With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, 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. As an added bonus, the e-book edition of this New York Times bestseller includes an excerpt from Stephenson's new novel, Seveneves.
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 Waterhouse 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; the product of a truly iconoclastic imagination working with white-hot intensity.
Topics: World War II, 1940s, 1990s, Epic, Speculative Fiction, Adventurous, Suspenseful, Futuristic, Mathematics, War, Hackers, Conspiracy, Military, Secret Codes, Computer Programming, Nazis, Family, Secrets, United States of America, Philippines, Ironic, Submarines, Politics, Navy, and 20th Century
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9/2006 My first of this genre, which seems to rejoice in the name techno-sci-fi-thriller. Riveting, funny, and very well-written. Set in and around Manila during WWII and the 1990's, it's full of real people and geeky crypto-trivia. I'm a fan.more
part of the story is about a WWII GI, who happens to be so gung-ho and talented at both completing difficult missions successfully and staying alive at their completion that he gets the dubious honor of being assigned to a squad so top-secret he has no idea what he's doing there. part of the story is about a brilliant but oblivious mathematician (clearly an asperger's syndrome kind of guy) who becomes a codebreaker during the same war. and part of the story is about the computer-programmer grandson of the latter and his infatuation with the tough-as-nails granddaughter of the former. part of it is about codes (both for war messages and for computer programs) and part of it is about war (both physical and digital). all of which makes it sound very dry when it's anything but.
Stephenson's typical doses of randomly-applied hilarity are out in full force here. he does an incredible job of painting the world through the individual voices of his characters...and quite often, those guys are thinking very odd things about very odd situations. the hefty book could have been trimmed by, say, 30% if it left out these random observations, sometimes comical, other times simply beautiful examples of what letters can do in the hands of a gifted wordsmith, but then we'd miss out on things like:
"a red dragonfly hovers above the backwater of the stream, its wings moving so fast that the eye sees not wings in movement but a probability distribution of where the wings might be, like electron orbitals: a quantum-mechanical effect that maybe explains why the insect can apparently teleport from one place to another, disappearing from one point and reappearing a couple of meters away, without seeming to pass through the space in between. there sure is a lot of bright stuff in the jungle. randy figures that, in the natural world, anything that is colored so brightly must be some kind of serious evolutionary badass."
no, i'm not recommending it to everybody. it's long and meandering and insanely technical in many places. but yes, i am gushing about it. it's lovely.more
It also is some of the funniest writing I have read in decades. I've read parts of it aloud to my husband who smiled and whispered something like "damn she's a nerd"under his breath. I wanted to read him the part about calculating the effect of masturbation on post-ejaculation productivity, but he fell asleep before I got to the part where I could show him the diagrams.
Did I mention the fact that it is 900 pages (in paper, 1200 in e book)long or that the best review and comments seems to be on Slashdot? Read it anyway.more