Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Man in green on balcony.

When I first got this book and tried to read it, I became overwhelmed. Like any book, I started off not knowing anything. If I struggle to put together a framework quickly, it ends up falling apart for me. I think because of the size of this book and the beginning struggles, I just gave up.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, I was flipping through my library and came across it. It was an unfinished title, and that was bothering me. Fast forward to yesterday, and I can finally check it off my list.

Having started down the road of IT, I’m happy I waited a while to read it again. There is a lot of information packed in this book relating to computers and cryptology that would have gone right over my head in the past.

Overall, I thought the book was really well done. The combination of different storylines is something many authors struggle with, but Stephenson did a fantastic job of interweaving the two in this book. There was more than once when I was wondering where this book was going, but I give him props for integrating the stories towards the end.

The characters were top-notch. There is always at least one character in books that I dislike, but I found myself enraptured with the characters and how they were integrated with the story. Hands down, Bobby was my favorite, but I think that is primarily because of how much he made me laugh. This part in the book still has me laughing:

“Just kill the one with the sword first.”

“Ah,” Reagan says, raising his waxed and penciled eyebrows, and cocking his pompadour in Shaftoe’s direction. “Smarrrt–you target them because they’re the officers, right?”

“No, fuckhead!” Shaftoe yells. “You kill ’em because they’ve got fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword?”

-Bobby Shaftoe

Stephenson did a fantastic job of portraying all of the characters. I found myself becoming entranced with a story arch just for him to switch to someone else. This always irritated me at first, but I quickly found myself latching onto the next character’s story with ease.

The story as a whole was solid. There were a few parts that I got lost on, but it never really threw me off too much. I’m still confused about how they melted the gold at the end, but I’m willing to overlook it at this point (I thought Golgotha was completely flooded, and how does fuel oil burn without O2?).

Overall, I want to give this book a 9/10. The only reason it isn’t getting a solid 10/10 is that there were too many times where Stephenson sent characters off on ramblings that I think were way above most people’s heads in relation to cryptology. I thought he did a great job of dumbing down subjects to help understand them, but I really struggled to keep my attention focused for such long spells.

By no means am I recommending they be removed, but IMHO they could’ve/should’ve been shortened.

This book was great, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the time to sit down with this behemoth. It will definitely sit as a top book for me.

My wish is that this book was a bit shorter. There were so many memorable moments in it, and I, unfortunately, cannot remember half of them.

It’s a short write up but I’m tired. I will definitely be giving another one of Stephenson’s books a tryout. Hopefully, I have convinced you to sit down with this one.

As always, thanks for reading and catch you all later.


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