Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - Book Review

There is a particular kind of nerd that is so smug about the number of things he knows that he forgets that facts are for analysing, not for remembering. Like Borges’s Funes the Memorius, this nerd keeps collecting information without ever being able to hew a coherent whole out of the assortment of facts. Add to this some facility with the keyboard and a staggering command of the english language and you get Neal Stephenson - wholesale killer of forests and waster of time par exellence.

Cryptonomicon could have been a wonderful book about absurdity, cryptography, government control, war, the nature of money and politics. Instead it is a terrible book about absurdity, cryptography, government control, war, the nature of money and politics. Neal Stephenson has little political sophistication. His writing is not just racy, it is downright racist - painting the Nips a ghatly shade of yellow, all ruthless rapists labouring under an anachronistic culture while the americans are white as the driven snow, brave, honourable, etc.

¬†Stephenson had a wonderful opportunity to talk about absurdity. He’d set it up very nicely - sending Bobby Shaftoe on all kinds of missions that make no sense, but nerds are usually not existentialists (they believe in the god of technology) and Neal let’s the opportunity slip through his fingers. Stephenson also had many wonderful opportunities to talk about money and its nature, but he fails again. It is only Goto Dengo who says that money is nothing. The men who go to work everyday, the children improving themselves at school - that is wealth. Gold is just dead stuff. This wonderful insight was covered in half a page with no further elaboration on a theme which could have redeemed this book.

The characters are mostly predictable and the modern ones are mostly forgettable and nondescript. The story while very racy is essentially meaningless and the book finally is nothing more than 1100 pages of pulp.

To compare this work with either Neuromancer or Shogun would be a mistake of epic proportions.