Friday, November 19, 2004

Book Discussion: Cryptonomicon

A lost soul who chanced upon this weblog writes:

Your blog indicates that you?re reading the Cryptonomicon. I finished it about a month ago and have very mixed feelings about it. That book doesn?t seem to have much of a plot. Or rather, instead of a plot it has a loose direction in which the main characters are going. However, it seems to me that Neil changed his idea about the plot development at least a few times, and that the book could have used a whole lot of abridging and editing. Each chapter is a fascinating story in itself, but reads better as a collection of short stories. In short, I found it very difficult to have the attention span to actually get through the entire book, and almost given up on it a few times. That?s very much a let down after the first 100 pages or so were very hard to put down. But there are just so many characters getting involved in so many, seemingly irrelevant subplots.

And finally, much like Snow Crush and The Diamond Age, the ending of the book is almost an afterthought. Stephenson seems to be unable to come to a satisfying climax to the story. Perhaps it?s the torrid pace of the book in general, but he exhausts himself and the reader by the time 70% passes.

I think because I am a computer geek, and he, unlike vast majority of authors who go into details, actually got the details right it was an easier read for me. Overall, I think you are right in many respects. Certainly, the idea with the data vault seemed to have been concocted for two reasons -- he wanted to talk about technology and cryptography and their implications as well as to have a connection to some of the
past. The book itself is almost an intro to cryptography primer.

I have also read two of his Baroque Cycle books. They are weaker than Cryptonomicon, and just as long, but still chock-full of useless details and information he finds so fascinating. Since I am not unlike him in that respect - it works for me.

The way I understand his writing process is that he basically chooses an area he would like to either explore or publicize and then he creates a plot around it. There was a very interesting interview with him on slashdot a week or two ago. Worth reading.

Related posts on this weblog:
Neal Stephenson interview
Book Review: Cryptonomicon
and slightly less related - Back from the conference


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