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 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.
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.
The world war two stuff was especially good, but as a bit of a nerd I liked the tech items as well.
There were many good scenes, not sure which was best.
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.
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.
Cut out a lot of the fluff, and fill in more of the story.
It felt incomplete for being so long.
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.
No. The book pretty much covered the bases so some extent.
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.
Not this reader. I felt like I was listening to a cartoon.
No title come to mind.
The voice characterizations were juvenile at best. All I could hear was "Bob the Builder".
The story was compelling but the voice over turned serious characters into cartoonish bafoons. Very disappointing.
Going back to reading.
Probably, the book itself is a tome.
It was ok, nothing mind-blowing though.
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.
It had a lot of good narrative, not very emotionally tugging though.
There was a LOT going on, it was definitely interesting to listen to.
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.
It's difficult to pick one out -- there were several that stick with me. Enoch Root's scenes were all pretty memorable.
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.
"Part one of a 12 part story."
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...
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.
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.
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.
Literally that phrase.
Enjoyable and complex.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Me am Pop-Surrealist Tiki-Artist living and making Art on the active volcanic "Big Island" of Hawaii. Aloha.
Epic. Lush. mind-expanding.
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.
Breaking a WWII code reveals the secret to the war, and mankind's purpose in life.
Here is my review in Haiku form:
breaking a code
reveals WW II debt
(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.)
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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