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Monday, April 02, 2018

Cryptonomicon (1999) by Neal Stephenson


Book Review
 Cryptonomicon (1999)
by Neal Stephenson

  The audio book edition of Cryptonomicon I listened to was 42 hours long.  It's a significant time investment, and I chose it over reading the 1100 page book version, because...I just couldn't face it.  Stephenson spans a half century in his epoch-making tale of crypto, code and war, all in the service of creating a digital currency that was the direct inspiration for PayPal and, indeed, digital currency itself.   Stephenson blends real and fictional characters in convincing fashion.  Before Cryptonomicon was published, Stephenson's reputation was that of a moderately succesful writer of "cyber fiction," afterwards he became an author of literature, as Cryptonomicon  con's presence in the 1001 Books list would indicate.

  The claim to literary status is also traceable to the influence of Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon, on Cryptominicon in matters of form and style.   Cryptonomicon is to code breaking as Gravity's Rainbow is to rocket technology, and it might be observed, in 2018, and the more relevant book, in terms of subject matter, is Cryptonomicon, not Gravity's Rainbow.  On the other hand, Cryptonomicon is not a very deep book, even if the characters are themselves more evidently intelligent than Pynchon's gang of sex obsessed rocket chasers.  I'm tempted to go through and make the comparisons directly, but at the very least the least the two "gung-ho" Marine characters: Pig Bodine in Rainbow and Bobby Shaftoe in Crypto, resemble one another beyond both being World War II era Marines. 

  Where is the television version of this book? Seems like a perfect project for "peak tv."
  

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