Friday, August 20, 2010


"...Science flourishes where art and free speech flourish."

I've written about this book before in an earlier post, so I won't have much to say (oh dear yes, I probably will, can't seem to help myself) about it now that I've finally finished it. Well, after all it was over 900 pages long (my reading speed seems to be slowing down in my old lady years) and I did stop to read a couple of other things in between as I often do with books the size of hippos, stop to take a break, I mean. Also, I've almost run out of superlatives to describe Neal Stephenson's endeavor.

I will say again that in my view, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, is a brilliant book written by a master of words and ideas. His style is immediately approachable even if some of the time you might not, specifically, know what he's talking about - that would be the math equation parts and the computer-ese parts for me - though I skimmed them nicely with intent.

Basically this is the fantastic story of a band of brilliant men tied together by an era, a war and history. Their stories jump back and forth in time between WWII, Bletchley Park, the ingenious coterie of men who broke the Nazi Enigma code to help the Allies win the war, and the late 1990's when the descendants of some of these men are involved in a trust-no-one plot for control of an enormous stash of gold buried in the Phillipine jungles by the Japanese, not to mention a dash to the finish line for control of a world-wide Internet banking scheme. Phew! A large part of the story concentrates on the rudimentary beginnings of computers and includes some real life characters, i.e. the cryptanalyst and genius, Alan Turing. General Douglas MacArthur (of I will return! fame) also gets his novelized moments in the sun in the latter part of the book. Despite being caught up in the brutal horrors of war, the story often turns hilarious, mostly because of Stephenson's way with words and the personality quirks of his engaging characters. The time jumps made for a bit of confusion at first, but I soon got used to it and almost immediately became invested in the sometimes maze-like twists and turns of this incredible novel.

All I can say is, I am not a computer geek though I imagine if you are a geek and are into all that that implies you might enjoy the book a bit more than I did, but maybe not. I am not math whiz either and I still loved this book and consider it now, as Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire does, one of my very favorites of all time. Thank you Nancy for recommending Neal Stephenson in your wonderful anthology, More Book Lust.

To learn about Neal Stephenson, here's a link to an earlier interview done a few years ago on the eve of the trade paperback publication of Cryptonomicon. And here's a link to an interview in which Stephenson speaks of another enormous undertaking, The Baroque Trilogy. I haven't read those yet, but to be sure, they are on my tbr list once I work up my reading stamina again. This guy is a world unto himself.


  1. That is one I must add to my `one day` to be read list. A long journey that is for sure.

  2. I know, Dave. It's hard when there's just so much out there you want to read. All I can say is, this one is definitely worth the effort.


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