2015 reread: In World War II, Bobby Shaftoe is a Marine, and Lawrence Waterhouse is a cryptographer. In the present, Randy Waterhouse is part of a tech start-up in the Phillipines. How are the two threads linked, other than by the mysterious Enoch Root?
Okay, so this kitten squisher is a lot more complicated that but after 1200+ reviews, it's hard to come up with teasers some days.
As noted above, this was not my first time reading Cryptonomicon. I first read it when it was published, way back in the bygone days before the world moved on. When it popped up for $1.99 on one of my cheap-o emails, I snapped it up.
This mammoth tome is classified as science fiction but could easily be looked at as historical fiction since the sf element is minuscule. Neal Stephenson weaves together multiple plot threads, three during World War II and one in the present day, and produces a fine tapestry of a novel.
On one hand, you have Randy Waterhouse, part of the Epiphyte corporation, a start-up dedicated to creating a data haven in the Phillipines. On the other, you have the converging tales of a Marine named Bobby Shaftoe, a cryptographer named Lawrence Waterhouse, and Goto Dengo, a Japanese engineer. As diverse as the elements are, Stephen manages to bring everything together. Eventually.
I was an apple-cheeked young lad when I first read this, back when the internet was still new to most of us. Now, as a curmudgeon 15 years older, I still enjoyed reading it quite a bit. Despite my usual intolerance for digressions, and this book has many, I found it hard to put down for long. The bits of history, cryptography, and the proper way to eat Captain Crunch all held my attention.
In the years between my first read and this one, I'd forgotten how hilarious this book can be at times. Lawrence Waterhouse is a bit like Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, only less likely to have the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis if he were a real person.
Funny how some things never change, though. My gripes the first time through were my gripes this time. While I enjoyed the journey, the writing could have been tightened up a bit. I felt like Stephenson was driving around looking for a free parking space when there was already one pretty close to the door. Also, a part near the ending, which I will not spoil here, came out of left field and felt tacked on, unnecessary, and kind of stupid. Also, I maintain that Stephenson hasn't written a great ending since Zodiac. Other than that, I thought the book was pretty great. Four out of five stars.