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
This was just a great book. It's my third Neal Stephenson (after Snow Crash and Seveneves) and I can now comfortably call Stephenson one of my favorite authors. Both storylines were great, and my preference of one over the other swapped several times throughout. I also liked that the 90s storyline gave me a little taste of the kind of computer intrigue that drew me to Snow Crash years ago. This book gets very technical at times, but it's very intuitively written so that I think any tech or math literate person shouldn't get lost. It never really gets stuck on obtuse terminology, and always lets the reader get the gist through context even if the minutiae goes over their head.
As for the performance, I thought it was generally pretty good. Some occasional pronunciation stumbles here and there (a minor Japanese character's surname gets consistantly mispronounced at one point) but overall the reader did a great job. I thought the voice he chose for Bobby Shaftoe was a bit annoying at times, however.
The narrator was awesome. He has some impressive voices. But the author seemed to believe that he couldn't tell a simple treasure hunting story without first telling the entire life stories of the six people most involved with it. It takes 24 (of 34) chapters before he actually gets to the plot. He displays no concept of pacing, nor is the climax all that exciting. Several times he goes into long wandering narration for things which have nothing to do with the plot at all. They often took 5 to 10 minutes of narration before coming to a pointless end.
The book IS good for one use, however. Several times I used it to put myself to sleep, for which it served admirably.
First of all, I like long books. However this one was just long to be long. There was back story and more back story. Which is fine if it helps to understand a character and help move the story along. But really there were long sections that were really boring. I'm pretty sure he could of cut 10 or more hours and made this a tighter book.
I just couldn't get into it. It just goes on, and on, and on. Seemed like there was a whole chapter on when I chain would come off a bike cog...might have been two chapters. I love math and a good story but I gave up on this one after about 18 hours. Maybe there's a story in there but I can't keep going to find out.
After reading Stephenson's Seveneves and loving it, I thought I had found an author whose books I could consume for the next few months. That may still be the case, but Cryptonomicon is just way too slow for me.
After 14 hours, I'm giving up. The plot takes way too long to unfold, and the story is just too slow to drive a good listening pace, so I end up finding all kinds of excuses to avoid listening to this. Stephenson does a good job with character development, but there is only so much I want to know about a character before they do something interesting.
I was pretty disappointed with the narration as well. The accents, especially European, are good, but all the other characters are a little drab.
There are many good reviews for this book, and several friends recommended it as well, so I think my suggestion would be to try this as a read rather than a listen. That way, you may be able to accelerate through the slow parts and get to what seems to be a good concept.
Was really looking forward to this book, disappointed I ran out of steam, but I think a half day is enough slack to give an author & narrator before deciding whether another 20 hours of life is worth it. In this case, my answer is no.
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