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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

Critic Reviews

  • Locus Award, Best Novel, 2000

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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Story

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Fun,educational and relevant

Full of dynamic characters and historical fact. Excellent humor and pragmatism. Bobby Shafto is my hero. The reading is done masterfully.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Even his minutia is interesting!

Which scene was your favorite?

Shaftoe's debrief by a certain Army Lieutenant.

Any additional comments?

This is the first Neal Stephenson book I've read or listened to and I found it absolutely enthralling. The author's sense of humor is such that I often found the minutia (this is a long book and there is a lot of minutia) of the story captivating and hilarious. His character development is among the best I've read/listened to.

As a life-long member of the geeky introvert club I found his characterization of that archetype to be particularly enlightening, funny and just spot on.

I've since picked up Snow Crash and couldn't finish it. I guess the post cyber punk thing isn't for me, but I will certainly be picking up all his other historical fiction works.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Worst. Reading. Ever.

What would have made Cryptonomicon better?

An engaging plot. Characters I could care about, not merely observe placidly from a distance. A reader who bothered to research the material and the words he would have to say BEFORE he sat down to read.

Has Cryptonomicon turned you off from other books in this genre?

Not at all, because it never belonged in "science fiction" in the first place. Others labeled this as "thriller", but I couldn't find anything resembling thrilling about it. I would have labeled it "historical fiction", if anything, but the primary label will definitely be "tedious".

How could the performance have been better?

It couldn't have been any worse. The reader mispronounced many frequently used words in this novel -- the most blatant being the language "Tagalog" -- to the point where all I could hear were the mispronunciations and not the story itself. (Isn't it YOUR JOB to check the proper pronunciation of a word if you are the reader?) As well, the voices he used sounded comical and corny, which was inappropriate for a dramatic reading.

What character would you cut from Cryptonomicon?

Honestly, I found not one to be endearing enough to keep. Bobby Shaftoe's character was particularly irritating

Any additional comments?

What a colossal waste of a credit. I wanted a thrilling sci-fi story to occupy me for ~43 hours and instead I was bored out of my skull while nothing in particular happened and a ridiculous multitude of characters never managed to spring to life. I guess not every 4+ rated book can be a winner, but this was a huge time investment to make for...well, nothing. Nothing at all to happen.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • Collegeville, PA, United States
  • 03-04-13

Nerd Lit Nicely Blended with Historical Fiction

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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I got really into it, but not until late

I've read a lot of Neal Stephenson, so I knew to expect brilliant writing that didn't necessarily go anywhere for a while. I'll say this, for once he didn't write a terrible ending. Maybe it's not brilliant, but it wasn't one of his books that falls apart at the end.

I really liked the book, but I really went on faith through hours, and hours, of narration. I commented a number of times to my husband, a computer scientist, that I'm not really enough of a geek for this book. Also, that I knew he'd love it, because he is.

I was engaged in the story, but not in that ignore my family and responsibilities way, until the middle of the second to last download. At that point, the characters finally took on life for me, and I really cared about what was happening.

I would be cautious in my recommendation to read this. For Stephenson fans or for those very interested in the history of computers and cryptology, I'd say it's a definite read. For others, I'm not sure they would want to get through the long descriptions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • United States
  • 06-29-12

Just So Good

Cryptonomicon is just so good. I was expecting a cyberpunk story, but I wasn't expecting to learn the crazy math, history of computers and war. It feels like reading about the Vietnam War and the Nazi with the infrastructure of code breaking on a data island, but set in the past.

There are some laugh out loud moments. For example, the theory of masturbation was totally funny. Cryptonomicon almost felt like it was written as a comedy, thriller action, that only geeks will like. The story is not so hard to follow because you can quickly get into the plot.

The best way to describe Cryptonomicon is, imagine a techno geek in the Second World War, but with modern day inventions to win the digital war.

To sum up this review, if Neal Stephenson needed a director for the movie, Quentin Tarantino would be a good match because the book almost reads like a mockery of an adaptation of history on WWII. Poking fun at the Nazi madness.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A fun read

This story is a tale of fantasy, both past and present--what you'd like to imagine life will be, but it never is. Fun to read (listen). Unexpected twists. When he ties it all up at the end, you just have to smile.

The math/crypto explanations get a little tedious - nothing to explain unless you missed high school math - but the characters are unusual, interesting, and a bit wacky.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • LOUISVILLE, KY, United States
  • 03-27-12

Couldn't read, but could listen

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Denver, Colorado
  • 02-08-12

A Masterpiece.

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Snoodely
  • Santa Barbara, CA United States
  • 10-23-11

Pay Attention!

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • M
  • 03-06-17

Good listen

What did you like most about Cryptonomicon?

I liked the technical detail and the way different story lines came together.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Waterhouse

What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

It fitted the story.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Nope.

Any additional comments?

Good read mixing real history with invented events.

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  • James
  • 02-26-17

Review

Much like a train, it starts off slowly, then builds up a head of steam till it's fairly rattling along

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  • CyberC
  • 12-04-13

Stunning jouney from 1942 to the Web

What did you like most about Cryptonomicon?

Educational and stunning story interlaced from 1942 to the present day.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Nicely integrates the story with a cameo of Alan Turing and Bletchley park

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

I would have listened to this in one sitting but it is a very long book (42hrs 53 mins) so that isn't really practical. But the book is compelling and wanted to listen again and again as soon as possible.

Any additional comments?

Get it Now...

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  • Patrick
  • 07-05-13

Oh so nearly fantastic.

If you had asked me to review the first thirty something hours of Cryptonomicon then it would have received four, maybe even five stars and I would, mostly, have been singing its praises. There are a few segments in those hours that didn't quite come up to scratch and I wanted to press the fast forward button (except you might miss a completely different section if one did as the story does jump around a bit).

The plot is varied, and yes there is jargon, and other elements, there that may not please all, but the story draws one in fantastically and I found myself anticipating a fabulous ending.

So I was ever so disappointed by the last few hours, and the ending. It felt as if the story completely fizzled out. In fact I might almost wondered if the final few hours of the book were written by the same person. Gone was the intrigue that I had felt and now I wanted to press the fast forward button in the hope that we would get back to the same level of intrigue. Patience prevailed and I refrained from skipping forward. I wish I hadn't bothered. This will not be an audiobook that I will bother listening to again.

William Dufris' narration, on the other hand was fantastic throughout - definitely a narrator to be listening out for!

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  • Mark
  • 06-11-13

Phew!

What a book!
Intricate story, great characters and fast paced. So interwoven with documented events of the past that you wonder where fact ends and fiction begins. This story was so captivating I even ended up doing research to understand historical details to see how well they fitted in.
This is a long listen and worth every second.

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  • Chris
  • 06-05-13

Treasure Island updated

Cleverly weaving together action from WW2 and the present day with humour, visceral war images maths and cryptology ( yes a bit over my head but not essential to understand) he tells a terrific tale that keeps you listening through 42 hours

  • Overall
  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-10-13

Nerd Nirvana

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • alan
  • 02-03-12

Great story!

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,

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Lyndsay
  • 04-16-11

Still Reeling

I can't pretend to have understood all of this amazing novel but I enjoyed every minute of it. From deeply poignant moments to laugh- out-loud funny moments it contained more information about cryptography, the second world war and technology than I could absorb but it kept me enthralled.
The narrator, William Dufris, was superbe. He created identifiable characters without being over the top about it and must have enjoyed the book to have conveyed the humour in it so well.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Caroline
  • 05-12-13

Brillant book

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.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful