Sunday, June 24, 2018

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

The year is 1942 and World War II is in full force.  Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse has been assigned to a secret division.  He is a mathematician and musician whose idea of fun is encrypting and decrypting messages.  He is assigned to a department whose other locations include Bletchley Park and men like Alan Turing.  Waterhouse's job is to hide the fact from the Germans that their unbreakable code, Enigma, has been broken so that the Allies can continue to use this valuable resource. 

He spends time in the outer reaches of Scotland and in the Philippines as his work takes him to different places.  In the Philippines and the islands nearby, he meets Bobby Shaftoe, a gung-ho Marine who is in charge of his safety and that of Douglas MacArthur who immediately sees his worth.  The Axis powers are fueled by their need to hide massive amounts of gold to rebuild after the war and this effort is centered in these same Asian locations.  A massive crypt is built to hold tons of gold and then buried under tons of rock and earth.

Decades later, Waterhouse's grandson, Randy Waterhouse, is back in the same Asian areas.  He has made his living in the tech world and has created a new business with his partner, Avi.  They plan to create a data haven where entities can store their data with no worries about security or loss due to natural disasters.  Randy meets and falls in love with Amy Shaftoe, the granddaughter of Bobby and a woman who works with her father on salvage operations.  They fall in with Randy's work as they all endeavor to find the fortune locked away many years ago.

A Neal Stephenson book is a wonder on many levels.  There are multiple plots and subplots all of which tie together beautifully.  Many characters are involved, each given a fully explained backstory and whose lives intertwine in mysterious ways.  There is lots of science and technology and a feeling that perfection is just always a tiny bit beyond one's grasp.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction and literary fiction. 

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