Cover image for Cryptonomicon
Title:
Cryptonomicon
Author:
Stephenson, Neal.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Avon Books, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
918 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780380973460
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Clearfield Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Grand Island Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse - mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy - is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Watrehouse and Detatchment 2702-commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia - a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails grandaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi sumarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty...or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, CRYPTONOMICON is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought, and creative daring; the product of a truly icon


Author Notes

Neal Stephenson, the science fiction author, was born on October 31, 1959 in Maryland. He graduated from Boston University in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography with a minor in physics. His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984. It received little attention and stayed out of print until Stephenson allowed it to be reprinted in 2001.

His second novel was Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller was published in 1988, but it was his novel Snow Crash (1992) that brought him popularity. It fused memetics, computer viruses, and other high-tech themes with Sumerian mythology.

Neal Stephenson has won several awards: Hugo for Best Novel for The Diamond Age (1996), the Arthur C. Clarke for Best Novel for Quicksilver (2004), and the Prometheus Award for Best Novel for The System of the World (2005).

He recently completed the The Baroque Cycle Trilogy, a series of historical novels. It consists of eight books and was originally published in three volumes and Reamde. His latest novel is entitled The Rise and Fall of D. O. D. O.

Stephenson also writes under the pseudonym Stephen Bury.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Stephenson follows his startlingly original Snow Crash (1992) and The Diamond Age (1995) with proof that he can do as well at twice the page-count, and not only that, but with the promise that this immense volume begins a saga that may rival Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time in its eventual proportions. Volume one, then, is the well-told tale of a World War II code breaker whose descendants end up trying to track down the secrets of the Third Reich's cryptographers--secrets that may liberate or ruin the cybertech world of the present day. Stephenson mixes historical and contemporary settings, handling both with great skill, as he presents a large cast of vividly imagined characters, notably including the original code breaker's granddaughter, and makes both the tale's technology and its conspiracies highly believable. His choice to tell the entire story in the present tense rather calls attention to itself, and, given a book nearly 1,000 pages long, every word is not really essential. Still, this is a book that should be bought for the sake of saying that you have it and read, however long that takes, for the pleasure and intellectual stimulation it is likely to give to most readers. Imagine Tom Clancy turning to cyberpunk, and you have some idea of its broad potential appeal. --Roland Green


Publisher's Weekly Review

Big, complex and ambitious, the new cyber-thriller from the talented author of Snowcrash and The Diamond Age calls to mind Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow in its intense, paranoid evocation of conspiracies and secret histories. Set in part during WWII, Stephenson's novel concerns Lawrence Waterhouse, mathematical genius, a friend of Alan Turing and, like Turing, a code breaker extraordinaire. Assigned to the super-secret Detachment 2702, Waterhouse is instrumental in the Allied plot to keep the Nazis unaware that their fabled Enigma code has been broken. Almost as a sideline, he helps trigger the computer age. Nearly 60 years later, Waterhouse's grandson Randy, a computer hacker with a knack for cryptanalysis, is attempting to create a high-tech data haven in Southeast Asia, only to discover that a variety of governments, multinationals and shadowy secret organizations want a piece of his company's action. Uncovering evidence of a long-dormant conspiracy with its roots partly in his grandfather's work in cryptology, Randy eventually discovers that enormous amounts of war gold are involved, enough not just to make him and his fellow hackers wealthy but to change the entire economy of the planet. This fast-paced, genre-transcending novel is full of absorbing action, witty dialogue and well-drawn characters. Amazingly, it is also, even at its tremendous length, only the first volume in what promises to be one of the most extravagant literary creations of the turn of the millenniumÄand beyond. Major ad/promo; author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Computer expert Randy Waterhouse spearheads a movement to create a safe haven for data in a world where information equals power and big business and government seek to control the flow of knowledge. His ambitions collide with a top-secret conspiracy with links to the encryption wars of World War II and his grandfather's work in preventing the Nazis from discovering that the Allies had cracked their supposedly unbreakable Enigma code. The author of Snow Crash (LJ 4/1/92) focuses his eclectic vision on a story of epic proportions, encompassing both the beginnings of information technology in the 1940s and the blossoming of the present cybertech revolution. Stephenson's freewheeling prose and ironic voice lend a sense of familiarity to a story that transcends the genre and demands a wide readership among fans of technothrillers as well as a general audience. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99.] (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Cryptonomicon Chapter One Barrens Let's set the existence-of-God issues aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate. After about three billion years of this sometimes zany, frequently tedious fugue of carnality and carnage, Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse. Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo-which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead. As nightmarishly lethal, memetically programmed death-machines went, these were the nicest you could ever hope to meet. In the tradition of his namesake (the Puritan writer John Bunyan, who spent much of his life in jail, or trying to avoid it) the Rev. Waterhouse did not preach in any one place for long. The church moved him from one small town in the Dakotas to another every year or two. It is possible that Godfrey found the lifestyle more than a little alienating, for, sometime during the course of his studies at Fargo Congregational College, he bolted from the fold and, to the enduring agony of his parents, fell into worldy pursuits, and ended up, somehow, getting a Ph.D. in Classics from a small private university in Ohio. Academics being no less nomadic than Congregational preachers, he took work where he could find it. He became a Professor of Greek and Latin at Bolger Christian College (enrollment 322) in West Point, Virginia, where the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers came together to form the estuarial. James, and the loathsome fumes of the big paper mill permeated every drawer, every closet, even the interior pages of books. Godfrey's young bride, nee Alice Pritchard, who had grown up following her itinerant-preacher father across the vastnesses of eastern Montana-where air smelt of snow and sage threw up for three months. Six months later she gave birth to Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse. The boy had a peculiar relationship with sound. When a fire engine passed, he was not troubled by the siren's howl or the bell's clang. But when a hornet got into the house and swung across the ceiling in a broad Lissajous, droning almost inaudibly, he cried in pain at the noise. And if he saw or smelled something that scared him, he would clap his hands over his ears. One noise that troubled him not at all was the pipe organ in the chapel at Bolger Christian College. The chapel itself was nothing worth mentioning, but the organ had been endowed by the paper mill family and would have sufficed for a church four times the size. It nicely complemented the organist, a retired high school math teacher who felt that certain attributes of the Lord (violence and capriciousness in the Old Testament, majesty and triumph in the New) could be directly conveyed into the souls of the enpewed sinners through a kind of frontal sonic impregnation. That he ran the risk of blowing out the stained-glass windows was of no consequence since no one liked them anyway, and the paper mill fumes were gnawing at the interstitial lead. But after one little old lady too many staggered down the aisle after a service, reeling from tinnitus, and made a barbed comment to the minister about the exceedingly dramatic music, the organist was replaced. Nevertheless, he continued to give lessons on the instrument. Students were not allowed to touch the organ until they were proficient at the piano, and when this was explained to Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, he taught himself, in three weeks, how to play a Bach fugue, and signed up for organ lessons. Since he was only five years old at the time, he was unable to reach both the manuals and the pedals, and had to play standing-or rather strolling, from pedal to pedal. When Lawrence was twelve, the organ broke down. That paper mill family had not left any endowment for maintenance, so the math teacher decided to have a crack at it. He was in poor health and required a nimble assistant: Lawrence, who helped him open up the hood of the thing. For the first time in all those years, the boy saw what had been happening when he had been pressing those keys. For each stop-each timbre, or type of sound, that the organ could make (viz. blockflöte, trumpet, piccolo)-there was a separate row of pipes, arranged in a line from long to short. Long pipes made low notes, short high. The tops of the pipes defined a graph: not a straight line but an upward-tending curve. The organist/math teacher sat down with a few loose pipes, a pencil, and paper, and helped Lawrence figure out why. When Lawrence understood, it was as if the math teacher had suddenly played the good part of Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor on a pipe organ the size of the Spiral Nebula in Andromeda-the part where Uncle Johann dissects the architecture of the Universe in one merciless descending ever-mutating chord, as if his foot is thrusting through skidding layers of garbage until it finally strikes bedrock. In particular, the final steps of the organist's explanation were like a falcon's dive through layer after layer of pretense and illusion, thrilling or sickening or confusing depending on what you were. The heavens were riven open. Lawrence glimpsed choirs of angels ranking off into geometrical infinity. The pipes sprouted in parallel ranks from a broad flat box of compressed air. All of the pipes for a given note-but belonging to different stops-lined up with each other along one axis. All of the pipes for a given stop-but tuned at different pitches-lined up with each other along the other, perpendicular axis. Down there in the flat box of air, then, was a mechanism that got air to the right pipes at the right times. When a key or pedal was depressed, all of the pipes capable of sounding the corresponding note would speak, as long as their stops were pulled out. Mechanically, all of this was handled in a fashion that was perfectly clear, simple, and logical. Lawrence had supposed that the machine must be at least as complicated as the most intricate fugue that could be played on it. Now he had learned that a machine, simple in its design, could produce results of infinite complexity. Stops were rarely used alone. They tended to be piled on top of each other in combinations that were designed to take advantage of the available harmonics (more tasty mathematics here!). Certain combinations in particular were used over and over again. Lots of blockflötes, in varying lengths, for the quiet Offertory, for example. The organ included an ingenious mechanism called the preset, which enabled the organist to select a particular combination of stops-stops he himself had chosen-instantly. He would punch a button and several stops would bolt out from the console, driven by pneumatic pressure, and in that instant the organ would become a different instrument with entirely new timbres. The next summer both Lawrence and Alice, his mother, were colonized by a distant cousin-a stupendous badass of a virus. Lawrence escaped from it with an almost imperceptible tendency to drag one of his feet. Alice wound up in an iron lung. Later, unable to cough effectively, she got pneumonia and died. Lawrence's father Godfrey freely confessed that he was not... Cryptonomicon . Copyright © by Neal Stephenson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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