Exhibit A (howlingfantods) wrote in _crocodiles,
Exhibit A

Neal Stephenson, who brought us the delightfully nerdy Snow Crash, should endeavor to write novels that cannot also be used as doorstops. Which is exactly how my copy of Quicksilver is usually employed.
I picked up his Cryptonomicon at the library last week, and, in a fit of masochism and impatience, finished it a few days later. Okay, so maybe I skimmed a few of those interminable 900 hundred pages.

Cryptonomicon is, unsurprisingly, all about codes. There are basically two parallel stories, told through a dizzy series of small snippets. I felt like I might get whiplash from cutting back and forth so rapidly. In one story, a group of cryptographers in World War II become embroiled in a conspiracy involving an unholy amount of gold. In the other, a group of computer nerds becomes embroiled in the same conspiracy fifty years later. And somehow they're all descended from the first group of cryptographers. Fair enough, if you're willing to suspend your disbelief. My patience ran out around the halfway mark.

Amazon.com's review claims that it's "...the hip, readable heir to Gravity's Rainbow," which implies that Stephenson is in any way comparable to Pynchon. I also compared the two, but it was more along the lines of "Wow, this is a pretty shoddy knock-off Gravity's Rainbow. How many more pages do I have left?" Despite the impressive size of Cryptonomicon, it's surprisingly small in scope. Essentially, there are math problems, a little sex, a lot of carnage, and an endlessly back-and-forth travelogue between London, Brisbane, Manila, and San Fransisco. Stephenson seems to be very interested in transportation, which could be a comment on the way that both people and information are transmitted from place to place, but I don't know that I'm going to allow him that much credit.

The bottom line, for me, is that the book was far too long. The story was stretched very thin, and the gaps were filled in with little math problems and charts. It wasn't terribly clever (nothing that he couldn't have cobbled together after reading Godel, Escher, and Bach), nor was it terribly interesting after reading essentially the same scene over and over again with only slight variations. I plowed through the last third of the book, determined to finish it, lest Stephenson win, but also curious to see if the ending would be at all satisfying. I was not surprised to find that it was tied up in a fairly neat little bow, but basically devoid of emotional impact. Or maybe I was just exhausted.

Bottom Line: it wasn't worth the effort or the eyestrain.

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