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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

4.3 (2723 )
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4.4 (1999 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Darrell 05-11-13
    Darrell 05-11-13
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    "A Well Thought Out Book"
    Where does Cryptonomicon rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    A very engaging and interesting storyline makes this book a favorite. Aside from a few long winded, but humorous, passages describing in painful detail the inner thoughts and cereal eating habits of one of the characters, this books moves at an exciting pace. The characters are interesting and involving, and the story is top notch.


    What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

    Well narrated.


    Any additional comments?

    A perfect blend of sci fi and history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John ZurichSwitzerland 05-05-13
    John ZurichSwitzerland 05-05-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Superb!"
    What made the experience of listening to Cryptonomicon the most enjoyable?

    Not only is this a great book but Neal Stephenson did a great job of bringing it to life. He does different voices for all the characters. Sometimes this can be cheesy, but he really pulls it off.


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

    Two interweaving stories 50 years apart. Great plot twists and turns. Excellently researched.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn E. Graham Pflugerville, TX USA 04-26-13
    Glenn E. Graham Pflugerville, TX USA 04-26-13 Member Since 2002

    Glenn Earl

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    "Great mix of Fact and Fiction"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I have recommeded this book to several friends. If you know anyone that enjoys history, math, mystery or just cool characters. This book will not disappoint.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Gabbert 04-20-13
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    "Great story telling, characters, and technology"
    If you could sum up Cryptonomicon in three words, what would they be?

    If you liked Snow Crash and The Diamond Age you already know the author's style. This novel is more of the same, but its a very long and involved story with multiple acts going on in different times.


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

    The world war two stuff was especially good, but as a bit of a nerd I liked the tech items as well.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    There were many good scenes, not sure which was best.


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

    Not really, it just moves along with an engaging pace and some surprises here and there. Its the characters, history, and tech that really kept me going.


    Any additional comments?

    I gave this five stars because I liked the characters so much, particularly the world war two era characters, that I came back to the book again and again. That said, the way it bounces around in time does get a bit wearing and so I usually only listened to an hour at a time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Itchetiky 04-16-13
    Itchetiky 04-16-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Let Down"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Cut out a lot of the fluff, and fill in more of the story.


    What was most disappointing about Neal Stephenson’s story?

    It felt incomplete for being so long.


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

    Mr. Durfris narration took a little getting used to, due to accents and such. But within the first 30 minutes I felt Mr. Durfris and I had a meeting of the minds and we settled in on the story. He did an awesome job. I just wish he would do more books that I had some interest in.


    Do you think Cryptonomicon needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No. The book pretty much covered the bases so some extent.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm disappointed. This was the audiobook that brought me to Audible. And I felt let down. I felt that a lot of fluff was added to the store to make for a long read/listen, and when the story reached what seemed like important story points or plots that there wasn't enough given to those. Maybe I just missed the point.

    It was pretty evident that some editors had some influence in the manuscript. There was a bit of character development that took place for one character. And when that character showed up, there was some good build up, and then pfft gone. I mean why have him show up if your going to not invest time in him?

    There was some really good intrigue, plot mixing, all kinds of good stuff that kept me wanting more more more. But there was to much fluff, to little focus on some characters, questions about why even trot out a character.

    Oh well. At least it cost 1 credit this time instead of 2 when I first started drooling over the audiobook.

    I think I'm done with Neal Stephenson for a while.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James BRIDGEWATER, MA, United States 03-25-13
    James BRIDGEWATER, MA, United States 03-25-13
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    "Voice-over ruined the whole experience."
    Would you listen to Cryptonomicon again? Why?

    Not this reader. I felt like I was listening to a cartoon.


    What other book might you compare Cryptonomicon to and why?

    No title come to mind.


    What didn’t you like about William Dufris’s performance?

    The voice characterizations were juvenile at best. All I could hear was "Bob the Builder".


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The story was compelling but the voice over turned serious characters into cartoonish bafoons. Very disappointing.


    Any additional comments?

    Going back to reading.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Travis Himes 03-22-13
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    "Good story"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Cryptonomicon to be better than the print version?

    Probably, the book itself is a tome.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    It was ok, nothing mind-blowing though.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    It's hard to pick a single scene, probably when Waterhouse sr met Mary, or when present-day Waterhouse was in jail with a laptop.


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

    It had a lot of good narrative, not very emotionally tugging though.


    Any additional comments?

    There was a LOT going on, it was definitely interesting to listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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 2014
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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

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