Imagine if r/WWII, r/Bitcoin, r/Crypto, and maybe r/Math, got together to write a novel. And imagine it was actually really good instead of being a jumbled mess of insane theories way over the head of anyone living a normal life.
Cryptonomicon is a story in two timelines. One, World War II rages, and several different men find out about, or bury, massive amounts of gold in the Philippines. In modern times (circa 1999 or so), a young coder trying to build an information data haven, and possibly the world’s first cryptocurrency, comes across that same gold.
Unfortunately, the more interesting of the two stories is the WWII timeline in which we get to follow several different men through harrowing ordeals and some hilarious Catch-22 style ridiculousness. We also get fun interactions with historical greats like Alan Turing and Douglas Macarthur. It’s a globe hopping, Indiana Jones escapade. The modern tale is a lot more boring and takes up about half the book. There’s plenty of interesting characters sure, but there’s several sections that could’ve use a decent edit and less pontification on the nerdiness of the lead.
Regardless, Cryptonomicon is one of those books that impresses by the sheer writing ability of the author. Love of the craft is evident by being the only book to extensively write out math problems and keep me interested in what’s happening. This book literally explains decrypting to you the reader. In one section, that I could’ve done without, one of the best characters, a mathematician who Forrest Gump’s his way into jobs, figures out the mathematical equation for how many times he needs to masturbate to stay productive at work. But new factors arrive because the efficacy of the masturbation decreases over time and then he meets a girl who actually makes the efficacy LESS than zero where x = ttc and if you haven’t seen that scene from Silicon Valley where they figure out how long it would take to jerk off every guy in a room, go watch it and you’ll understand what I mean.
Also impressive is the storytelling ability. This is a massive undertaking with big plot arcs that are connected in intimate ways. Only the best plotters can pump out a novel of this nature. Cryptonomicon has the plot depth of a 6-book fantasy series about elves. And it will take you just as long to read. If you pick it up, be prepared for an undertaking.
3.5 out of 4 stars.