Cryptonomicon

[Amazon Link]

So after reading Neal Stephenson's Fall, I decided to stick all the Stephenson novels I hadn't read recently into my To-Be-Read system. And the first to pop up was this one Cryptonomicon, copyright 1999.

Boy, is it ever a lot of fun. Even given that it's slightly over 900 pages of small type.

The book alternates between the 1940s and the 1990s. The 1940s story begins with the US Marine Bobby Shaftoe being evacuted from Singapore in advance of the Japanese invasion, composing haikus as he goes. The other main character in this time is Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, gifted mathematician and cryptoanalyst, keeping pre-war company with Alan Turning and (fictional) Rudolf von Hacklheber. When the war kicks off, Waterhouse and Turing devote their lives into (successfully) breaking Axis codes. Unfortunately, they also have to disguise the fact that they've broken the codes from their old buddy, who seems to be working for the Nazis. This involves Shaftoe on a series of adventures, right up until (almost) the end of the war.

Also involved: Japanese soldier Goto Dengo, for whom the war is literally hell. He's a "digger", skilled in tunnelling. This turns out to be useful in a scheme to squirrel away Axis gold in a remote part of the Philippines.

In the 1990s scenes, Lawrence's grandson, Randy is a Silicon Valley geek, just having been taken to the cleaners by his ex-girlfriend. His friend Avi, enlists him in a new venture, involving underwater cables leading to a semi-autonomous land near the Philippines, the site of a "data vault" holding people's secrets from around the world. And maybe a new currency. Backed by … hm … that Axis gold, buried where Goto left it? But they have their own adversaries.

And Enoch Root in both times. I have to remember to keep an eye on that guy.

There is a wonderful digression on the sensual pleasures of eating Cap'n Crunch cereal in precisely the right way. Randy's ritual is … well, I think the description all by itself deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even if Stephenson never wrote another word.