Cryptonomicon – review

In keeping with my motto, “It’s not for me. It’s all for you’, I have decided that as a public service I will provide some recommendations based on books that I have read and liked or even loved. While I am nowhere near as voracious a reader as SciFiChick (she read 219 books in 2012 and reviewed almost a quarter of them for her site), but I do a fair amount of reading and I will post a few comments on some of my favorites.

The first on my list is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. This is a big book at 1168 pages (in paperback) but it is a book that I did not want to see come to a close. Neal Stephenson has written a book that is filled with interesting characters across two different time periods (WWII and almost current day) who interact with each other and a few real people from history. The stories keep you interested but what I really loved was the number of small expositions on matters of technology, biology, human culture, social interactions and, of course, cryptography. If you are at all into mathematics, then you will love this book, but it is not necessary to be a science geek to find the book entertaining. There are paragraphs that talk about probabilities and statistical anomalies but they also touch on how this applies to the distribution of sheep in the English countryside or any number of other seemingly mundane items.

The author not only has a good command of technology and the underlying science, but he also seems to have gone to a great deal of work to make sure that the scenes during the war are accurate to the time and the different locales. I learned more about Shanghai and London than I expected, at least as they were in the 1940s. I also loved his depictions of Silicon Valley business meetings and etiquette, and the cultural conflict between a technologist and a group of academics. Stereotypes abound, but then they would not be stereotypes if they weren’t based on a number of actual cases.

You will find the link below if you want to pick up a copy for yourself. While you are there (if you don’t know what to get me for my next birthday) I would love a hardcopy edition. Since it is out of print, the lowest price I have seen recently is $143. That economic argument should get you interested in this book if the plea to authority (New York Times Bestseller status) fails to convince you to read it.



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