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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 US 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 Detachment 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 granddaughter, 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 listeners say about Cryptonomicon

Average Customer Ratings
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Two thirds through and quit

Neal Stephenson books are always highly rated on Audible, but man, this guy just doesn't do it for me. Cryptonomicon jumps around in it's narration for no discernible reason. If you're not listening to it all in one sitting, you're not going to follow the multiple story lines.

But it really doesn't matter because all the story lines are boring anyway. I mean, a couple of them start strong, but boy do they get stale fast.

Two thirds through the book and I barely care about any of the characters. I'm a bit confused as to what's going on in a couple of the plot lines, and too bored by the book to go back and re-listen.

This is the third Stephenson book that made me feel this way. I'm done. And I'm not going to punish myself by sitting through the rest of this plodding nonsense.

26 people found this helpful

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Loved the Book and "Every-Single-Little-Thing"

I thoroughly love this Cryptonomicon - all 42 hours of the audiobook. I had to re-listen to a couple of the early chapters to sort all the timelines and principal characters, but once I got going, I didn't want it to end. The overall all plot lines and characters had me fully engaged, but what I enjoyed even more the the the astonishing density of insightful observations about every-single-little-thing the characters encounter - especially Waterhouse. I have a thing for patterns myself, and Stephenson's many diversions and doglegs were inspiring and delightful. I found I couldn't listen to Cryptonomicon any way other than absolutely actively engaged or I'd be lost and rewinding chapters for a second listen. Another amazing aspect of Cryptonomicon - any book with with heavy plot lines in tech/coding written twenty-one years ago could have been extremely dated, but it's amazing how many things Stephenson got right and and how many of the issues (bitcoin) are still fresh. Got to give some props to the narrator William Dufris. His many voices really added a lot of nuance for me and heightened many of the humorous scenes. This is my second Neal Stephenson book after Seveneves. I need to go back and listen to some of SE, because I really don't think I would have guessed they came from the same author. Not sure which Stephenson book is next ... Snow Crash, Anathem, Fall or Dodge in Hell. Recommendations appreciate.

15 people found this helpful

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Solid fun. [>|<]

Enjoyed this performance. Was a bit wary after reading other reviews saying it jumped around and wouldn’t be good unless listened to in one sitting.

Glad I didn’t bother with those reviews. The timeline presented was purposeful, compelling characters woven thoughtfully together. I listened to it over the course of several weeks and had no issue following the narrative.

It was exciting, dark, hilarious and moving. I recommend this one. [>|<]

Narrator nailed the performance, good show.

10 people found this helpful

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Favorite Author and Perfect Narration. Great Value

This book is long. Could have been 2 or 3. I appreciate the value. This book is intense and jammed packed with interesting situations. it was hard to follow in the beginning but characters were explored in depth. I learned much about digital currency on the side - painlessly lol. Get this book.

8 people found this helpful

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the narrator is amazing

I've loved this book for years. Dufris actually Rut's dialect, no mean feat. Do buy.

7 people found this helpful

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What is this, a man's rights propaganda pamphlet?

What would have made Cryptonomicon better?

less indefensible rhetoric. hes as lazy as Ayn Rand is at creating antagonists--i.e. shallow, poorly represented, emotional, irrational, and stupid characters. Its just unrealistic. At least present the other side of the argument instead of just your strawman.

What was most disappointing about Neal Stephenson’s story?

Author is more interested in his self esteem than creating a good story.

Would you be willing to try another one of William Dufris’s performances?

no, too melodramatic

6 people found this helpful

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captivating and a wonderful listen

captivating story and a fantastic narration. I would highly recommend this book. very interesting sci-fi / fantasy.

5 people found this helpful

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Importance of good narration

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.........

12 people found this helpful

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Just so great.

It’s interesting to absolutely love a 40+ hour audiobook and then read reviews from folks who hated it. Different courses for different horses, I guess. All I can say is this book made everything I was doing while listening (bike riding, cleaning, driving, waiting in line outside Costco) a fantastically better experience than it would have been without having these characters to keep me company. This is a total, unadulterated rave!

3 people found this helpful

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Overwritten makes me regret buying his other books

I enjoy reading, but having to wait through some chapters to get back to the story...
having to wait half a chapter for backstory... that really isn't relevant.
Overall the ideas are interesting, but too long to get through the other 'stuff'

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. M. Bleck
  • 12-12-13

Mixed emotions

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Tom G
  • 03-04-16

Ended abruptly

Going into so much detail, suprised it ended so abruptly. Still, very interesting & enjoyable.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Sphelx
  • 02-05-14

Stunning

What did you like most about Cryptonomicon?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

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.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The fog horn mounted on 'there but for the grace of god'

3 people found this helpful

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  • windy in wales
  • 02-20-21

Top men

Loved it. Very long but always buzzing, fascinating characters and story. Only exception is that female cardboard cutouts exist only to receive male attention and sperm.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • M. Dawes
  • 09-02-11

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.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nik Hewitt
  • 04-12-13

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • A Gurney
  • 08-10-21

Overly long but then an incomplete and abrupt endi

For such a long story, completely wasted 2/3 of its length getting to the point of what the story was actually about, spent the first half of it asking myself if it was ever going to reveal what it's actual goal was. Then with all the setting up that the book does, regarding the cast of characters, putting them in a variety of difficult and ongoing situations, it just goes, "they've succeeded at this one thing, I'll leave you to having to assume that everything went OK afterwards, because I'm not going to bother to resolve any of it!" Yet the author somehow could be bothered to write enough excruciating detail for the prior 41 3/4 hours...

1 person found this helpful

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  • MICHAEL D WHITESIDE
  • 01-04-20

Too wordy. Pointless details that really add little

I really couldn’t get on with this. Tried for 4 hrs that I’ll never get back. I siinply didn’t see the story going anywhere.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J. M. Poulain
  • 11-23-21

Book for a Nerd's Nerd

**spoiler alert** A book for a nerd's nerd covering everything from Philippino-American relationships to Decompression Diving Science and anything that the author fancies within. Not quite as outrageously mashed together as Snow Crash as the universe is based in the modern day and historical fiction which doesn't allow the insane lengths of parody in his sci-fi works. Full of laugh out loud similes and brilliantly written.

Not really sure on the point of Andrew Lowe who shows up at different points in the narrative but never seems to affect the plot and his odd view on humanity.

Full of eclectic references, the Greek Pantheon, Haikus and the reasons the Allies won WW2. With almost whole chapters dedicated to (amongst other things) the perfect bowl of Captain Crunch Cereal or a Stocking Fetish it really covers a dictionary of weird. The Titular Cryptonomicon only appears sporadically and isn't particularly game changing at any point despite being a pretty interesting concept. I was also disappointed that the is island nation of Qwghlman didn't exist as the Aleut people of Snow Crash were fascinating to explore further.

There are occasional errors as Stephenson tries to sound as smart as his characters (surface area of a sphere or Captain Crunch isn't Euclidean Geometry, in fact triangles on the surface of a sphere would be the original example of Non-Euclidean Geometry). He also likes to slow roll reveals: Shaftoe doesn't meet General MacArthur, he meets someone in standard army fatigues only adorned with five stars, Shaftoe's body stiffened and even if he'd been dead for a few hours it would have done this, the man lit a match for his pipe but the fiery holocaust of Manila had sucked the air and the match didn't light etc.

There's a lot of maths in the book, from talking about Turing's bike chain falling off to expounding the benefits of Prime Numbers and general number theory. It's also odd in the parlance of the book that they call cryptography "crypto" where in modern day it'd refer to cryptocurrency. Very weirdly towards the end they discuss creating a digital currency, say that currency is backed by faith and then conclude they need Gold to back their digital currency, so close to predicting cryptocurrency!

The structure of the book didn't make much sense to me until the end where I realise that it's tracking two parallel attempts to break the Arethusa code. The disordering of Bobby Shaftoe's stories due to drug dependency may also mirror trying to break a code but I might be over extending a theory there.

It's a definite must read for fans of the genre but might be a bit of a jump into the deep end for others.

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  • Santiago
  • 10-20-21

Long, nerdy, erudite, very interesting

The fact the author knows so much about: deep diving, WW2 submarines, church organs, southeast Asian bureaucracy, postmodernist pseudoscience, and of course cryptography and hacking... Makes me really curious what kind of life he had.

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  • Rhiannon
  • 12-09-16

Neil Stevenson is a genius

My all time favourite novel. Such a phenomenal mind, and eclectic mix of science&history. Brilliant!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ellen Johnston
  • 09-28-16

360 degree story

a bit to much mathematical detail for my taste, but otherwise very entertaining. liked it a lot!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jen le fay
  • 06-03-16

Wonderfully mathematical entwined yarn

This book proves heart and maths can coexist, something a diehard nerd like myself already knew but rarely see blossoming in the outside world. Well worth a read for nerds and literary types. Makes me want to understand both the Second World War and number theory at greater depth.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-28-21

Narrator is amazing and story is fantastic

Was entertained the whole time, accents and voices were engaging and authentic. Definitely recommend this to anyone.

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  • Ethan
  • 09-20-21

Probably better to read rather than listen

Interesting idea for a book, but pretty complicated to listen to. Some bits really dragged on and there a whole chapters I would have straight up removed. Lots of technical jargon I feel like people won't really like either.

I dont mind the idea of the plot jumping back and forth in time, but I ended up really not caring about the modern day plot line. Much more interested in the espionage shenanigans.

Overall, I would recommend reading it instead. But if you're not grabbed immediately then leave it alone.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-13-21

That was fun.

There's just to much to say.

Thoughtful, suprisingly romantic at times, entertaining for the most part, it's long, which can be daunting but is so very rewarding.

I saw other reviews about math being prevalent, there's only a couple of minutes of actually number talk over the 40 hours.

also as usual William Dufris, is just flawless.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-07-21

excellent accent work

The narrator did awesome work with the accents for all the characters. It's a good book, but some of its more longwinded bits probably lose something as an audiobook - would be easier to follow reading it myself.

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  • Mick Poole
  • 12-10-20

epic

excellent story, great characters, didn't want it to end. Have loved all his books as audio. excellent productions.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-19-20

Stephenson is a wizard

The way he writes each chapter in the voice of each character is wonderful, he's such a chameleon. Terrific performance, too.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-13-20

Brilliant

Funny, informative, great writing, fantastic characterisations. Narration superb with great delivery of humour and wonderful interpretations of characters. I will love Sergeant Bobby Shaftoe for the rest of my life. Loved the history & science despite not being all that clever, or a tech or math nerd. Thanks Neal. A real pleasure.