Author: Neal Stephenson, 1999.
Genre: Computers and Cryptology. Period Fiction. War. Conspiracy.
Other Details: ebook. 931 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (42 hrs 53 mins) Read by William Dufris
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 Waterhouse and Detachment 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 granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine 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. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
I have wanted to read Stephenson's Baroque Cycle for some time along with this novel that while not part of that trilogy is considered best to read before the Cycle. Obviously any novel about computers written a few years back is bound to be a little dated and yet I felt it held up well and I kept in mind the date of publication.
Stephenson's style is very cerebral and the narrative jumps between the 1940s and 1990s slowly building its connections between the past and present. It took me a considerable amount of time to read this novel mainly because I did it as a dual read and listen and so my pace was determined by how long I was able to listen to the audio edition each week.
It is a fascinating novel while focused on a relatively small group of characters yet still an epic in its scope. As 'Catch-22' did in its day Cryptonomicon examines the absurdities of war and politics alongside the horrors of the former. I was very impressed with it and after a short break will start on the Cycle.