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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

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  •  
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 01-22-13
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 01-22-13 Member Since 2005

    I am a blessed man!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Epic Masterpiece of Unforgettable Characters"
    What did you love best about Cryptonomicon?

    The characters are incredibly rich and diverse. The humor is clever and humane.


    What other book might you compare Cryptonomicon to and why?

    Clancy's latest, Threat Vector is about cyber-warfare. The author goes into great detail (all way over my head) on the mathematical and technical subject matter. And some of the character backgrounds, particularly of hackers, are right in line with Clancy's.

    I loved Stephenson's humor and realism in the war stories he told.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I loved most all of the scenes with Bobby Schafto, particularly with Goto Dengo and General McArthur. And I especially enjoyed the German U Boat Commander.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I laughed throughout the book. The characters are so brilliantly developed I found myself wishing the story would go on just to hear more from them.

    It would be wrong not to admit I lost my way in parts that were so technical I had no idea what was happening. This grew tedious at times, nevertheless its still a 5 star book in my opinion.


    Any additional comments?

    I am not familiar with the work of the reader, William Dufris, but it is uncanny how much he sounds like the actor Jeff Daniels.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Azle, Texas 08-15-12
    Sam Azle, Texas 08-15-12 Member Since 2009

    Gardening Geek/Fishing Freak/CADninja

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Craptocrudicon you outta your credits"

    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.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol EUGENE, OR, United States 11-25-10
    Carol EUGENE, OR, United States 11-25-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Couldn't get into it!"

    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.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob lewisville, NC, United States 12-29-09
    Bob lewisville, NC, United States 12-29-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Jaw dropping incredible"

    Certainly the best book I have ever downloaded from Audible and perhaps the best book i have read this millennium.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Singleton 11-01-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Could have been 10 hours but was 40"

    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

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tony CanberraAustralia 04-08-10
    Tony CanberraAustralia 04-08-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Interesting if long"

    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

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ME Berwyn, PA, United States 08-27-10
    ME Berwyn, PA, United States 08-27-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Great book, but...."

    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.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Bloomington, MN, USA 06-25-10
    Scott Bloomington, MN, USA 06-25-10 Member Since 2004
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    "Story OK, Did not care for reader"

    Before buying this book, listen to a sample and decide if you can take something like 40 hours of this reader's voice. After I bought it, I discovered the reader was the same as I had heard listening to Flying Through Midnight. I was not sure I could take the entire story in his voice. But I managed to finish it. If you love long books, this is certainly one of them! A book like this, however, should be read by a reader that grows on you rather than grates on you. Some characters are likeable in this book, but some sections get just a little too obsessive for my taste when it comes to details few people care about. A good example of this is a horridly lengthy description of eating a box of cereal. Or another example is a lengthy monologue about a mathematical function relating how effective one of the characters work is to how often he gets his manly needs met. If you like this sort of thing, you will love this book.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 08-19-14
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 08-19-14 Member Since 2011

    Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ".....Van Eck phreaking-tastic!!....."

    Science Fiction is whatever SF readers read. Using this definition you may classify this as Science Fiction. But it is really a mainstream novel with extensive flashbacks involving related characters. Heavy doses of math and internet technology protocol lingo may make this seem like SF to those not accustomed to such nerdification, but there are no other SF trappings. In the 1960’s SF readers began reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS and made it into a Science Fiction classic.

    I listened to this book immediately after tackling Stephenson’s ANATHEM—a novel that didn’t strike my fancy. If you read my review of that novel you will know that I am a big fan of Stephenson’s SNOWCRASH, and after being disappointed by his THE DIMOND AGE, decided to give some of his other works a chance in case he had more to offer. ANATHEM almost made me give up on that second chance, but I soldiered on trying to discover the reason so many are so enamored with Neal Stephenson. Listening to CRYPTONOMICON was, for me, a return to the fun and sarcasm that is so evident in SNOWCRASH. The tone of this book is so different than that of ANATHEM that I am left a little baffled as to just what that other book was all about.

    This is twice as long as a typical long novel and even some trilogies are shorter. This is because it is really two novels—each novel being told in parallel to the other. One is among the cryptographers in World War II, and the other in the present day of techno-geeks, with some related characters between the two time tracks. As might be expected by such a lengthy book there is a cast of thousands and the plot is complex and multifaceted. There are so many diversions and rabbit trails that as a listener you must be in the frame of mind to go along for the ride, else you will become impatient waiting for the plot to advance. You will hear forays into various methods of code making and breaking, and will gain an smattering of internet technology along the way—and this is completely relevant to understanding the story. Wait until you learn what van Eck phreaking eavesdropping is all about! This novel brought out the nerd in me and if you have any inkling in that direction this book will strike a chord within you as well.

    Also of note is the fact that both of these two books are narrated by William Dufris. In ANATHEM Dufris adopts, correctly I believe, a far-away sequestered-monk tone of voice with mystical quasi-philosophical Socratic dogmatic smugness. Here in CRYPTONOMICON Dufris has the freedom to fully explore his full range of voice characterization. He is most excellent when portraying various English dialects, clearly differentiating at least a half dozen different dialects—and his Germans immediately put images of crisp SS uniforms and monocles in your mind. I think that because this novel is full of quirky characters that Dufris was given free reign to portray , being allowed to go completely over-the-top in his voicings. His performance here reminds me of another wonderful Dufris-narrated book: WOKEN FURIES. He has delivered a truly wonderful performance that made this a very entertaining listening adventure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 05-11-13
    Robert Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 05-11-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Rollicking Hilarious War Story..."

    clocking in at just over 40 hours. You certainly get your money's worth of quality sometimes majestic story telling. Sgt. Bobby Shaftoe is an American cryptanalyst. His orders are under no circumstances to place himself under possibility of capture. Skipping two generations, Randy Price Waterhouse is a 1990s cryptanalyst working on the cutting edge of cyber-law, and is in love with America Shaftoe, Bobby's granddaughter. Goto Dengo is a Nipanese Officer and Engineer, and Rudy von Hacklheber is a mathematician and cryptographer who befriends Waterhouse and Turing as they explore and develop early computing and crypt analysis. Gunter Bischoff is a U-Boat commander, and Glory Altamira is the mother of Douglas MacArthur Shaftoe. Brilliantly narrated by William Dufris. This novel along with Stephenson's The Diamond Age are two of the most impressive novels I've listened to in the scale of Lem and Dick. However, his Snow Crash is something I just didn't cotton onto.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 138 results PREVIOUS12314NEXT
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  • Robert Jenkins
    8/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "very very good"
    What did you like most about Cryptonomicon?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Simon
    Singapore, Singapore
    8/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • stuart
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    7/12/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Philosophical, geeky, gripping"
    Would you listen to Cryptonomicon again? Why?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    What does William Dufris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    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 you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    If the world is on the line, make sure the geeks are on your side.


    Any additional comments?

    I've listened to a lot of audiobooks and this one may be my favourite.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Celia
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    7/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    United Kingdom
    2/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Stunning"
    What did you like most about Cryptonomicon?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The fog horn mounted on 'there but for the grace of god'


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. M. Bleck
    sharpy
    12/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mixed emotions"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Tadley, United Kingdom
    12/4/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Stunning jouney from 1942 to the Web"
    What did you like most about Cryptonomicon?

    Educational and stunning story interlaced from 1942 to the present day.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Nicely integrates the story with a cameo of Alan Turing and Bletchley park


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

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    Get it Now...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Patrick
    High Wycombe, United Kingdom
    7/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    United Kingdom
    6/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Phew!"

    What a book!
    Intricate story, great characters and fast paced. So interwoven with documented events of the past that you wonder where fact ends and fiction begins. This story was so captivating I even ended up doing research to understand historical details to see how well they fitted in.
    This is a long listen and worth every second.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Chris
    Whitstable, United Kingdom
    6/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Treasure Island updated"

    Cleverly weaving together action from WW2 and the present day with humour, visceral war images maths and cryptology ( yes a bit over my head but not essential to understand) he tells a terrific tale that keeps you listening through 42 hours

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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