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Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Neal Stephenson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,562195191 (4.23)383
Authors:Neal Stephenson
Info:SOLD (1999), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Read (Personal Collection)
Tags:Code Breaking

Work details

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (1999)

  1. 192
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (moonstormer)
  2. 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.
  3. 122
    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)
  4. 90
    The Code Book by Simon Singh (S_Meyerson)
  5. 102
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (BriarE)
  6. 81
    Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (S_Meyerson)
  7. 71
    Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World by Bruce Schneier (bertilak)
  8. 51
    Daemon by Daniel Suarez (simon_carr)
  9. 40
    The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (ahstrick)
  10. 40
    Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis (tomduck)
  11. 52
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (igorken)
  12. 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)
  13. 31
    Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Anonymous user)
  14. 20
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (psybre)
  15. 10
    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.
  16. 21
    Enigma by Robert Harris (ianturton)
    ianturton: Another fictionalized look at Bletchly Park, shorter and with fewer Americans.
  17. 10
    In Code: A Mathematical Journey by Sarah Flannery (bertilak)
  18. 00
    The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati (themulhern)
    themulhern: An exciting and tragic narrative with meditations on the effects of culture.
  19. 11
    Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon (MarkYoung)
    MarkYoung: Similar humour, in this intelligent historical novel.
  20. 1414
    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.

(see all 22 recommendations)


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» See also 383 mentions

English (187)  German (2)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  Romanian (1)  Swedish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (195)
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
I need to re-read it at a slower pace. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 13, 2014 |
Total can not get into this book. Within the first 60 pages it gets bogged down in conversations on mathematical theory. Sorry Neal Stephenson. I give up. ( )
  nvellis01 | Aug 11, 2014 |
Total can not get into this book. Within the first 60 pages it gets bogged down in conversations on mathematical theory. Sorry Neal Stephenson. I give up. ( )
  nvellis01 | Aug 11, 2014 |
A wild ride, full of characteristic Stephenson images, dialogue, and observations. As in his previous book, "The Diamond Age", Stephenson has a lot to say about culture, particularly about cultures that are powerful enough to defend themselves and their individual members from either war or criminal assault. He seems to have a social philosophy which makes war inevitable, which is much more depressing than it is exhilirating, but which probably makes for the most exciting kind of novel. ( )
  themulhern | Jul 26, 2014 |
My birth sister convinced me to try this book after a conversation when I revealed an interest in Admiral Grace Hopper and Alan Turing. She mentioned that this book has Alan Turing in it and that she enjoyed it a lot... so, I decided I'd try it. I had *NO* Idea what I was in for. But I am really, really glad I went for the ride. And I think I will probably re-read it again later to catch what I missed the first time.

This book is unbelievably dense. I don't mean dense... like when you say someone is stupid. I mean it is packed full of information, that is within the story. It is two different stories at two different times that intertwine (sort of) about characters who are related. One set in the timeframe around now. (I don't remember the exact year, but it is close to now.) The other is leading up to, and then during WWII. There are a couple of different people that we follow during WWII, but they matter to people in the future in ways that we will not understand till much later, and unless you pay attention so... yeah, DO THAT!

You will also learn SO many things you do not expect to about computer security, and hacking while reading this book that... just, wow.

I was quite surprised.

A good deal of people in the book are geniuses, so at times you can feel a bit dim... but it does make you WANT to rise to the occasion and figure out what the heck they're talking about. At other times, I remembered my father, who fought in WWII on Guam. There are a lot of different war scenarios, and as a retired Navy Chief... I recognized fully the logic of quite a lot of what they did. There was a lot of needing to do things simply because someone else had to see it, which *seems* stupid, but the alternative... if the other side had realized that we might have cracked their code? Would have been devastating.

I really highly recommend this book. Do be in a mood for a think when you read it. Not really a book for a day when you aren't feeling well and your head is in a fog! But well worth the effort. ( )
  Clare_M | May 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 187 (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 (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neal Stephensonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pannofino, GianniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peck, KellanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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
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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.

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