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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 (2908 )
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  •  
    Jill Saginaw, MI USA 05-29-13
    Jill Saginaw, MI USA 05-29-13 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
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    "Worth all 40+ hours"
    What did you love best about Cryptonomicon?

    Extensive detail along with many richly developed characters.


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

    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.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When Shafto meets his son.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Definitely not - it's over 40 hours!


    Any additional comments?

    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...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Charlotte NC 05-16-13
    Amazon Customer Charlotte NC 05-16-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the best books I have heard"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I have recommend this book to several people I really enjoyed the book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cryptonomicon?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of William Dufris’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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 .


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RoseWolf Romeoville, IL 05-15-13
    RoseWolf Romeoville, IL 05-15-13 Member Since 2014

    Perennial student and teacher; Currently undertaking an expedition of this thing we call life.

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    "The smartest book per page..."
    Would you listen to Cryptonomicon again? Why?

    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.


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

    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.


    What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

    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.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    History Channel Presents: Cryptonomicon : The unabridged miniseries. (Ideally shown weekends in November and December when our nation salutes our military)


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darrell 05-11-13
    Darrell 05-11-13
    ratings
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    ratings
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    21
    4
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    Story
    "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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    51
    8
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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
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  • F Gibb
    Dumfries
    3/1/13
    Overall
    "Crypt-Enormicon!"

    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!

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan
    EdinburghUnited Kingdom
    2/7/10
    Overall
    "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.

    15 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    10/14/10
    Overall
    "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.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Wras
    Kildonan
    4/22/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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. .

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nik Hewitt
    Derbyshire, UK
    4/12/13
    Overall
    "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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Gareth
    Beaumaris, United Kingdom
    7/10/11
    Overall
    "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?

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • J Sinner
    Brussels, Belgium
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Saul
    London, United Kingdom
    12/24/12
    Overall
    "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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • M. Dawes
    Birmingham UK
    9/2/11
    Overall
    "Just genius"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Philip
    Piacenza, Italy
    6/20/10
    Overall
    "Great book"

    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.
    Heartily recommended.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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