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
Picking up the book always put me off of diving into this story, as the thickness of the book just made me reflect that I couldn't invest the time necessary to get into it. This made it an excellent choice as my first Audible listen, and I didn't regret it.
William Dufris does an amazing job capturing the voice of the different characters... the needed character reminders of "Randy said" or "Shafto commanded" start to become noticeable, due to the fact that they don't seem to be necessary... at no point was I confused as to who was saying something, due to Mr. Dufris spectacular voicing.
From a few dozen books I've bought on Audible (most of them quite good), this is the only one that made me actually get out here and rate it.
Besides the novel itself, William Dufris does a great reading, really puts his soul into it.
A must for any geek who's into computers, UNIX, math, crypto, or WWII.
Yes, Neal Stephenson's stories require that you pay attention as you listen, because he densely loads them with information. For this reason, among others, I would not place his novels into the category of "Escape Fiction." Nor "Thrillers." "Cryptonomicon," in particular, disturbed and upset me, sometimes, although at other times it made me laugh out loud. His graphic descriptions of heinous atrocities committed during the Second World War definitely upset me. He also describes -- repeatedly and in vivid detail -- the anguish, discomfort, distraction, and obsession that men apparently suffer from sexual abstinence. Perhaps I ought to know better by now, but this depiction of male horniness -- although rendered hilariously in "Cryptonomicon -- did surprise and disturb me. It made me feel a bit sorry for men (although I expect that every single one of them would prefer horniness over childbirth, if they had to choose). It also, single-handedly, explains the Mars/Venus phenomenon. Like all of Neal Stephenson's novels, "Cryptonomicon" includes lots of technology, science, and math, which one needs to grasp at least a little bit in order to follow the story. People without a pretty cerebral inclination might not enjoy it, as it places a lot of demands on the forebrain. Throughout the novel, Stephenson refers to Japanese as "Nipponese," and Japan as "Nippon." Even the American soldiers in the story called the Japanese "Nipponese," or "Nips," rather than "Japanese," or "Japs." I kept expecting him to explain this nomenclature, but he never does; and I don't think the WWII soldiers actually used this nomenclature. Perhaps Mr. Stephenson is displaying respect and political correctness, at the expense of verisimilitude? William Dufris does an excellent job, as always, of narrating this book. I especially appreciated his rendering of the difficult German/Australian accent of one of the characters. Finally, although Audible doesn't provide for rating the production quality of their audiobooks, I do wish to communicate a strong message regarding their production of "Cryptonomicon." The copy that I downloaded had bookmarks approximately every hour, evenly spaced, not even corresponding to chapter breaks, or even sentence breaks. Audible, please don't do that. Please don't space the bookmarks much further apart than 3 or 4 minutes; and please make them correspond to some logical breaking point. Thank you. Glad to have gotten that off my chest.
The narrator almost entirely ruins listening to this book, which was a tremendously good read. Glaringly he mispronounces the frequent Philippine words and place names. He narrates sentence by sentence rather than appreciating the developing line of the story being expressed. I would not have used up two credits for this if I had payed enough attention to sample the quality of narration beforehand. My bad.........
I read Cryptonomicon years ago, but downloaded the book to give it a listen -- and it was an absolute joy. It's a generations-long story that has kept me company on the road for many hours. Never has math been more interesting and intriguing.
I really enjoyed this book. I laughed on how 2/3 of the way through the book, I still wasn't entirely clear on the plot. Normally this would bug me, but it was so well written that I just enjoyed the ride to see where it was headed.
I also have to say, the narrator was very good. Hard to beet.
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
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.
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.
As a 30 hour per week traveler and over 12 years on Audible.com, I seldom write a negative or neutral review. However, I felt compelled to advise my fellow listeners about this title.
The book is sooooo slow to pick up speed and I am talking 10 to 15 hours here to pick up speed.
Even then, it rambles on. It sounds like it is about to get interesting only to shift gears once again.
It is a novel about interesting issues that span the course of generations of family members. It starts in World War 2 (about 1941 or 1942) and comes close to present day times.
It contains many interesting tidbits if you have a strong math/technology background.
Trying to seperate the generations of family is a bit difficult as the names and functions are so similar.
If you want a really long book where the engagement and excitement is spaced long enough for you to calculate your tax return in your head without missing a beat, then this is for you.
It has it's high spots but I can not recommend it to the listener that wants a fast paced, exciting, easy to follow read.
"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!
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.
"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
I loved this book. If you have any interest in mathematics, codes, the second world war and so many other things, this is a brilliant book for you. I don't rate many books highly but this is 5 out of 5. It kept me spellbound for days and I couldn't wait to return to it. My husband felt a bit left out! But I got so much done whilst listening to it!
A thoroughly good book. The style of narration takes a little getting used to, but persist, you'll soon love it.
I'm helplessly in love with this book in dead tree form, and it's no different in audiobook form.
The narrative jumps between a Marine Raider and a codebreaker in World War Two, and a computer hacker descendant in the present time. This is an precursor to the much more ambitious Baroque Cycle in many ways, and shares lots of the same themes (and surnames) with that: currency as an abstract concept, computers, codes, war, information theory, maths.
It also shares the usual Stephensonian tropes: lengthy (but fascinating) digressions, snarky, dialogue, a plot somewhat less important than the prose, digs at the soft sciences, and sumptuous period detail.
It also finally tells you what that scroll lock light on your keyboard is useful for.
"Entertaining and intelligent."
An excellent book, well read (lieutenant pronounciation aside.)
A long and interesting story spanning decades, piles and piles of research thrown in, some of which can be slightly heavy listening unless you're a maths junkie or a little crowbarred in.
Even managed to make computing interesting which was a novelty for me.
Again surprisingly, it's a very funny book.
Well worth 40 hours of anyone's time.
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