Monday, September 06, 2004

Stephenson: Cryptonomicon - Hidden Treasures

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson is a marvelous roller-coaster ride through code-making and breaking, with a side order of treasure-hunting, twenty-first-century style. Stephenson has a powerful way of including the reader in some pretty abstruse stuff, making us feel, not just as if we might understand these topics, but as if we do.

This is not a weekend read for the beach, unless you're willing to stay in a darkened hotel room, geek-wise, ignoring the volleyball competition in favor of the effort. The reward is a generation-spanning hunt for meaning in the signal, value in the data. Richly designed, with Innis-mode-like shifts in time, place and POV, the story itself is signal-laden.

Stephenson says Cryptonomicon is not prerequisite for his Baroque Cycle (beginning with Quicksilver), but I think you miss more than one flavorful nuance by jumping straight to the hefty code-and-signal involvement of Quicksilver. This is science fiction in the same way that the early James Bond novels were, speculation wrapped in current events, then tossed just over the line into next week. Look for investment in data havens.

An excellent review by Wes Unruh can be found at The Green Man Review site.


Anonymous Eric Berlin said...

DrPat - Thanks for posting the hyperlink (ha ha) to the Innis post as I was wondering the same thing myself.

Thanks for this pithy and concise review. Stephenson has been on the periphery of my authors "to check out" list for quite some time. Looks as though I'll need to clear away a chunk of mind-space and energy to give him a shot, but it looks like it very well might be worth the effort. Thanks, too, for calling this book out as the one to read before diving into The Baroque Cycle.

Mon, 27 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Nick Jones said...

"Innis-mode"? Explain, please.

2/23/2005 6:12 PM  
Blogger DrPat said...

I actually realized I had been using this term without explanation in my critiques, so I posted an entire item about it: Innis Mode and the Internet.

It's also a "Concepts" link.

Sun, 26 Dec 2004

2/23/2005 6:14 PM  
Blogger Florisv said...

Its a very good book, and some of the things he writes about might sound like SF but aren't.

One of his other books comes to mind also: The alchemist. Its not about coding and so, but same goes here, some of the ideas in that book might sound like SF, but rather look like they might become reality, or partly real pretty soon.

3/22/2005 11:42 AM  
Blogger samraat said...

4/03/2010 8:26 AM  

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