story. An additional listen or two would add to the experience.
There were several generations of characters whose lives intertwined in such a way that you had to pay attention to see how everyone's part played out. Historical characters and the attitudes of the public were explained without being pedantic.
He was able to read through complicated scientific fact without sounding like a boring lecturer. Characterizing each person a very definitive way kept me engaged in what is a very long story. He kept me interested without having to jar me with phony sounding accents and over-emoting when it could have been very easy to overdo. I enjoyed his laid back manner.
History Channel Presents: Cryptonomicon : The unabridged miniseries. (Ideally shown weekends in November and December when our nation salutes our military)
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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