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
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Critic reviews



Locus Award, Best Novel, 2000
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Simon on 06-08-14

Probably the best way to tackle this behemoth!

Having read Stephenson's Quicksilver over a couple of months and having tried to get going on Anathem (currently put to one side, but that's partly because it's a hard copy brick) I thought this would be a good medium for Stephenson's brilliant but voluminous style. Boy was I right! I typically listen to audiobooks for about 2 hours a day (commuting) but sometimes a little more when I travel for work. This must have taken me over a month, but I really enjoyed it and was quite sad when it was all over.

In a way it doesn't feel like one immensely long opus, because there are actually 2-3 different narrative strands being brought together here, each of which has its own eddies and diversions. Stephenson loves to fit in some (sometimes gratuitous) mathematical and scientific digressions, which I personally enjoy, but I imagine could be a bit tiresome if you're really just looking for character and plot.

Fundamentally, this is a tale of the interaction of mathematics with the material world and of the impact that this apparently theoretical discipline can and does have on the world in which we live. There's quite a bit of philosophy and history thrown in too. Stephenson always writes with the assumption that his readers are as curious about everything as he himself is and seems to be at his best when exploring the hows and whys. His characters are vehicles for this and work perfectly well, if they're a little flat at times, this rarely feels like it really matters.

William Dufris's reading really brings the whole thing to life and simply being able to sit back and absorb the story, rather than wading through a punishing 1000-odd pages of novel is a much more manageable way to enjoy this book. For me, anyway.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Mr. J on 24-10-16

Geek heaven

Shifting seamlessly through history and technological exposition I was hooked.

Straight on to more from this author for me.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Rob J. on 16-04-17

Fixed!

Any technical issues reported in previous reviews (missing or out of order chapters) have been fixed. I experienced no problems and double checked the whole time w the book on hand chapter by chapter.

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69 of 70 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Doug D. Eigsti on 19-08-14

.....Van Eck phreaking-tastic!!.....

Science Fiction is whatever SF readers read. Using this definition you may classify this as Science Fiction. But it is really a mainstream novel with extensive flashbacks involving related characters. Heavy doses of math and internet technology protocol lingo may make this seem like SF to those not accustomed to such nerdification, but there are no other SF trappings. In the 1960’s SF readers began reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS and made it into a Science Fiction classic.

I listened to this book immediately after tackling Stephenson’s ANATHEM—a novel that didn’t strike my fancy. If you read my review of that novel you will know that I am a big fan of Stephenson’s SNOWCRASH, and after being disappointed by his THE DIMOND AGE, decided to give some of his other works a chance in case he had more to offer. ANATHEM almost made me give up on that second chance, but I soldiered on trying to discover the reason so many are so enamored with Neal Stephenson. Listening to CRYPTONOMICON was, for me, a return to the fun and sarcasm that is so evident in SNOWCRASH. The tone of this book is so different than that of ANATHEM that I am left a little baffled as to just what that other book was all about.

This is twice as long as a typical long novel and even some trilogies are shorter. This is because it is really two novels—each novel being told in parallel to the other. One is among the cryptographers in World War II, and the other in the present day of techno-geeks, with some related characters between the two time tracks. As might be expected by such a lengthy book there is a cast of thousands and the plot is complex and multifaceted. There are so many diversions and rabbit trails that as a listener you must be in the frame of mind to go along for the ride, else you will become impatient waiting for the plot to advance. You will hear forays into various methods of code making and breaking, and will gain an smattering of internet technology along the way—and this is completely relevant to understanding the story. Wait until you learn what van Eck phreaking eavesdropping is all about! This novel brought out the nerd in me and if you have any inkling in that direction this book will strike a chord within you as well.

Also of note is the fact that both of these two books are narrated by William Dufris. In ANATHEM Dufris adopts, correctly I believe, a far-away sequestered-monk tone of voice with mystical quasi-philosophical Socratic dogmatic smugness. Here in CRYPTONOMICON Dufris has the freedom to fully explore his full range of voice characterization. He is most excellent when portraying various English dialects, clearly differentiating at least a half dozen different dialects—and his Germans immediately put images of crisp SS uniforms and monocles in your mind. I think that because this novel is full of quirky characters that Dufris was given free reign to portray , being allowed to go completely over-the-top in his voicings. His performance here reminds me of another wonderful Dufris-narrated book: WOKEN FURIES. He has delivered a truly wonderful performance that made this a very entertaining listening adventure.

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38 of 39 people found this review helpful

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