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5.0 out of 5 stars High entertainment,
The style can be a little trying -- the metaphor density is about 6 to the page -- and it can get a little arch. Still, most of the flourishes are pretty fresh, while some are genuinely startling.
One review on this site complained of the overly "freakish" characters. That's certainly fair. If your taste doesn't run to characters who are extreme outsiders, you won't enjoy the book. Personally, I found the characters engaging.
Science fiction writers like to work a Theory of Everything into their plots. This author has a handful of Theories of Everything. I didn't mind. Most of the theories were interesting enough to serve as enhancements of the story rather than annoying digressions.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Glory",
This review is from: Cryptonomicon (Paperback)Plot Summary: How to summarize this plot...Well, It starts with 2 professors and 1 student riding bikes at a late 1930's Princeton talking about zeta functions and building a machine to do calculations. Then there are WWII stories from Bobby Shaftoe's and Lawrence Waterhouse's (the student above) very different perspectives. They are both part of a code-breaking part of the US military where Waterhouse is one of the chief enemy code crackers, along with Alan Turing for the British from the bike ride above, and Shaftoe one of the soldiers carrying out seemingly strange orders to make the results of these cracked codes look like random occurances. It takes a long time in the book for Shaftoe to realize the true agenda behind 90% of his missions. Waterhouse has added large sections to the Cryptonomicon, the compendium of all crypto knowledge, as a result of his work. The other part of the story involves Randy Waterhouse (grandson of Lawrence) and his new company Epiphyte trying to develop a data haven in the south Pacific and the various legal and technical troubles that it involves and the enemies they accrue. Randy and co. meet up with the Shaftoe descendants as part of a surveying and cable laying venture in the Philippines. One of the WWII era characters, Enoch Root, starts emailing Randy Waterhouse messages concerning a certain crypto system that was not broken during the war. This is the same secret code that Randy's grandfather Lawrence was also working on in his lifetime incidentally. Eventually, almost every decendant of a war era character, if not that character himself, becomes involved in what becomes a large treasure hunt. The plot is in no way as simplistic and boring as I made it sound, despite the seemingly boring subject matter of cryptography and digital currency may be.
Opinion: This is a long book, but I loved it. It is incredibly funny at several points and had me chuckling out loud. The 2 main plotlines are pretty seperate for like 700 of the 900 pages but come together in a very nice way. I liked the writing style most of the time. Long, train-of-thought sentences, very descriptive. It drew a nice mental picture of things. The story was very engaging all around and I never felt like the novel was dragging. The characters were very believable. I'm an engineer and didn't get lost in any of the technical, code-breaking and cryptological discussions, some people might. There are graphs in this book which usually deal with something like Lawrence's work performance vs. how many times he has ejaculated and how to optimize his work, so don't be intimidated with those, they are tangents most of the time. For the super nerdy among us, there is a complete description of the "Solitaire" encryption method in the Appendix...not to mention a PERL script in the text somewhere around page 450.
Recommendation: Read it. 5 out of 5 stars. Did I mention this is funny? I will be reading more Stephenson due to how much I enjoyed this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Post-Modern Masterpiece.,
5.0 out of 5 stars simply stated.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Cryptonomicon (Hardcover)better than jesus, heroin, and peanut butter.
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another opinion...,
Now, while I really liked Cryptonomicon it is by no means perfect. It doesn't appeal to a mass audience (is this bad?) and only geeks, engineers, and frequent readers of slashdot.org who are WW II buffs will truly appreciate it. I could have been trimmed by a couple hundred pages and been just as effective. I have no plans (at this point) to read the Baroque Cycle (prequel).
Time for a bowl of Cap'N Crunch...
5.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable read of my adult life.,
I'm glad I did because this book is probably the most enjoyable read of my adult life. I'm for once GLAD I'm a really slow reader because it's over 1100 pages and because the pleasure is just that much longer. I'm nearly finished now, the fun's nearly over, but I'm comforted by Stephenson's having published the first two books of his Quicksilver trilogy...
4.0 out of 5 stars Codebreaking, Computers, and Combat,
POSITIVES: The story itself is remarkably clever and well thought out. Mr. Stephenson obviously did a tremendous amount of research on the World War II era and the art of cryptography, both past and present. Anyone with an interest in these subjects will not be disappointed. It is also obvious that Stephenson spent a considerable amount of time in the Philippines, where the bulk of the story unfolds. Actually, "Cryptonomicon" is several stories that run parallel to one another throughout the book and then gradually converge near the end. Stephenson makes it obvious from the beginning that these seemingly disparate plot lines are somehow related, but the relationship does not become clear for quite some time. Watching them intersect is very satisfying.
NEGATIVES: The book is far longer than necessary. Those who read Stephenson's fast-paced "Snow Crash" will be surprised by the tempo of "Cryptonomicon," which is much slower and more deliberate. Stephenson often gets sidetracked, using many pages to establish what ultimately turns out to be a minor element in the story line. The book probably would be much stronger without 300 or 400 pages of unnecessary material. Also, there are a few too many coincidences, which hurt the story's plausibility. Some of the coincidences are appropriate and necessary to the plot line, but others were thrown in for no apparent reason. For example, a primary character just happens to stumble upon the Hindenburg Disaster while riding his bike one evening, yet this episode has no bearing on the story (unless there is some hidden meaning beyond my grasp).
Overall, "Cryptonomicon" will not disappoint those who invest their time and money in it. Neal Stephenson is a stylish author with a vivid imagination and a sharp sense of humor. His passion for technology, mathematics, and history practically leap off the page. In "Cryptonomicon," he has combined these elements into an intriguing and unique tale.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is great cyberpunk!,
4.0 out of 5 stars It was ok.,
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Meandering,
This is a sprawling historical saga, rich in detail and invention, not-so-concerned with characters' emotional states but rather just what *are* they going to do next--which certainly helps propel the book forward.
The story unfolds across two timelines, and the characters of the contemporary plot are the descendents of the earlier. Since no one has any children yet at the earlier timeline, you're guaranteed a certain amount of survival from your protagonists (I always appreciate being able to relax at least a little!).
I had one false start with the book, reading about a quarter into it, then setting it aside when easier, blither books came my way. I'm delighted I picked it up again (I re-read from the beginning) and have moved on to his most recent, which details the lives of the characters' great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents (so if you like Cryptonomicon, do pick up the Quicksilver, it's exactly the same idiom).
Cryptonomicon's style is comparable to that of Dickens, in its skillful handling of numerous characters and subplots, to Tom Wolfe, in its exhaustive look at a particular subset of people at a particular time, to Victoria Holt (honestly) in its somewhat Gothic atmosphere and its sense that characters' acitivities can have implications down through generations, and to Eugene Sue, both for the well-handled theatrical sprawl and the intangible sense of purpose the characters convey. A nifty book!
Note: a 3 star ranking from me means a pleasant enough read; 4 stars indicate a very enjoyable work; but I'll only give 5 stars to books that are or ought to be classic; sadly, most books published seem to warrant 2 or less ... I try not to read those.
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Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (Hardcover - May 1 1999)
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