Timothy Darling's Reviews > Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
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's review
Nov 20, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: novel, period-fiction, science-fiction, war
Read from November 01, 2011 to November 20, 2012

I bought Cryptonomicon almost a year and a half ago, knowing that Neal Stephenson was going to be signing at the National Book Festival. I had been interested in his books for awhile, curious, so it was not a stretch to buy one for the event. But I have used the NBF to become acquainted with new authors, so I also, almost immediately started reading the book.

Now I have a philosophy, that if a book is going to require the investment in time and attention of War and Peace, it should attempt a similar payoff. Crypto does not deliver.

It does deliver a cast of interesting characters Waterhouse and his grandson, Shaftoe and his son and grand daughter, Goto Dengo. Even the profiles of Turing and MacArthur are not overly offensive, though MacArthur is terribly characatured. The plot is bewilderingly complex as a cryptosystem. Though the shift between settings and characters is a time honored novel technique, and Stephenson uses it with skill, I found it difficult to keep my attention riveted on the action, knowing that I was leaving these characters in the lurch for an indeterminate period. Also, I never did figure out some of the situations, especially those involving the current day entrepreneurs.

The situation surrounding the end of the book was especially bewildering. I cannot figure out how things turned out as they did. I cannot figure out how anybody else could have known enough about what was going on for things to develop.

So in the end, maybe the whole book is a code. I liked it, but I did not love it. Perhaps after it simmers in my mind a little, I will appreciate it more. I know some people think Stephenson writes like a guru, and maybe I'm missing something. The same thing happened to me with Gibson's Neuromancer. Maybe I'm just too old to understand the cyberpunk riffs. I bought Quicksilver, and I want to read it, but I won't be investing that time soon.

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Quotes Timothy Liked

Neal Stephenson
“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

Neal Stephenson
“Most of the brain's work is done while the brain's owner is ostensibly thinking about something else, so sometimes you have to deliberately find something else to think and talk about.”
Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

Reading Progress

04/03/2012 page 152
13.0% "I was reading this before the national book festival. I got it signed there. But I guess I'll pick it back up now and slooowwwlly finish it."
05/04/2012 page 253
22.0% "Stephenson is a master of showing rather than telling, letting the dialogue (whether internal or external) do the work. Not much pontificating, but he's getting his point across, that there is much more hidden in the world than we care to dream."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Congrats!

Timothy Darling why, thank you. Clearly, we are both very accomplished readers. :)

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