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
Complex, Funny, and thought provoking
The narrator does an amazing job capturing the characters, I was laughing out loud at some moments
Weaving the story of different characters through different generations can be a challenge, but this book follows the progression and unravels a mystery through the eyes of different characters with such ease. The depth that Stephenson is able to conjure into the cast is amazing. I would recommend this book to everyone, no matter what you might typically listen to.
Subject matter fascinating: Alan Turing and the origin of computers via cryptography during WW II, Douglas MacArthur and the war in the Phiilppines, modern day Internet commerce. Written in an engaging style with well drawn characters and amusing dialogue.
Neal Stephenson is a math/computer geek and his books are full of that stuff, which I like although it makes them guy lit vs chic lit.
The characters and their relationships really come alive. The plot is great too.
The reader keeps a good pace, has a voice with suits the subject matter, and keeps the dialogue believable and fun to listen to.
The scenes of tunnelling to hide gold during WW II are amazing.
I will listen to this several times over, as there is so much to get out of it each time.
Possibly if the reviews were good.
There were many interesting and fun parts of the story. Anytime Bobby Shafto appeared the story was great.
This would not make a good movie unless it was subject to some serious editing.
The story was about two times too long and suffered from the authors interest the details of codes. It could have been good.
This is one of the best books ever. I listened to the 44 plus hours in about a week. Thought about the book for a few days, and then listened to it again. The book follows no formula, is multi-toned, and is nothing like anything else I’ve ever encountered. I can’t imagine anyone but William Dufris as the narrator.
I first read this book ten years ago, and it made a big impression. I was glad upon revisiting the audio version that the story still holds up so well. The complex narrative is really something of a masterpiece.
I thought this was especially good in audio format. I remember reading the book that there were long passages of formulas and hard to pronounce names like Ghnxh. Dufris does a great job with all of that. His narration is excellent, especially his voice for Bobby Shaftoe. I forgot what a funny character he was in the book. Even funnier narrated by Dufris.
I was reminded listening to this book that it really doesn't need to be filed away in the sci-fi section. There's really nothing sci-fi about it other than some of the characters being computer geeks and cryptographers. Its a touch of historical fiction, techno-thriller and a dash of Catch-22.
Anyway, unfortunate that this one costs you two credits, but well worth it for this dense, complex tale that you can definitely listen to more than once.
This is a LONG audiobook. And I enjoyed every minute. The story weaves together one generation of WWII cryptologists (and a bad-ass Marine with a heart of gold) with a modern time group of computer nerds intent on storing data in the Phillipeans (and finding a river of gold). You have to hear it to believe it.
The narration is quite good. There are some mindrattling mispronounciations, but the reader makes a real effort to vary his voice for each character, and does a creditable job -- even with the women. I live in Tennessee, and don't recall hearing anyone with quite the accent of Bobby Shafto, but enjoyed every minute of his dialogue.
One reviewer noted some omissions in the narrative. I wrote Audible before I bought it and they assured me the omissions had been repaired. I didn't have the printed book to confirm this, but I noticed nothing being left out.
This book is worth your time.
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
This is very long, perhaps too long. But like Stephenson's editor - I can't imagine what could have been cut. Stephenson is maybe a genius. He doesn't write so much as weave.. and the tapestry is complex. Yet... thanks in part to William Dufris read, I was always comfortable moving over the abrupt pattern and texture changes. Interestingly Stephenson not only manages a vast historically accessible cast and setting(s) but he has a voice that's effectively droll. This is my second Stephenson book... Reamde was first. I recommend them in that order not so much that they are in any way related re. plot or characters, but Reamde is an introduction to Stephenson's astonishing grasp of so much in a shorter/smaller work. I recommend it and him and Dufris and ... Cryptonomicon.
This story is a tale of fantasy, both past and present--what you'd like to imagine life will be, but it never is. Fun to read (listen). Unexpected twists. When he ties it all up at the end, you just have to smile.
The math/crypto explanations get a little tedious - nothing to explain unless you missed high school math - but the characters are unusual, interesting, and a bit wacky.
The narrator did a great job making the most of the abundant irony/sarcasm/humor that abounds in this book. I've never read anything by Neal Stephenson before because I am not totally into all the tech stuff, but after this book, I will again. Just first let me rest for a few months - this book moves at a maniac pace.
I read it a few years ago and have recently listened to the Audible edition . Enjoyed the Audible experience more. Not better, just different.
Waterhouse with Turing at IAS.
Bobby's many adventures are all great.
Bobby reunites with Goto on baseball field.
Neil Stephenson is one of the most creative writers of the last fifty years.
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.
"Needlessly long and geeky"
The length was the worst bit. It was gratuitous. I like long books, deliberately seek them out, but this was pointlessly long. There was SO much that was unneeded.
Also the link up between the younger generation retreading the older generations' footsteps wasn't played out in the story. They should've made more of the fact they were hanging around with the same people their grandparents were, in the same countries.
I like the war stuff the most. Rudy, Laurence and Arthur.
The narration was immense. Very good. Only a couple of times did it slip, where I wasn't instantly sure who was talking.
The scene when Randy was doing a memo to his team. I HATED it. It was pure drivel and I had to skip the chapter. By this point I was tearing my hair out with the book, just wanted it to end. I had spent over 30 hrs on it, so wasn't going to give up but I so wanted to. This send was almost the tipping point.
The last few scenes with Laurence were good, the one when last complex code gets programmed was particularly pleasing.
Steer clear of Neal Stephenson.
The complexity of the story was mind blowing. Hats off to the author for putting it together.... BUT there was no need. It could have been half the size (it is LONG) and it would have been twice as enjoyable. There were whole chapters I had to skip as the drivel was mind numbing.
"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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