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.
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.
Showing 1-4 of the 4 most recent reviews
1 . A brilliant read
Posted May 26, 2010 by Jeff Portner , Elkins Park PAStephenson's epic "Cryptonomicon" is an intellectual tour-de-force, wrapped in a compelling story. The plot's twists and turns are fantastic, but still believable. Stephenson deftly handles a large cast of compelling characters, whose deeds span time and space. This long novel asks a lot of its readers, but pays great dividends, especially to the polymaths among us, and those who love speculative fiction at its best.
2 . One of my favorites
Posted October 19, 2009 by Eddie , MarylandThis was the first book I read by Neal Stephenson and, after having enjoyed his other works, I think the most accessible. In this book, the author creates a very believable and compelling series of events that spans World War II to the present. Although it may be daunting for readers who are new to Stephenson's style, the payoff for the reader's effort is very high.
3 . very hard read
Posted March 07, 2009 by George , New JerseyI really wanted to like this book, but after 700 pages of 2600, I gave up. I usually do not give up on books, but this one was going nowhere. He jumps from past to present to past, left me totally confused, and unless your into math, I would not recommend
4 . Once you learn how to read Stephenson, it becomes a lot easier and much more enjoyable.
Posted May 10, 2007 by Ben , Fort Wayne, INI started Neal Stephenson's books with this one. It was a good place to start for me, but my first attempt went poorly. The process of reading his material can be at times too fast and furious to keep pace and other times reminiscent of the boring parts of Moby Dick. Once I got in the groove with another book of his, I was able to tackle this without losing my way through.
It's very enjoyable to see a couple generations deal with different levels of technology in cryptography and global business and policics. The characters become your friends on the journey. Everything you can ask for from a novel of this length.
October 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Two tires fly. Two wail.
A bamboo grove, all chopped down
From it, warring songs.
... IS THE BEST that Corporal Bobby Shaftoe can do on short notice -- he's standing on the running board, gripping his Springfield with one hand and the rearview mirror with the other, so counting the syllables on his fingers is out of the question. Is "tires" one syllable or two How about "wail " The truck finally makes up its mind not to tip over, and thuds back onto four wheels. The wail -- and the moment -- are lost. Bobby can still hear the coolies singing, though, and now too there's the gunlike snicking of the truck's clutch linkage as Private Wiley downshifts. Could Wiley be losing his nerve And, in the back, under the tarps, a ton and a half of file cabinets clanking, code books slaloming, fuel spanking the tanks of Station Alpha's electrical generator. The modern world's hell on haiku writers: "Electrical generator" is, what, eight syllables You couldn't even fit that onto the second line!
"Are we allowed to run over people " Private Wiley inquires, and then mashes the horn button before Bobby Shaftoe can answer. A Sikh policeman hurdles a night soil cart. Shaftoe's gut reaction is: Sure, what're they going to do, declare war on us but as the highest-ranking man on this truck he's probably supposed to be using his head or something, so he doesn't blurt it out just yet. He takes stock of the situation:
Shanghai, 1645 hours, Friday, the 28th of November 1941. Bobby Shaftoe, and the other half-dozen Marines on his truck, are staring down the length of Kiukiang Road, onto which they've just made this careening high-speed turn. Cathedral's going by to the right, so that means they are, what two blocks away from the Bund. A Yangtze River Patrol gunboat is tied up there, waiting for the stuff they've got in the back of this truck. The only real problem is that those particular two blocks are inhabited by about five million Chinese people.
Now these Chinese are sophisticated urbanites, not suntanned yokels who've never seen cars before -- they'll get out of your way if you drive fast and honk your horn. And indeed many of them flee to one side of the street or the other, producing the illusion that the truck is moving faster than the forty-three miles an hour shown on its speedometer.