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Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
Ebook1,768 pages32 hours

Cryptonomicon

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

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About this ebook

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.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherHarperCollins
Release dateMar 17, 2009
ISBN9780061792571
Cryptonomicon
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Author

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is the author of Seveneves, Reamde, Anathem; the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World); Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Zodiac and the iconic Snow Crash, named one of Time magazine's top one hundred all-time best English-language novels. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Reviews for Cryptonomicon

Rating: 4.004990535191878 out of 5 stars
4/5

5,811 ratings171 reviews

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Good stuff. Keeps you thinking and actually puts working cryptography in the book! Now you too can be a secret agent!

    I really like the way he keeps the storyline going in two different timelines, then ties them together.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    A triumph for Stephenson, this novel is three in one. The stories interweave and correlate with one another and the scope is epic. There is much to be liked here, but sometimes the action-- and prose, falls a little far from the line.3 stars-- still recommended. Well worth the effort.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I didn't read much of anything else for the 6 days it took, but I finally finished this 42 hour audiobook... and I liked it! The story unfolds in two timelines - WWII and the 1990s tech boom - and the characters in both are very engaging. There's a whole lot of nerdy stuff, humor, and action. I didn't like this nearly as much as Seveneves, but Neal Stephenson is pretty incredible.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Epic, fantastic storytelling. Concerns a group of people working during WWII to break Axis codes and some of their descendants in the "present" (the mid-90's when the book was written) building a data haven in the Philippines. Well-written and engaging, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes heartbreaking. Stephenson really captures the inner monologue of nerds.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A long book at 928 pages that is densely written. The story lines do move along pretty well for the most part with some exciting sections where several plot lines were all hitting their stride. Overall quite a satisfying read.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    It took me a while to get fully engaged by this book, but after 100-200 pages I was completely immersed in it and reading like a teenager. There are a few minor niggles I have with it which stop it being a full five-star-read. One is something I've noticed about Stephenson's writing before: his depiction of , Lawrence Waterhouse's love interest, has the personality and appearance of a porcelain figurine and poor old Glory has a rapid transition from Maiden to Mother to Crone and is never heard from again!I also found the math/crptography explanations a little tedious, but I imagine that there will be a segment of the audience for this book that would lap all of that up.Overall, would definitely recommend the story - but don't go looking for realistic female characters in it.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    A modern fiction masterwork...Spanning the globe and a large tract of history, this tale is about much more than cyphers, data, and espionage...
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Cryptonomicon was my introduction to Neal Stephenson, and it still ranks as one of my favorite books. The book is made up of several stories, told in alternating chapters and taking place in different time periods. Eventually the stories begin to collide, adding whole new dimensions to an already complex plot. One story is that of a young cryptographer during World War II, and deals with problems ranging from how to the newest German enigma machine, the existence or non-existence of Turing machines, and how to seduce the young woman of one's dreams. Another follows a band of soldiers, also during World War II. And then there's the modern-day treasure hunt. Yes, there are random math equations scattered throughout the book. No, you don't need to know calculus to read it, though it does make some of the jokes funnier if you do. Stephenson is a master of his craft, and here he weaves together so many threads that it could have easily become a mess, but is instead a masterpiece. As always with Stephenson, so worth the work.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5


    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.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Even if you aren't a geek, if you have any interest in treasure hunting type stories or WWII based historical fiction this would be a good novel to pick up.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is a very strange book. It's disjointed; it interrupts the story flow to discuss irrelevancies; it's crude- and yet it's entirely INCREDIBLE. Although it definitely has a plot, it's not the kind of work you read just "to see what happens." You read for the sheer enjoyment of the process. From a step-by-step recipe for a perfect bowl of cereal to a novel way to divide up an estate to mahtematical proof of why hookers are superior to masturbation- you find yourself amazed at the way the author is able to tie everything together and keep you turning the pages. To be sure, very serious subjects are discussed as well. A short discourse on the Holocaust will stay with you for a long time (We said "Never Again" so long ago, yet genocide still happens- why?). The absurdity and waste of war is shown repeatedly, sometimes with devastating precision and sometimes through humor. In fact, I personally consider it the best anti-war story I've ever seen because it manages to convey the horror of war while showing its occasional necessity. Admittedly, it's huge, and probably a literary critic would tell you it could be edited down, but it's a worwhile investment, both in money (about $9.00 as a bargain book at Amazon!) and time.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    If I had to use one word to describe this book, it would be epic. Epic in length (1100 pages or 42 hours) and epic in scope. The book switches back and forth to two time periods, World War II and the present. The World War II story focuses mainly on the Allied efforts to uncover German plans by breaking Enigma, the German encryption code. Once the code is broken, the Allies try to keep this from the Germans by staging events to make their actions appear more random rather than deliberate plans based on gathered intelligence. The present day story has many of the descendants of the World War II plot line working together to create a data haven in the Pacific that is located underwater to keep data safe from governments, terrorist groups and hackers. And to top it off, there are many complex subplots taking us all over the world from Norway to Japan.

    I have mixed feelings about this book. The characters were well scripted and parts of the story were enthralling and completely drew me in. But the scope of this book is large and the constant switching back and forth between time and place didn't work for me. I would be listening to part of the book, totally immersed in a story about Japanese prisoners of war and then it would switch to something about a modern day hacker. And at the end of the book, I felt that all the subplots, some fascinating, didn't necessarily add to the overall direction of the book.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    1/5
    Total can not get into this book. Within the first 60 pages it gets bogged down in conversations on mathematical theory. Sorry Neal Stephenson. I give up.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    great book! especially if you are into mathematics.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    If this book had been written by just about anyone else, I don't know if I'd have had the patience for over 900 pages. But it's Neal Stephenson. Crytography, hackers, anarchy, and nerds. How could I give this anything but five stars?

    The only complaint, and I use the word loosely, is the traditional Stephenson ending. I felt that the last third of the book went to a strange place, killing one character and leaving another off-stage almost entirely, and then ending the story when it feels like there's more to wrap up. But I've come to accept it as an authorial quirk.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Cryptonomicon is a sprawling epic about code breakers during World War II and computer hackers during the '90s Internet boom.After spending over a month reading this book, I have to ask myself if it was worth it. The answer is both yes and no. This was an entertaining, suspenseful novel, and as with any novel by Stephenson, I felt like it taught me something and gave me a lot of things to think about. Would I go through this again? I'm not sure I would, which is why I hesitate to pick up another of Stephenson's weighty books.We have to remember with Stephenson that it is the journey that counts, not the destination (which is why his endings can often feel abrupt and unsatisfying). Cryptonomicon takes the reader on a journey through two time periods, World War II and the late 1990s during the tech boom, and all over the world, from the hellish jungles of New Guinea to the depths of the ocean to the fictional countries of Kinakuta and Qwyghlm. This is a spy story about the code-breakers of WWII outwitting the Axis powers, that morphs into a conspiracy story, and ends up as a hunt for buried treasure. Along the way, Stephenson imparts a lot of information about cryptography, data encryption, phreaking and the like (so if those things don't interest you, this is definitely not the book for you). Some chapters are actually extended math problems. This is not light reading.I usually enjoy historical fiction, and the WWII sections of the novel were the most interesting to me--there are battles, escapes, betrayals, conspiracies, all sorts of good stuff. Sometimes I felt like the modern-day story got in the way of the good parts, and I wasn't nearly as invested in the 1990s characters. But it is hard to imagine the novel not structured this way, as the discoveries and exploits of the characters in one era mirror and enhance the other.This has been called the "ultimate geek novel," and I do think it requires a certain amount of geekiness to enjoy it. If you're patient and willing to follow Stephenson through all the narrative twists and turns and time jumps, Cryptonomicon is a rewarding read.Read because I like the author and it was a bargain book for the Kindle (2013).
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    My birth sister convinced me to try this book after a conversation when I revealed an interest in Admiral Grace Hopper and Alan Turing. She mentioned that this book has Alan Turing in it and that she enjoyed it a lot... so, I decided I'd try it. I had *NO* Idea what I was in for. But I am really, really glad I went for the ride. And I think I will probably re-read it again later to catch what I missed the first time.

    This book is unbelievably dense. I don't mean dense... like when you say someone is stupid. I mean it is packed full of information, that is within the story. It is two different stories at two different times that intertwine (sort of) about characters who are related. One set in the timeframe around now. (I don't remember the exact year, but it is close to now.) The other is leading up to, and then during WWII. There are a couple of different people that we follow during WWII, but they matter to people in the future in ways that we will not understand till much later, and unless you pay attention so... yeah, DO THAT!

    You will also learn SO many things you do not expect to about computer security, and hacking while reading this book that... just, wow.

    I was quite surprised.

    A good deal of people in the book are geniuses, so at times you can feel a bit dim... but it does make you WANT to rise to the occasion and figure out what the heck they're talking about. At other times, I remembered my father, who fought in WWII on Guam. There are a lot of different war scenarios, and as a retired Navy Chief... I recognized fully the logic of quite a lot of what they did. There was a lot of needing to do things simply because someone else had to see it, which *seems* stupid, but the alternative... if the other side had realized that we might have cracked their code? Would have been devastating.

    I really highly recommend this book. Do be in a mood for a think when you read it. Not really a book for a day when you aren't feeling well and your head is in a fog! But well worth the effort.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Superb multi-layered scifi of the highest quality. Multiple plots, multiple ideas, multiple awesome characters. Layers upon layers of discovery. Slow down and savor this one.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is the best book I have read in a very long while. My only regret is that none of my friends have read it. I would categorize it as a cyber-thriller. It can be challenging to read--and one must not be put off by explanations/descriptions of mathy imbued cryptography. I'm not a math whiz, but I could roll with it.

    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Top 5. Possibly number 1.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Some interesting bits about encryption ciphers, and associated work during WWII, but ultimately unrewarding.This book interweaves two time periods: the 1940s during WWII, and the 1990s. I found some of the WWII stuff and characters interesting, but couldn't connect with the 1990s characters (despite, of perhaps because of being a bit of a Unix and crypto nerd myself).I would have much preferred a factual account of the WWII codebreaking operations, and by the end of the novel I didn't really have much empathy for the characters.I also don't think this novel needed around 1200 pages to tell this story. Perhaps putting it on a diet would improve it.Having said all that, I found it easy to read, and was never tempted to quit reading it.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Nerdy picaresque has you jumping back and forth from WWII cryptographers to Silicon Valley start-uppers beating on their Linux laptops in California and the Philippines. As you read, how the two story threads are connected becomes increasingly clear. An added bonus is the appendix describing how to use a deck of cards as an encryption key. Some of this is brilliant; some of it is annoying -- including the length: over 1150 pages.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    It's Stephenson. It's didactic. It's verbose. It's massive. It's 900 pages, at least 200 of which are pure research vomit, thinly disguised as dialogue. Yet for all this, very readable. And it appears Neal finally figured out how to end his huge, sprawling stories in a satisfactory, even elegant manner. (It took Stephen King all the way until The Dark Tower to manage it, so don't think I'm belittling the achievement.)

    Four stars! I'm glad I read it, I learned a shit-ton of stuff I never thought I'd care about, and it was enormously entertaining. It didn't absolutely fire my imagination the way Snow Crash and The Diamond Age did, yet it's obviously the work of a writer who has matured since he wrote those books.

    Now I need a nap.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    All-time classic; really awesome.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    I enjoyed this book when it came out, but I worry that it hasn't aged will. Stephenson's contemporary fiction tries to be on the bleeding edge so hard it hurts.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    We follow two groups of people, one that is attempting to conceal the fact that the Allied powers have broken the German code system Enigma during World War II, and some of their relatives who try to launch a digital currency in the 1990's. Cryptography plays important roles in both storylines. In contrast to the books of Ramez Naam, which I recently read, the lack of threats of torture is conspicuous and made the plot seem less realistic. The book is good enough, but one should note that it is so long that one can read several other books in the time that it takes to read it.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    I had to stop "Cryptonomicon" 700 pages into it. I really enjoyed the WWII scenes, but the "modern day" scenes were too heavily bogged down with explaining technical jargon. It would have been a much better book at half the size and half the story -- I may have even finished it.