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
The story-telling is engrossing, drawing the reader in bit-by-bit as the story unfolds. The combination of witty humor and detailed technical description will cause more than a few moments of inappropriate laughter and plenty of Google searches.
There are quite a few memorable moments, but the one for me is [SPOILER] the scene during the raid on the Ordo offices where Tombstone is held, seeing the combination gun toting anti-Government Intrusion Secret Admirers as well as nerds using an EMP cannon to confuse and screw with the police.[/SPOILER]
William Dufris brings the story to life. Not only pronouncing some of the more difficult completely made up languages, he gives each character life. It's less of a narration and more of a one-man radio play, complete with a great Douglas MacArthur voice.
I wasn't able to completely finish the book until a week long road trip where I could enjoy 8-10 hours of it at a time. It is a long, long book and very technical so it does require attention to be paid.
Read it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Gardening Geek/Fishing Freak/CADninja
After listening to Snow Crash I thought I was ready for some more Stephenson. Boy was I wrong.
This book had me wanting to claw my eardrums out. I only finished it so that I could write a review with a clear conscience. I fully sympathize with those who could not push through like Bobby Shaftoe through an enemy line.
There are brief entertaining moments, corns in the turd if you will. Particularly the WWII segments involving Goto Dengo. But these are followed by mind numbingly boring overly descriptive droning about things normal humans don't care about.
Long sections of this book are like sitting in The Dentist's chair having your molars removed while attorneys stand around explaining to you in legal jargon how The Dentist is suing you for breach of contract because your teeth didn't pop out as easily as expected.
I suspect that I am simply not smart enough to "get" this tome. Too many characters to keep up with in two different time lines. Too much obscure math that I don't understand, and don't want or need to understand, and I'm an electrical designer.
I have Anathem sitting on a bookshelf at home, staring at me, mocking me. It just may end up in a used book store.
I love this book and have read the print version 4-5 times. This isn't bad, but the narrator is jarringly glib, and doesn't change emotional gears all that well between the humorous parts and the more serious parts. Nor does he have enough mastery of accents or acting chops to clearly delineate the various characters from all over the world.
Granted, it's very challenging that way due to the scope of the book, but I wish Audible had looked a little further for a narrator that had more depth. Sorry, William Dufris. Haven't heard your other work, which may be great for all I know. But as someone who knows this book like the back of their hand, I don't think justice was done. I don't, in retrospect, feel this audio book was worth two credits. Probably would have been worth one. I should have popped for Anathem instead, maybe! Live and learn.
I usually love really long, involved books, and I tried - really - to get into this one. In fact, I tried for about 20 hours! The different stories never came together, but the worst was the interminable reading of emails and codes. To make it worse, the narrator's voice was droning and boring. I finally gave up and never finished listening, which is very rare for me. I'm really sorry I spent 2 credits on this, and I'd give it zero stars if I could.
Certainly the best book I have ever downloaded from Audible and perhaps the best book i have read this millennium.
This was my first try at historical fiction. I found that this book got a lot of good reviews for the genre. It was an OK story but way way too long. When he would read emails we would have to go through the to, from, subject - including the RE nonsense. It almost made me want to throw my phone. He would also spend way too much time explaining linux/unix commands. He went into great unbelievable detail about almost everything. I am also not so sure I like the genre. So if you are a big fan of historical fiction -- you should probably ignore my review
If you you know little about WWII history this covers a lot of the cryptograhy from the period. The background to the fictional characters is mostly correct. The book has a lot of humour mixed with grim reality. I enjoyed it as a listen but felt it is perhaps a little too long.
It is not Stephenson's best book
Unwrap the unnecessarily *sassy* and *irreverent* talk, 12 minute long tangents on math problems that have no bearing on the story, military inaccuracy, lack of character depth and narration that overly emphasizes these attributes and you have a tedious exercise in writing that never quite gains momentum. After 16 hours I could take no more; quite painful to do to a 2 credit book but my cheapness only goes so far.
Easily in the bottom 5 books of my past 50.
This came very highly recommended but with the best will in the world I just could not get into it. To me the narrator sometimes comes across as a synthesized voice and I was not grabbed in the slightest.
A great book but the reading drove me crazy - the mispronunciations in particular. The voice types were distinctive but a bit unimaginative - why must all US Marines have strangled southern accents?A few other people, particularly for the women's voices, would have helped.
"Depth and detail with an enthralling story"
I would recommend this book to most of my friends, for some it may be to techie.
The way the the author manages to span multiple timelines and geographic locations, then weave it all together into a coherant story.
I read the book soon after it was released. The narration matches my own characterisation of the protagonist which makes the audio book a very pleasant listen.
Yes - but it is a long one so probably not possible
"nerdy and dull"
I am a nerd - I like IT and I like Crypto but I am so bored with this book. It just rambles on and on and on. I stop listening to it for a couple of weeks then try again and it seems to be just the same on and on.
"very very good"
Terrific! Reminds me of the world according to garp in the rambling story that focuses on the personal interaction and the small stuff whilst the big stuff is going on the background. I'm late to this author but will be catching up quickly.
"Probably the best way to tackle this behemoth!"
Having read Stephenson's Quicksilver over a couple of months and having tried to get going on Anathem (currently put to one side, but that's partly because it's a hard copy brick) I thought this would be a good medium for Stephenson's brilliant but voluminous style. Boy was I right! I typically listen to audiobooks for about 2 hours a day (commuting) but sometimes a little more when I travel for work. This must have taken me over a month, but I really enjoyed it and was quite sad when it was all over.
In a way it doesn't feel like one immensely long opus, because there are actually 2-3 different narrative strands being brought together here, each of which has its own eddies and diversions. Stephenson loves to fit in some (sometimes gratuitous) mathematical and scientific digressions, which I personally enjoy, but I imagine could be a bit tiresome if you're really just looking for character and plot.
Fundamentally, this is a tale of the interaction of mathematics with the material world and of the impact that this apparently theoretical discipline can and does have on the world in which we live. There's quite a bit of philosophy and history thrown in too. Stephenson always writes with the assumption that his readers are as curious about everything as he himself is and seems to be at his best when exploring the hows and whys. His characters are vehicles for this and work perfectly well, if they're a little flat at times, this rarely feels like it really matters.
William Dufris's reading really brings the whole thing to life and simply being able to sit back and absorb the story, rather than wading through a punishing 1000-odd pages of novel is a much more manageable way to enjoy this book. For me, anyway.
"Philosophical, geeky, gripping"
I'm considering re-listening to Cryptonomicon right away. It's a completely immersive experience and it's one of the only audiobooks where I could just sit an listen without needing to do something else at the same time.
each storyline is gripping and they connect together in satisfying ways. There is a grand, philosophical arc to the story expressed in its own way in each narrative of the book, but there is also great small scale detail which adds lightness and accessibility.
William Dufris is an excellent narrator. He manages to give each main character his own distinctive voice (though Bobby Shaftoe probably sounds a little dumb). I especially liked the theatrical, surreal quality he brings to Douglas McArthur.
If the world is on the line, make sure the geeks are on your side.
I've listened to a lot of audiobooks and this one may be my favourite.
"Tied my mind in knots trying to keep track"
I am not a stranger to Neal Stephenson and enjoy the off-the-wall way he looks at technology. His ability to turn events that appear normal into Sci-fi or mystery is uncanny. But this book ... whew ... I could not keep up with the characters and the story line. I realised early on that we were switching between the 1940's and 1990's, but this realisation did not clarify any of the events for me. I enjoyed his explanations of technology. I like the twists he puts into his explanations. But in between these explanations, I could not work out "who was who".
I also found that his male protagonists are quite mysogonistic. As the events unfolded, I found myself questioning why the women introduced into the story were one-dimensional, predictable, and seemingly only there for sex. It became more and more irritating, until after about 35 hours of listening, I abandoned the book.
I hate abandoning books, particularly Neal Stephenson, because I know somewhere in the last 7 hours 53 minutes there would have been a mind-numbing, incredibly unusual take on technology or science. I can't tell you what it is, because his sexist approach to women, and the confusing story, made we want to take a rest. Which I did.
The narrator, William Dufris. This book was amazing in itself, but Kramer really did a number on this. I can easily imagine myself not having enjoyed the book as much were it not for being able to hear his performance.
Waterhouse, the socially inept little nerd, loved him right from the start, and it wasn't long before I grew to enjoy every single section featuring sergeant Shaftoe as well.
The fog horn mounted on 'there but for the grace of god'
This was no doubt about it, a really good book. But it is way too long and frequently boring as hell. Trying to piece together parts from one end of the story to another can be like playing sodoku by memory. But seen as a series of smaller events that are all in their own right very good, which work together to create one whole tapestry, yes, it works and it works well. But by heck its a lot of work.
When a chap in the story observes a spiders web and sees how the spider can react to different things, not because of the movement but because of the lack of certain movement, you should by that point know whether the book is for you or not. I loved this concept and all the concepts that tied in with it - and then their real world application and how they created a series of events that eventually became what they do.
However, these concepts draw together like a diagram of the final fastest and shortest era on Earth (according to the Aztecs) as this era is cast off, but then never takes us anywhere. There is no realisation to this story. Its just launch pad of concepts. Unlike many a book though, I wouldn't take back the time I spent on it (and its a lot!) because it has helped with mature and put form to many of my own ideas.
"Stunning jouney from 1942 to the Web"
Educational and stunning story interlaced from 1942 to the present day.
Nicely integrates the story with a cameo of Alan Turing and Bletchley park
I would have listened to this in one sitting but it is a very long book (42hrs 53 mins) so that isn't really practical. But the book is compelling and wanted to listen again and again as soon as possible.
Get it Now...
"Oh so nearly fantastic."
If you had asked me to review the first thirty something hours of Cryptonomicon then it would have received four, maybe even five stars and I would, mostly, have been singing its praises. There are a few segments in those hours that didn't quite come up to scratch and I wanted to press the fast forward button (except you might miss a completely different section if one did as the story does jump around a bit).
The plot is varied, and yes there is jargon, and other elements, there that may not please all, but the story draws one in fantastically and I found myself anticipating a fabulous ending.
So I was ever so disappointed by the last few hours, and the ending. It felt as if the story completely fizzled out. In fact I might almost wondered if the final few hours of the book were written by the same person. Gone was the intrigue that I had felt and now I wanted to press the fast forward button in the hope that we would get back to the same level of intrigue. Patience prevailed and I refrained from skipping forward. I wish I hadn't bothered. This will not be an audiobook that I will bother listening to again.
William Dufris' narration, on the other hand was fantastic throughout - definitely a narrator to be listening out for!
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