George V. Reilly

Review: Cryptonomicon

Title: Crypto­nom­i­con
Author: Neal Stephenson
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Avon
Copyright: 1999
Pages: 1168
Keywords: science fiction
Reading period: 22–30 November, 2008

The Baroque Cycle books were a prequel, of sorts, to Crypto­nom­i­con. In World War II, Lawrence Waterhouse is an American cryp­tog­ra­ph­er, a peer of Alan Turing, and someone who will be the father of the digital computer; while Bobby Shaftoe is a US Marine who works on black ops. Now, Randy Waterhouse, computer nerd and Lawrence’s grandson, is setting up a data haven in the Pacific. Amy Shaftoe, Bobby’s grand­daugh­ter, and her father, Doug, are marine salvage experts working for Randy, who find a gold-filled Nazi submarine off the Philip­pines. Somehow, the events of the past and the present will come together, as the narrative bounces back and forth.

Randy, Lawrence, and Bobby all hold our interest as the viewpoint moves between them. Lawrence and his peers break the secret codes of the Germans and the Japanese; Randy’s data haven uses cryp­tog­ra­phy to safeguard data from modern gov­ern­ments. Bobby ultimately just wants to rejoin his girlfriend and son in Manila.

Crypto­nom­i­con is an effective com­bi­na­tion of nerdiness and thriller, and a definitive portrayal of geeks in fiction.

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