Cryptonomicon is a novel that is a mix between a historical fiction and techno-thriller by Neal Stephenson, published in May 1999. It would later serve as a later book in the chronology of The Baroque Cycle. The book jumps between two primary stories, one of WWII cryptography and espionage, the other of late-1990s entrepreneurs trying to become both extremely wealthy and change the world by introducing a new electronic crypto-currency. There are several other characters with back-stories that converge on the primary stories.
Stephenson created an ancient book called the Cryptonomicon, a dense tome discussing the growth and progress of cryptography over the centuries, for this story. He later talks about its fictional creator in a subsequent book, Quicksilver. I would love to see such a book created in real life!
I was already a fan of Neal Stephenson's work having read Snow Crash when I a coworker gave great praise after having finished Cryptonomicon, so it was added to my to-read list, but it took several years before I got a hold of a copy (in audio book form) to read it. Once I did, I loved it.
I do not own this book, but have listened to an audio book recording.
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The story is extremely engrossing, and telling the two stories at once is a great way at keeping everything fresh.
- I found practically all of the characters very interesting. The ones I liked, I really liked, the ones I hated, I really hated. Even the villains were quite human and relatable.
- There are plenty of moments when you want to cheer from a victory, cry from something heart-breaking, and laugh out loud from a clever joke.
- I enjoyed the numerous detailed forays into technology and math.
- Though cryptographic currencies did exist in 1999 when the book was published, they were still very fringe, so it was very forward-thinking for Stephenson to include them, although, he didn't count on something like Bitcoin which doesn't need gold backing.
- Stephenson's use of jumping back and forth between plot lines effectively holds suspense, while also teasing the reader with premature information, however, the disjointed chapters require the reader to infer a fair amount information and often becomes confusing.
- Stephenson tends to go on and on about unrelated topics that seem to only exist to pad the book. However, he has such a wonderful writing style, it's forgivable.
- The ease at which Van Eck phreaking is implemented is far too easy to create.
- I didn't much care for how the book finishes in such an open-ended fashion.
- Nothing really. This book was a joy to read.