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
I loved this book when I first read it, but I love to listen to books Even if I've already read them. I have been searching for this book for so long. I couldn't even find it stolen online. Finally Audible has the full version, and I couldn't be happier that it's available in a form which provides income to the author and the voice artist.
This really is a classic, if you're gawking at the price or the 2 credits instead of one, go ahead, splurge. It's worth it. This is one of the most engaging books I've ever read, it keeps you interested and wanting to learn more with every word. You'll actually learn a lot of maths if you've never done number theory or theory of computation. The story is set in World War II following two characters and also in the 1990s following another, a descendant of one of the two former. I would say this is Stephenson's first venture into what becomes "steam-punk" i.e. looking at past technology with the same eye we bring to future technology. He looks at an organ and sees a computer.
besides that, the story is riveting, if i didn't already mention this...
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.
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.
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!!!!!!!!!!!
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.
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.
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.
(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 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.
Big mystery lover here! The picture is of my father who is suffering with dementia and my youngest daughter on her wedding day.
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.
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!
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
I loved this book. If you have any interest in mathematics, codes, the second world war and so many other things, this is a brilliant book for you. I don't rate many books highly but this is 5 out of 5. It kept me spellbound for days and I couldn't wait to return to it. My husband felt a bit left out! But I got so much done whilst listening to it!
A thoroughly good book. The style of narration takes a little getting used to, but persist, you'll soon love it.
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.
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,
"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?
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