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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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  •  
    Steven L 04-03-10
    Steven L 04-03-10
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    "Good Book But Missing Something"

    This is a great book and the unabridged audio version is a welcome addition to my library. However, having read the book several times, the audio version has at least one technical issue - there is about a chapter and a half of the story missing in part 5 at the beginning of chapter two. In the print version this is all of "Deluge" and part of "Captivity". Maybe it will show up later, that's happened before in other audio books.

    118 of 123 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Parker Stow, OH USA 02-12-15
    Diana Parker Stow, OH USA 02-12-15 Member Since 2014

    ldyg

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    "Great book; small error in download file"
    Would you listen to Cryptonomicon again? Why?

    Cryptonomicon is a great book - I've listened to it three times, and loved it all three times. It's a long, quirky, fascinating and funny story sprawling over two continents and seventy years. And at almost 43 hours long, it's a heckuva value for your Audible dollar!

    BE AWARE, HOWEVER, THAT AUDIO CHAPTERS 2 AND 3 ARE SWAPPED IN THE DOWNLOAD FILE. I alerted Audible a year ago, and it's not fixed yet (as of 2/1/15) so I want to alert people. All the text is there, you just have to manually skip ahead, and then skip back.


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

    William Dufris' wry reading and distinctive voices for the characters really enhances the humor of the book - especially his reading of the character of Bobby Shaftoe.


    30 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 02-16-12
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 02-16-12 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "A Cracker!"

    I recall when I first read this fantastic book how impressed I was with the level of detail, research and sheer discipline that must have underpinned the writing of it. I was no less impressed when I heard this audio performance. Having now also read the Baroque Cycle, I got a double thrill out of the repetition of the characters' histories, their shared ancestory and the scale of Stephenson's imagination. Anyone who enjoys history (but doesn't take themselves too seriously as a history buff) is bound to enjoy this book.

    I listened to this performance about a year ago. At the time I had not written any reviews and it never dawned on me to write one for this book. However, I have today finished listening to Richard Dawkins', "The Blind Watchmaker", and I am now writing reviews for most of the audio I listen too. In that review I wrote that fact is so often more interesting than fiction. I believe that, but it is not true in this instance. Maybe it's because the fact and the fiction are so inextricably interwoven. One has to stop to think, "Now, did that happen?" Then one is driven to the Net to check the odd details and, invariably, the facts stack-up.

    The plot is great. It too is interwoven between times and personalities, from WWII to the modern internet highways that criss-cross the oceans of the world with their fibre-optic cables. I love Waterhouse (all of them) and who could not like Root and Rudi? My recommendation is to invest the time and effort in this and other Stephenson works. They repay the effort many times over.

    As for the characterisations of William Dufris, I have to say they were outstanding. I thought I was going to hate the American twang, but his sense of the character was so good I found myself having to replay passages for my own enjoyment and to the entertainment of my unfortunate friends. One passage in particular, when Waterhouse does the algebra to solve his lack of sex, got a particular hammering (pardon the pun). Finally, can I just mention his range - male, female, American, Japanese, Swiss, backwoodsman, professor and every combination of these. Simply outstanding.

    44 of 46 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey Wieseman 11-07-10 Member Since 2007

    Gosoxjsw

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    "Be careful!"

    So far in the first 3 chapters this Audio book has skipped 30 pages , continues to another part of the book and at the beginning of another chapter, it reverts back to the previous 30 skipped pages. Fortunately I have the print book version to verify. Probably why so many reviews say that there is a disjointment to the listening. I emailed Audible about this, we'll see if there is a fix. Enjoy the book so far but hard to find where I should be listening. UGGHHH!! I hope I didn't waste 2 credits! Help Audible!!!!!!!!!!!

    141 of 152 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 2013

    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.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 01-22-13
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 01-22-13 Member Since 2015

    How can the characters in this year's True Detective be worse? Ferrill is asexual, drunk, corrupt, a child abuser and worse!

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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.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Twp. of Washington, NJ, United States 01-30-10
    Judy Twp. of Washington, NJ, United States 01-30-10 Member Since 2012
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    "complex and intelligent"

    It took a little while to get into and sort out all of the characters and parallel storylines, however, it was worth it!

    "Cryptonomicon" was long but the story was so complex that it seemed right (I even wanted the book to go on.)

    Also, do not be intimidated by the math-y content of the book. The author does very well at describing complex number theory and cryptography in a way that is accessible.

    I highly recomment this book.

    21 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gal Wilson, WY, USA 12-07-09
    Gal Wilson, WY, USA 12-07-09
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    "Night And Day!"

    (compared with the "Unabridged Excerpts"!)

    Well worth the hefty price, well read and done. I have no qualms whatsoever spending good money on this version, as it was obviously the product of hard work and professional production.

    21 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Carlton, VIC, Australia 01-09-10
    Peter Carlton, VIC, Australia 01-09-10 Member Since 2008
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    "A very fine read"

    This wasn't just a good audio-book, it was a Tour de Force for the narrator, William Dufris. If you ever find a reader's attempts at different voices or accents cause to cringe, don't worry, this guy mostly nails it. As to the book itself, it's nothing short of epic in scope, spanning half a century, a good part of the planet, full of dire struggles, mayhem, heroes and bad guys. My question is, what has this guy (Stephenson) done with his life to be able to render so many different places, scenarios and characters in such vivid detail? On the other hand it is long, very, very long. I'm grateful that I was able to listen to it rather than read it, and I do have to admit that at times, it tired me. This tended to happen in some of the descriptive sections, which were at times perhaps a little too detailed. Plot-wise there were also one or two moments of discomfort for me. Don't let any of that put you off, plunge in, it's worth the effort, the rewards are definitely there, overall a great piece of work.

    29 of 35 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Castle Rock, CO 08-27-12
    Amazon Customer Castle Rock, CO 08-27-12 Member Since 2014

    Brad M.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Magnificant"
    What did you love best about Cryptonomicon?

    The story-telling is engrossing, drawing the reader in bit-by-bit as the story unfolds. The combination of witty humor and detailed technical description will cause more than a few moments of inappropriate laughter and plenty of Google searches.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cryptonomicon?

    There are quite a few memorable moments, but the one for me is [SPOILER] the scene during the raid on the Ordo offices where Tombstone is held, seeing the combination gun toting anti-Government Intrusion Secret Admirers as well as nerds using an EMP cannon to confuse and screw with the police.[/SPOILER]


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

    William Dufris brings the story to life. Not only pronouncing some of the more difficult completely made up languages, he gives each character life. It's less of a narration and more of a one-man radio play, complete with a great Douglas MacArthur voice.


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

    I wasn't able to completely finish the book until a week long road trip where I could enjoy 8-10 hours of it at a time. It is a long, long book and very technical so it does require attention to be paid.


    Any additional comments?

    Read it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
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  • F Gibb
    Dumfries
    3/1/13
    Overall
    "Crypt-Enormicon!"

    I loved this book.

    Sure, it was massive. And I take what the other reviewers said about there being unneccessary diversions though the book.

    But the fact is that, despite its size, I didn't want it to finish. I love Neal Stephenson's style. He can capture a complicated mesh of emotions with a single sentence- sometimes a single word. His writing style is loose and very very funny. The story itself rambles around in a massively entertaining meander through the decades- but it gets you there in its own good time.



    I disagree with comments that it's so full of technical jargon that you need to have a degree, an anorac, or a specialist knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons esoterica to get it. All the technical stuff is explained for non-technical folks like me, and it's nearly always very daft, and very funny.



    It being funny and daft doesn't mean that it is without a moral compass. There is a strong 'under-story' that will, at times, capture your heart by creeping up while you're not expecting it, and getting in there by stealth. Neal S's writing style makes this happen seamlessly.



    A word for the narrator. He pulled the story along with a slick and beatifully timed delivery. Good at accents, so you know who's saying what. It's an understated delivery, but it's exactly how it should be. He presents the words without imposing himself onto them.



    However: This is not a life-changing book. It is enlightening, but never profound. It is a book that will entertain you rather than tranform you. You may think that 42hours (or 900+ pages) is too much of an undertaking merely to be entertained. I'd argue that you'll know whether you like it or not within the first hour of reading it- so the commitment is only until then. By the time Bobby Shafto and his team have knocked over the money carriers you should have an idea of whether you want to keep reading.



    So- go on. You've nothing to lose!

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan
    EdinburghUnited Kingdom
    2/7/10
    Overall
    "A milestone in fiction"

    Where to start...who but Neal Stephenson could write a book so epic in scope, seamlessly weaving a tale from the hayday of computing, WW2 wartime espionage and contemporary eCommerce underpinned by the fascinating field of cryptography. To call the book gripping is like describing the South Pole as "a bit nippy" Superlatives are rarely merited. In this case they are.

    15 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    10/14/10
    Overall
    "wonderful if very long book"

    This is a superb book which I enjoyed listening too very much but it is not without flaws and peculiarities.

    To start with it is arguable that it is unnecessarily long. One or two reviewers on Amazon have suggested that the author could have done with a good editor, and there is some truth in that; in some places the detail is mind-boggling and quite difficult to follow, particularly in an audiobook. However, I confess that I liked the detail - it must appeal to the inner nerd in me I think - and I do like books that explore the byways of history away from the main road, as it were. And the storyline is satisfyingly complicated and hooks you in gradually; do stick at it as it improves a lot after the first section.

    Narration is excellent - indeed it makes the book. I do like William Dufris' style, amused and kinda laid-back, and he brings the book brilliantly to life, and his characterisations are perfect.

    Not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure, but five stars for me.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Wras
    Kildonan
    4/22/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The many levels of understanding and deception"

    War is not just about bullets but concealment and secrecy, we are living proof of this reality, the the war on terror is fought in the networks and in communications and messages, in lies and half truth. This book works within all this elements but begins at beginnings of the second world war exposing what effect cryptography, Allied Codebreakers and tactical-deception had on the european and pacific fronts, and how those ideas changed our world. We are introduced two to sets of characters one set in WWII and the others in in the late 1990s this group is related through blood to the first ones and share some the interest of their relatives in cryptography and communications. We are exposed to history at its most brutal, and intelligent, some truly funny episodes and dialog mixed with high adventure, mathematics, ideas, philosophy, programing, geeks, super geeks, dentists, soldiers, submarines and lawyers. There are plots, subplots, ramblings and thoughts expounded in all seriousness and some just taking the piss.
    This is more than a book it is an experience. A work madness and genius; madness because of its reach genius because of it erudition and entertainment value.
    The reader manages to create voices for all the characters and move through the book with amazing ease. .

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nik Hewitt
    Derbyshire, UK
    4/12/13
    Overall
    "Outstanding Translation of a Classic"

    I'd already read Cryptonomicon, a couple of times, prior to listening to it. I couldn't have been more pleased. Dufris captures the essence of this weighty journey admirably, and his intonation and studied understanding comes across with real heartfelt sympathy for the motley collection of characters and rich locations both historical and contemporary. I couldn't have been happier at the treatment of what I believe to be Stephenson's finest book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Gareth
    Beaumaris, United Kingdom
    7/10/11
    Overall
    "There is a good book somewhere"

    I really tried hard with this book. I listened to it for about 6 hours before I gave up. There is a good story in here somewhere, but the narrative is plagued with pointless epic similes that add little to the enjoyment and deviations leaving the listener wondering where they are in the tale. I wonder if the author was paid by the word count?

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • J Sinner
    Brussels, Belgium
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Excellent capture of the book"

    I first Cryptonomicon around 10 years ago, and find myself rereading it every couple of years. Part WW2 spy thriller, part modern day geek drama, part introduction to basic cryptography, it is all brain candy.



    On my last reread, I tried this audiobook version, and was extremely happy with how it captured both the tone and the charcters of the book.



    William Dufris tone and consistent delivery manage to capture the underlying humour and bring life to Neal Stephenson's baroque prose. He manages to evoke the different settings and characters through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) use of accents



    I definitely recommend this.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Saul
    London, United Kingdom
    12/24/12
    Overall
    "Deep and technical, but accessible."

    Underneath all the cryptography and tech, Cryptonomicon has a great story with well rounded, modern characters. The original novel features graphs and diagrams to explain pretty technical topics like frequency counting and van eck phreaking, but you don't notice them missing in this audio book, as the narrator carries you along with the in depth descriptions while progressing the narrative.



    It's ensemble cast, split across two timeframes, provide plenty of variety, the occasional laugh, and lots of relatable geeks. It's a very long book, but it never drags. Once it's over, you want to find out what the characters are up to.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • M. Dawes
    Birmingham UK
    9/2/11
    Overall
    "Just genius"

    Like a piece of cryptography, patterns and associations begin to emerge the more you delve into this story. About two thirds of the way in, the disparate strands of the timelines and characters begin to come together in the most riveting way.

    Worth 40 hours of your life? - Absolutely.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Philip
    Piacenza, Italy
    6/20/10
    Overall
    "Great book"

    I really enjoyed Cryptonomicon. It's a dense story which requires the reader to involve themselves in a bit of brain work. Suprisingly, for an author who has a reputation as a cyberpunk I found the narrative of this book reminded me of authors such as Ken Kesey and predictably Joseph Heller. For some reason it reminded me alot of Kesey's 1992 book Sailor Song, which is hardly a bad thing.
    Only down point; about half way through Neal starts recounting a letter a character is writing for Playboy, which goes on wayyyy too long. Stephenson obviously enjoyed writing that part too much.
    Heartily recommended.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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