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Cryptonomicon

04 May 2015

Cryptonomicon was a long and at times convulted read, but overall it was entertaining. Although the book was not ridiculously long (around 900 pages), it was long enough that it took me almost a month to read when combined with my recent decrease in time that I can devote to reading. The book a week plan took a serious hit in April because I only managed to read this one book. Hopefully I can make up for lost time going forward.

Cryptonomicon is a mix of historical fiction and I guess you would call it science fiction. There are things which did not exist when the book is written, such as crypto currencies, which now make the book seem less sci-fi and more just alternate reality. The narrative jumped back and forth in space and time across several different characters which made for some mental gymnastic to keep everything straight in my head. As someone who has at least a passing familiarity for information theory, cryptography, and other mathematical and technical topics that were relevant to the story, I felt that the book was very understandable and mostly believable. I can imagine someone who is unaware of Alan Turing or the code breaking work that went on in during World War II to be lost at times. Nevertheless, there is a lot of human interest to the story wherein the code breaking is mostly part of the backdrop.

The book is full of foreshadowing which can sometimes be lame because either nothing gets tied together well in the end, or everything gets tied together but hastily, or the end is boring because the foreshadowing gave everything interesting away. This book suffers from almost none of those problems. The author is very good to give just enough information away to guide you towards what is going to happen, but not enough to take away all the surprise. This is quite the challenge considering half the story takes places 50 years before the other half. The end was not hasty like some similar books tend to be, probably why it took 900 pages to tell the whole thing.

I would not call this book "great" in that it is not a must read for everyone. However, it is on the border between good and great, and definitely something I would recommend to anyone who is interested in some good WWII and cryptography related historical fiction.


Category: book