Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon (original 1999; edition 2002)

by Neal Stephenson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
13,450221162 (4.22)443
Authors:Neal Stephenson
Info:Avon (2002), Mass Market Paperback, 1168 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (1999)

  1. 202
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (moonstormer)
  2. 132
    Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter (Zaklog)
    Zaklog: Cryptonomicon strikes me as the kind of book that Hofstadter would write if he wrote fiction. Both books are complex, with discursive passages on mathematics and a positively weird sense of humor. If you enjoyed (rather than endured) the explanatory sections on cryptography and the charts of Waterhouse's love life (among other, rarely charted things) you should really like this book.… (more)
  3. 100
    The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet by David Kahn (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: A great and fairly easy to read history of much of the history and cryptography the novel is based on.
  4. 100
    Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (S_Meyerson)
  5. 112
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (BriarE)
  6. 90
    The Code Book by Simon Singh (S_Meyerson)
  7. 72
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (igorken)
  8. 61
    Secrets and lies : digital security in a networked world by Bruce Schneier (bertilak)
  9. 51
    Daemon by Daniel Suarez (simon_carr)
  10. 40
    The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (ahstrick)
  11. 30
    PopCo by Scarlett Thomas (daysailor, Widsith)
    daysailor: Same kind of edgy writing, intertwining cryptography history with good story-telling
    Widsith: More cryptography and conspiracy and earnest philosophical asides (though Thomas writes women characters a lot better than Stephenson)
  12. 30
    Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis (tomduck)
  13. 31
    Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Anonymous user)
  14. 31
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell (psybre)
  15. 1614
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (lorax)
    lorax: Seriously. A big fat book immersing the reader in a bizarre and alien culture, with well-written infodumps on subjects of interest to the narrator interspersed throughout the story. It's a very Stephenson-esque book.
  16. 00
    Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II by Stephen Budiansky (Busifer)
    Busifer: Many of the events featuring in Stephenson's Cryptonomicon have actually happened and while Budiansky isn't the most eloquent author his book is an interesting companion read.
  17. 11
    The Martian by Andy Weir (sturlington)
    sturlington: If you like books with a lot of math in them...
  18. 11
    Enigma by Robert Harris (ianturton)
    ianturton: Another fictionalized look at Bletchly Park, shorter and with fewer Americans.
  19. 00
    Join by Steve Toutonghi (jbizroe)
  20. 00
    In Code: A Mathematical Journey by Sarah Flannery (bertilak)

(see all 24 recommendations)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 443 mentions

English (211)  German (2)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  Romanian (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (220)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
Wow. Just wow. This. Book. Is. Fantastic. This was certainly one of my favorites. The topics alone made this book worth it:

* Classical cryptography
* Modern cryptography (a touch shy here)
* Mathematics
* Computer Science
* "Finux" (Linux), "Ordo" (GPG), emacs, grep, and Perl.

And when he was writing about those topics, and others, you could sense his enthusiasm in the writing. He really loves this topics just as much as me reading them.

Aside from the topics, his humor is an enjoyable dry sarcasm. So many pages, I kept chuckling to myself over analogies, explanations, and dialogue. One night, when both my daughter and I were reading our books in the family room, I just kept chuckling, sentence after sentence, and my daughter would give me this look of "SHUT UP DAD". I don't know if I had the giggles, or what, but I couldn't help myself. Stephenson was cracking me up to the point of tears.

My only criticism of the book, is following the stories can be a bit daunting. The book is centered around two different timelines, which converge at the end. Despite the title, the story isn't about cryptography; cryptography is used merely as a tool to tell the greater story that doesn't start becoming apparent until about 75% through the book.

However, the chapters switch back and forth between WWII and the late 1990s. Some of the character timelines are hard to follow, and it's not really clear WTF is going on, who is involved, and why. Granted, the book is already 1100+ pages, so trying to work out some of the jarring story lines would just bloat the book further. You do get the "overview" of what is going on though, and really, that's all that matters.

The reason I read this book, was because I follow cryptographer Bruce Schneier. I knew that Stephenson approached him about a classical hand cipher that he could use for his book, and Bruce created the "Solitaire Cipher", which is used with a deck of playing cards. I have since learned that algorithm, and many other playing card ciphers, as well as inventing my own: http://aarontoponce.org/wiki/card-ciphers. So, I wanted to see how the Solitaire Cipher (called "Pontifex" in the book) played out. To be honest, I was a tad disappointed. I was hoping it would have been more crucial to the story. But, the page time it did get, I was excited about.

One of the highlights of the book happened on page 1111 for me. Discussion about forming the NSA starts up with some characters, and the ability for them to use "digital computers". They talk about how the NSA could have full warehouses filled with digital computers filling up the state of Utah. I found this practically prophetic, as the Bluffdale, Utah NSA datacenter is now in operation as of 2015. The great thing? "1111" is "15" in binary.

Finally, with an unkeyed deck, using Pontifex, I leave you with this (encrypted) pearl of wisdom:

  atoponce | Oct 7, 2016 |
Very possibly Stephenson's best book, and certainly part of it if it is taken as a component of The Baroque Cycle.

Like the cycle itself, this worries away at a "how did we get here?" question, but where Stephenson's later approach was to look at the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries for the birth of modernity -- in science and technology, in monetary and economic matters, in how we treat authority -- this is much closer to home, running a late 20th Century dot com boom narrative and a World War Two narrative in parallel, and taking cryptography (and, by extension, the entire computing revolution) as its unifying theme: the networking of the planet, chronicled in Stephenson's classic Wired article, "Mother Earth, Motherboard" is intertwined as well.

It showcases Stephenson's talents for what Frye calls "Menippean satire" -- a lengthy narrative where digression (among other things) is a structural element. It is fascinating, funny, and engrossing.

As a simple novel, as is common with Stephenson, it has structural weaknesses (principally, the action doesn't so much have a conclusion as just a simple stopping point). If one steps back and views it not as a novel but as a Menippean satire, this isn't an issue -- many such works are either unfinished or deliberately are open-ended (consider Tristram Shandy and The Tale of A Tub as extreme cases).

From a 2016 vantagepoint, it looks charmingly and naively optimistic: the idea that the Powers That Be would allow a secure data haven to be established as one is here looks like something out of another world: but it looked possible to many people at the time. Part of the appeal of the novel now is that it captures the excitement of the first internet boom in a way that few other works do. ( )
  jsburbidge | Oct 6, 2016 |
Loved the audio book just as much as the print. This might well be my favorite book of all time. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Set in two time periods - World War II and the modern ages. There are a lot of interwoven stories, shifting time periods and perspectives. It does a good job with all of them. ( )
  nx74defiant | Jul 16, 2016 |
At close to 1,000 pages Cryptonomicon is not a quick read, it's got to parallel time lines, plenty of detail, trivia about a bit of everything and what I would consider to be a very good story to tell.

It's definitely let down by the disjointed start, as it chops from timeline to timeline, character to character you find yourself questioning if it's worth persevering. Thankfully, it is and after the first quarter or so you get used to the characters and settings so it becomes less of an issue (although it at later times noticeable).

The story itself is great, excellent even - a world war 2 tale running parallel to a present day business venture that becomes intertwined with the past. Both timelines are appropriately ended and the tale between the first page and last is definitely worth the time the book takes to read.

Whilst someone very much into mathematics and cryptology would very much relish the contents one certainly needn't be a student of either to enjoy the tale. ( )
  HenriMoreaux | Jul 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
''Cryptonomicon,'' on the other hand, is a wet epic -- as eager to please as a young-adult novel, it wants to blow your mind while keeping you well fed and happy. For the most part, it succeeds. It's brain candy for bitheads.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephenson, Nealprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pannofino, GianniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peck, KellanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
"There is a remarkably close parallel between the problems of the physicist and those of the cryptographer. The system on which a message is enciphered corresponds to the laws of the universe, the intercepted messages to the evidence available, the keys for a day or a message to important constants which have to be determined. The correspondence is very close, but the subject matter of cryptography is very easily dealt with by discrete machinery, physics not so easily." —Alan Turing
This morning [Imelda Marcos] offered the latest in a series of explanations of the billions of dollars that she and her husband, who died in 1989, are believed to have stolen during his presidency.
"It so coincided that Marcos had money," she said. "After the Bretton Woods agreement he started buying gold from Fort Knox. Three thousand tons, then 4,000 tons. I have documents for these: 7,000 tons. Marcos was so smart. He had it all. It's funny; America didn't understand him." —The New York Times, Monday, 4 March, 1996
To S. Town Stephenson,
who flew kites from battleships
First words
Two tires fly. Two wail.
A bamboo grove, all chopped down.
From it, warring sounds.
He is disappointed because he has solved the problem, and has gone back to the baseline state of boredom and low-level irritation that always comes over him when he's not doing something that inherently needs to be done, like picking a lock or breaking a code.
The ineffable talent for finding patterns in chaos cannot do its thing unless he immerses himself in the chaos first.
This conspiracy thing is going to be a real pain in the ass if it means backing down from casual fistfights.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Neal Stephenson enjoys cult status among science fiction fans and techie types thanks to Snow Crash, which so completely redefined conventional notions of the high-tech future that it became a self- fulfilling prophecy. But if his cyberpunk classic was big, Cryptonomicon is huge, gargantuan, massive-- not just in size but in scope and appeal. It's the hip, readable heir to Gravity's Rainbow and the Illuminatus trilogy. And it's only the first of a proposed series--for more information, read our interview with Stephenson.

Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods- -World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, cryptanalyst extraordinaire, and gung ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They're part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702, and he explains the unit's strange workings to Waterhouse. "When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first. Of course, to observe is not its real duty--we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed. Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious."

All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroes--inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe--team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers. To top off the paranoiac tone of the book, the mysterious Enoch Root, key member of Detachment 2702 and the Societas Eruditorum, pops up with an unbreakable encryption scheme left over from WWII to befuddle the 1990s protagonists with conspiratorial ties.

Cryptonomicon is vintage Stephenson from start to finish: short on plot, but long on detail and so precise it's exhausting. Every page has a math problem, a quotable in-joke, an amazing idea or a bit of sharp prose. Cryptonomicon is also packed with truly weird characters, funky tech, and crypto--all the crypto you'll ever need, in fact, not to mention all the computer jargon of the moment. A word to the wise: if you read this book in one sitting, you may die of information overload (and starvation). --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com
Haiku summary
Encrypted message
Like an inaccessible
Mountain of gold bars

No descriptions found.

(see all 2 descriptions)

An American computer hacker operating in Southeast Asia attempts to break a World War II cypher to find the location of a missing shipment of gold. The gold was stolen by the Japanese during the war. By the author of The Diamond Age.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
5 avail.
305 wanted
5 pay5 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.22)
0.5 6
1 53
1.5 9
2 112
2.5 26
3 405
3.5 140
4 1132
4.5 222
5 1649


4 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 109,700,410 books! | Top bar: Always visible