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Boundary-busting work of millennium masterpiece



Neal Stephenson

Boundary-busting work of millennium masterpiece

Tour de force boundary-buster for the millennium I'd seen this novel around, studiously read by wired types whose social skills were amos certainly in inverse proportion to the Chinese takeaway and general grunge in their keyboards. I'd read the reviews and they clearly lacked perspective. Besides, at 900+ pages, no way was I going to bother here.

Then someone who knew me well gave me a copy to snap me out of gloom and if ever there was a literary epiphany, the 21st-century Renaissance savvy of Mr Stephenson delivered it.

Not just because I'm on disbelieving knees to Mr Stephenson's astonishing learning and tale-telling skills, I simply can't think of one aspect to latch onto as a summary.

What? Time-juggling tale that hops between 1942 Enigma-busting math genius and present-day crypto-hacker grandson messing with "data havens" in the Philippines, looping back to Nazi code which, if cracked, offers riches beyond dreams of avarice?

I date my reading of novels over the past 30 years as 1) School-inspired 2) Oxford-adjusted 3) Sharpe-Lodge-Bradbury focused - and then 20 years' general wafting on a cloud of self-induced superiority that came to a sudden and long-overdue waking with the reading of Cryptonomicon.

In the same way that In the Name of the Rose enlivened and sent me back to Latin, Stephenson lit a fire to look deeper into number counts and cryptography - and what an irony and comment on our time that the featherweight illiterate Da Vinci Code rides so high in the charts in the same era.

The 1942 part of the story reads utterly convincing; the Philippines part equally so, and everyone of my pals over there has come back with identical awe and wonder that anything like this could have been written.

And how can I not now also mention NP's mould-breaking novel, Snow Crash - crying out to be murdered as an asinine movie?

In fact, had I read them all, I'd be raving here about the Baroque Cycle, which is what Crypto is in fact all about.

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