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
this was painful to listen to - the timeline was confusing jumping from the 40's to people using laptops with no clear bridge between - worst neal stephenson book yet
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 guess I was supposed to like this book, judging by most of the other reviews here, not to mention the awards it won after the print edition was published. I didn't like it. I didn't like the narrator (although I have to hand it to him for getting the pronunciation of "Oconomowoc" correct after flubbing it on his first attempt). The mix of fictionalized historical characters and actual fictional characters consistently left me wondering what was fact and what was fiction. The constant jumping from World War II to the 1990s, along with the similar names of many of the characters from both eras, made it very difficult for me to follow. To be honest, I was really glad when I finally heard "We hope you have enjoyed this McMillan audio production of Cryptonomicon." For the most part, I did not.
Say something about yourself!
This book is chock full of a lot of real history and mathematics, and as something of a WWI history buff and a fan of the work of people like Turing and Shannon, I really enjoyed the clever ways in which Stephenson wove these realities into his fiction. A lot of the technical material is actually explained pretty well at a general level even if you haven't encountered it before, but some of it is more opaque, and this is probably better read than heard unless you already know the history and the math because you'll want to be looking things up all the time to get the full meaning of the story. In addition, the actual technology of telecommunications is rapidly moving beyond what was considered cutting edge when this was written, so it seems dated in places. On the other hand, "The Crypt" actually anticipates certain features of "The Cloud" in a spooky sort of way, and Stephenson's rants about politics and culture are both entertaining and thought provoking. The style is pure Stephenson -- flip, glib, smart, funny, sarcastic, cynical, upbeat -- and for the most part the narrator captures that well, but many of the soldiers and marines are voiced as if they were stupid, and a surprising number of technical terms are mispronounced, which is distracting (I'd give it 3.5 stars for performance). I enjoyed it, but in retrospect I think that, even knowing a lot of the non-fiction on which it is based, I would have enjoyed this more as a reader than I did as a listener.
Authors I like: Patrick O'Brian, Frederick Forsyth, Jane Austen, John Le Carre, Alan Furst, Jon Krakauer, Ernest Hemingway.
Cryptonomicon's themes of WW2, cryptology, and buried treasure are certainly interesting enough, but the writing overall is only fair. The tone of the book and the quality of the writing make it seem more like Young Adult fiction aimed at a bright, mainly male audience that is more gifted in mathematics than the average kid. If there were an engineering and mathematics boarding school for junior and senior high school students, one could imagine this being the most popluar book on campus. Another way of putting it is that it comes off as a book written expressly to ignite an interest in cryptology among young minds at an impressionable age. (Which IMO is not a bad idea.)
As an adult reader/listener, I found some sections tedious and others interesting. Occasionally I would fast-forward through bits that were especially bland or digressive. And yet I did come back to it each morning on my commute despite its flaws. It is the sort of work that, if it were ever made into a movie or TV miniseries, the filmed version might end up better than the book, in that an experienced team of Hollywood script writers could pare down the extraneous bits and distill it into a tighter narrative.
Would I listen to another work by Neal Stephenson? Maybe, maybe not. I did add a few of his titles to my Audible wishlist, but I am more inclined to seek out more works on the same themes by different authors than more works by Stephenson.
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.
I like long audiobooks, but this one was too long. Only two of the characters really drew me in, with the others not interesting me at all. I would characterize this as book that is more likely to appeal to guys (reading the list of reviews confirms that the reviewers are mostly male). I did really enjoy the historical bits that introducted elements of the Philippines under Japanese occupation in WWII. This is a history I didn't know much about and I am compelled now to read more.
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.
Live near Yosemite National Park. Listen to Audible books while hiking.
Juvenile in parts, yes, but that is the nature of the characters. The story had a weak ending, IMHO, but still a good read. One grating problem: the producer of this work should have had the sense to give the reader a pronunciation guide. Filipinos speak ???ta-GOL-log???, not ???TAG-a-log.??? The modern part of Manila is ???ma-KA-tee??? not ???MAK-a-tee.??? And so on. This reader wants to put the emphasis on the first syllable of all words he does not know how to pronounce. Mispronunciation cheapens this otherwise good work. Still worth the price.
"Long, Boring and Pointless"
Loved Snowcrash and The Diamond Age
This however is far too long and ridiculously boring. There is no coherent story going on just a long rambling disjointed fluffy nothingness which occasionally breaks out into merely interesting in that it imparts measured doses of information re computer / codebreaking history. It was so irritating I felt it was like a 1000 page introduction to a story which never actually got going, kept on setting the scene then wandered off into mush instead of delivering a story - then had another go, and another, and another..............
Got about half way through before ditching it, life is too short to care where this is going. I bet it is really good on the last few pages but I lost the will to plough through it that far.
I gave up after nine hours I could just not get myself to understand or care about the charecters or the ??plot ,the narration was poor and seemes to lack any gaps to indicate a change or scene ot place or time maybe I m a little thick for this novel.
"Long and Convoluted"
I can't say I hated the book and I did listen to it all as I got interested in a couple of the characters. The problem was I got lost, I forgot which generation and which part of the story. I tend to listen to books when doing a meaningless task that takes no concentration and yet still I felt I had missed bits, stop listening if you will, and therefore maybe did not get the point. I am not sure whether it would have been better written as separate books in a saga then maybe you could grasp all the intricacies of the different stories. The reader though was flat and maybe that's why at times I switched off.
"pure waffle....... should be entitled Ramble On,,"
It looks like some of my scribblings whilst on speed, back in the old days...... william burroughs meets second life....... writ large and shone on a canvas...... tell me about it THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES......... i bought this because it was told me by a friend whose advice I USED to value that this was a milestone work...... ir is, IN THE SENSE THAT I REACHED A MILESTONE IN PATIENCE LISTENING THROUGH IT, with one eye on the clock as the hours clicked steadily towards its end.........
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