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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
Certainly the best book I have ever downloaded from Audible and perhaps the best book i have read this millennium.
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'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.
I loved this book!
Arguably Neal Stephenson can be a little verbose but this can be forgiven in this really interesting and fascinating book.
Spanning the period from WW2 to the present day it is an epic well researched story and includes key appearances of real-life people as diverse as Alan Turing and Douglas MacArthur.
The characters are believable and the humour remincient of Joseph Heller's Catch 22.
Well worth the nearly 43 hours listen,
I can't pretend to have understood all of this amazing novel but I enjoyed every minute of it. From deeply poignant moments to laugh- out-loud funny moments it contained more information about cryptography, the second world war and technology than I could absorb but it kept me enthralled.
The narrator, William Dufris, was superbe. He created identifiable characters without being over the top about it and must have enjoyed the book to have conveyed the humour in it so well.
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