Cryptonomicon

I have been fascinated with codes for as long as I can remember. My brother and I used to make up symbols and hand each other notes written in code. When I was seven or eight I read Cheaper by the Dozenand the part I remember most vividly — apart from the humor — is that one or more of the children learned Morse code in order to communicate under the radar, so to speak. I immediately set about learning Morse code, though I never put it to any practical use. Later on, when I wanted to be able to journal during class without having anyone read off my paper, I developed a cursive alphabet to replace our standard one. I could write at regular speed and no one was the wiser. [I also found this handy when I was lucky enough to go on a European study tour after my sophomore year of college. One of the requirements in order to get the college credit was keeping a detailed travel journal. There were times when I wanted to make observations of a personal nature which I didn’t feel the tour leader needed to read, so I put them in my own alphabet.] Suffice it to say that when I came across the description for CryptonomiconI was intrigued, and not a bit put off by its 1,168 pages.

This book alternates between those in the cryptography business during World War II and modern-day programmers with a keen need for secure communications. Throw in some standard thriller ingredients like a vast amount of gold bullion and both wartime and corporate adversaries, and both storylines zip right along. I loved the mathematical and scientific themes, and found myself drawn in to each of the personal stories. By the end, everything converges into one big race to the conclusion. I really enjoyed this book. Four stars.

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