CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson

cryptonomicon I’ll give you one word:  cryptography.  Stop yawning.  This was a really great book and it was all about cryptography.  And gold.  And greed.  And geeks.  I’m telling you, geeks are the new jock.

The story follows two different groups of people, in two different eras.  The first group are the wildly intelligent mathematical genuses (genusii?) during the Second World War working to crack the cypher codes of Germany and Japan, plus a go getter Marine grunt.  The one military guy knows so much that he can never be sent into danger because he could be captured and made to Tell All.   There is also a Japanese military grunt, little better than a prisoner slave, working for the ….  And there’s also this guy who seems to be a monk or a priest or maybe not.   OK, that’s enough.

The other group are modern day startup hotshots, looking to create a data haven in the fictional Sultanate located in a northern chunk of the Philippines.  And that monk guy who shows up again.  How is that possible?

Our mathematical genus has thoughts about the military and modern warfare:  It isn’t all about loading shells and pulling triggers.  No large organization can kill Nips in any kind of systematic way without doing a nearly unbelievable amount of typing and filing.

The United States military is first and foremost an unfathomable network of typists and file clerks, secondarily a stupendous mechanism for moving stuff from one part of the world to another and last and least a fighting organization.

This is a complex and dense read, but compelling nonetheless because of the great characters, only one of whom seems to have any real moral compass.

It all seems divergent, but the lines begin to gradually come together and we see the connections become clear.

You will learn lots about cryptology (and yes, either cryptography or cryptology are correct), math, systems of encryption, and other cool things.  You will learn about mine building, big business and nothing about greed that you don’t already know.  You will learn some cool stuff about submarines and warfare and the military mind.

This was written in 1999 and doesn’t feel out of date.  Possibly some things about world banking systems have changed.  How would I know?  I have a piggy bank that holds all my worldly dinero.

This is a hard work to categorize.  Not really sci fi, not exactly alternate reality, not space opera.  It just is.  Suis generis.  Oh gimme break.  Go look it up.  Do I have to tell you everything?


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