Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

At 918 pages long the strongest feeling I have on finishing this book is relief. I think I quite liked it when I started it, I can’t really remember anymore. I read it for a book club, otherwise there is no way that I would pick up a book of this length if it was not about Britain between the World Wars or Tudor England. Actually, there is a tiny bit of Britain during WWII in this story, but really not enough to ease my pain.

This is a good book, and well-written, with lots of plots and sub-plots to keep you going, I do not really think the weakness is in the novel, it is exciting, and wonderfully done. The problem is my short attention span. I blame television. The book cleverly bounces between historical fiction and (sort of) sci-fi thriller. Although if I had not read it for the Huntington Beach Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Group, then I would not know that it was sci-fi.

The historical fiction part covers lots of all the usual war stuff, code-breaking (including Alan Turing as a character), submarines, the Philippines, Japan, intelligence units and Marines. The (sort of) sci-fi thriller part covers internet security, fibre-optic cables (remember them?!), a video-messaging scheme that sounds ludicrous nowadays, and the Philippines again. And, many of the characters in the 90s part are descended from the 40s part.

It nicely illustrates some parallels between WWII cryptography and late 90s internet security issues. The late 90s parts feel incredibly dated now, and it is weird to be reading that alongside chapters set in the 40s, then I have to keep reminding myself that the 90s were quite a long time ago, too. It was a poor choice for a book club, in my opinion; we read a third for each meeting over three meetings, and it got to be a dull discussion.

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