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 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.
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.
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.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
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.
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!!!!!!!!!!!
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
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.
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
The characters are incredibly rich and diverse. The humor is clever and humane.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
Read it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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!
"Long but worth it!"
Good story, and a prospective on the Second World War from many prospective...
Good insight into the development of modern computing and hacking
"Not just for geeks but study may be necessary."
A tome of knowledge and insight that's worth absorbing slowly over the course of its epic runtime. Sequences of drama amd action are crystalised in Stevensons gripping blockbuster style but the real worth is most often coded into the subtext.
"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
"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.
"A rambling epic through war, dotcom and maths"
A couple of stories nested together, that all intertwine at the end. Has some weird sex scenes in but it's 99% a fantastic tale of a whole bunch of weird people
Shifting seamlessly through history and technological exposition I was hooked.
Straight on to more from this author for me.
"Verbose, but worth it"
I'm a geek and I enjoyed the technical detail, but elsewhere there were too many rambles with limited payoff. I'd also say there were a few loose ends and the odd detail or explanation lacking. But overall a thoroughly absorbing story.
A note on the narration: it was as good as I have ever heard. the characterisations fit, and the range and consistency of voices was excellent.
"Jumped around too much."
Too many barely related plots. And a very slow start. Definitely no replay potential. Very disappointing.
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