This review is from: Cryptonomicon (Paperback)This book starts very slow, and you're wondering how these characters and timelines are related. But patience really pays off. After a couple hundred pages, you are deeply involved in these characters.
I explain to my friends that this book is not written as science fiction. The tech/science mentioned is either today or near-today. What is science fiction is what it make you THINK.
The science is rock solid, one of the few authors who doesn't treat computers (my business) as a magic black box that does wonderful things for you. The main characters are pleasantly solid, yet excentrically unique. They are unfortunately the only characters with any depth.
My business partner is a huge fan of the author's, and has pushed me to read several of his books. This is the only one I have liked.
As Clancy made 250 pages of how to construct a nuclear bomb interesting, Stephenson makes you WANT to understand how cryptography works, and gives you increasingly complex explanations over the entire length of the book, fleshing out the explanations and definitions of many of the critical concepts.
The characters he creates leave you with the sense that they are true to life, but shown in a twisted way leading to many different levels of humor. I found myself laughing at a joke three times. Separate times, in three different places in the book, as the events in that place further illuminated the joke told several chapters back. There were surprises around every corner.