Got a month of free reading time? And that’s free time for one book? This isn’t a condemnation of Cryptonomicon's size by any means, just a warning to those who pick it up. Because once you start reading, chances are you won’t be able to stop.
Author Neal Stephenson is either an authentic genius or a certified wacko (or both), because Cryptonomicon is so intricate, so layered, and so engrossing, that someone who could write this much material, and contain it in one novel, must have an odd functionality to their brain.
Spanning two generations of families during pre-, intra-, and post-WW II, this epic (and it most certainly deserves that title) shows the reader the early formation of computer language that developed thanks to code-breakers within the U.S. and German intelligence communities. This may sound horribly boring, but it is far from tedious. Author Stephenson knows not to bore readers. He incorporates cryptanalysis into everyday life, often with hysterically funny results (at one point a character relates his masturbatory behavior to helping solve enemy codes; and another time the London street layout helps design a code system that is nearly unbreakable). All of the characters are incredibly human, from the earliest "geeks" (Richard Waterhouse and Avi) to the rough-and-tumble WW II gladiators (U.S. Marine Bobby Shaftoe and General Douglas MacArthur). There are deadly battles with Japanese soldiers, crushing encounters with German U-boats, and even a treasure hunt finale that’ll tickle your funny bone. There’s romance between a geeky code breaker and the young granddaughter of Bobby Shaftoe. There’s government conspiracies, and unlikely alliances between men on opposite sides of the war. There’s ...just too much to put into one review! Fortunately, though, Neal Stephenson (author) masterfully ties all of these threads together and culminates it into one of the best conclusions seen in novel length fiction history.
At 1,130 pages long (paperback), the thickness of Cryptonomicon may be a deal-breaker for some readers. Don’t let it be. The author’s able prose is sustained throughout its ample length and will keep readers coming back to see what awaits the Shaftoes, the Waterhouses, the Roots, and the Dengos.
A prodigious novel from a genre-busting author, Cyptonomicon defies categorization. It is and isn’t science fiction. It is and isn’t historical fiction. It is and isn’t a techno-thriller. It is and isn’t many things. But the one thing it most certainly is is a masterpiece.