Science fiction, thriller, history, cryptography, etc. (reread)
Having thought about this book while reading Seveneves, I had to reread it.
It's something of a stretch calling Cryptonomicon a novel at all, much less assigning it to a category. It breaks every rule in the novel writer's handbook, for one thing.
- Three major and several minor viewpoint characters
- Two different time periods
- Long, often technical digressions on cryptography, software, geek culture, philosophy, etc.
- A complete lack of clarity on who or what the various protagonists' antagonists is/are.
- Such plot as exists only becomes clear in the last quarter of the novel.
- It's 918 pages long (more or less).
I loved it when I first read it. I love it even more now. You get your Picaresque Hero (Bobby Shaftoe, USMC) having WWII adventures all over the world, while your historic (Lawrence Waterhouse) and modern (Lawrence's grandson Randy) Nerd Heroes intersect with him in all sorts of unpredictable ways. Those long digressions? Not only essential, but fascinating. The philosophy? Has something in common with the notion of the Apollonian vs. Dionysian dichotomy, with Stephenson firmly on the side of Athena over Ares.
Also, it's screamingly funny in spots.
I do not recommend Cryptonomicon to everyone. I do recommend it to everyone who is not technology-averse and who really likes to think. (And if you don't ... please double-check the name of the blog.)