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
While I enjoyed many aspects of this book, including the characters and different time periods used, it was overall a letdown as the story just peters out and doesn't really leave me satisfied.
I read the book on the recommendation of an IT friend thinking that it would be more about cyber. They did talk quite a bit about cyber and although I found those portions to be interesting, they were a little disjointed and really seemed more to be an excuse to talk about sex and masturbation. A popular topic, to be sure, but not really important to the story. After I'd finished, my first thought was about the 40+ hours I'd spent listening to it and how many other books I could've listened to during that time.
While the book is quite good, Audible has still not fixed the out of order chapters people have noted before. Selling defective books is really not acceptable.
I think he was doing a fine job until he got to the Japanese. Here he totally butchered all of the names. It is one thing if they were filtered through the American characters ability, or lack thereof, to pronounce Japanese, but when during Goto Dengo’s storyline Ninomiya became Ninomaya I turned off the book. I’m not looking for perfection, but that was just horrible. I eventually went back to listening because I really wanted to know the rest of the story, becuase I really, really loved this book, and didn’t have the printed book at hand.
Shaftoe's debrief by a certain Army Lieutenant.
This is the first Neal Stephenson book I've read or listened to and I found it absolutely enthralling. The author's sense of humor is such that I often found the minutia (this is a long book and there is a lot of minutia) of the story captivating and hilarious. His character development is among the best I've read/listened to.
As a life-long member of the geeky introvert club I found his characterization of that archetype to be particularly enlightening, funny and just spot on.
I've since picked up Snow Crash and couldn't finish it. I guess the post cyber punk thing isn't for me, but I will certainly be picking up all his other historical fiction works.
The story unfolds in parallel threads, existing in the past and the recent-present, that reveal the plot in a fun way. Stephenson takes you all over the world and across time while letting you get to know some fun personalities. All of this happens at a brisk pace that will keep the listener engaged.
If you enjoy the idea of cyphers, the pre-history of computers and learning about some contemporary technology this book will entertain you. But don't assume that it's all about the tech. It's full of activity, from diving, combat, digging, hacking and excellent conversation.
William Dufris is a gifted narrator (I rarely encounter anything less with Audible these days) who expertly reads while inhabiting a large variety of characters of different sex and nationality. He's a one-man acting troupe, but you won't be cognizant of his efforts. You'll just enjoy the narrative.
The bottom line is that I looked for opportunities to listen to this whenever I could and I was sad when it was all over.
I've read a lot of Neal Stephenson, so I knew to expect brilliant writing that didn't necessarily go anywhere for a while. I'll say this, for once he didn't write a terrible ending. Maybe it's not brilliant, but it wasn't one of his books that falls apart at the end.
I really liked the book, but I really went on faith through hours, and hours, of narration. I commented a number of times to my husband, a computer scientist, that I'm not really enough of a geek for this book. Also, that I knew he'd love it, because he is.
I was engaged in the story, but not in that ignore my family and responsibilities way, until the middle of the second to last download. At that point, the characters finally took on life for me, and I really cared about what was happening.
I would be cautious in my recommendation to read this. For Stephenson fans or for those very interested in the history of computers and cryptology, I'd say it's a definite read. For others, I'm not sure they would want to get through the long descriptions.
Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?
Cryptonomicon is just so good. I was expecting a cyberpunk story, but I wasn't expecting to learn the crazy math, history of computers and war. It feels like reading about the Vietnam War and the Nazi with the infrastructure of code breaking on a data island, but set in the past.
There are some laugh out loud moments. For example, the theory of masturbation was totally funny. Cryptonomicon almost felt like it was written as a comedy, thriller action, that only geeks will like. The story is not so hard to follow because you can quickly get into the plot.
The best way to describe Cryptonomicon is, imagine a techno geek in the Second World War, but with modern day inventions to win the digital war.
To sum up this review, if Neal Stephenson needed a director for the movie, Quentin Tarantino would be a good match because the book almost reads like a mockery of an adaptation of history on WWII. Poking fun at the Nazi madness.
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.
"One for the crypto-geeks?"
I don't know. There's so much technical content that it seems to be aimed at programmers and cryptography enthusiasts. I, being a true geek, was already familiar with this stuff - so it is a bit tedious to have these things explained at length. On the other hand, I can't imagine it being interesting to someone who is new to it all - especially when so little of it contributes to the plot.
There are a few annoying mis-pronunciations by the reader, but the performance is mostly OK.
Odd story. Seems disparate to begin with but folds together perfectly at the end. Ending was a little rushed but otherwise perfect.
"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.
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