Author: Neal Stephenson

Epic novel weaving three generations of men and women with code cracking, WWII and encryption of data.

This wasn’t a quick read. There were so many details, and the explanations so intricate, that I didn’t want to skim over it and miss something. The story jumps around from the WWII era to present times, and covers the stories of many different people. With such an epic story, it needs to be read slowly and absorbed so you can remember some little detail later on in the book. It is also one monster of a book. I was intimidated by it when I started it, and became increasingly intimidated by it as I moved toward the middle of the book because I was reading it so slowly. I don’t read books slowly unless I am not enjoying them. I was enjoying it though.

In the beginning, the story concentrated on three main characters: Bobby Shaftoe, a U.S. Marine in WWII; Lawrence Waterhouse, a mathematician who works for the military during WWII; and Randy Waterhouse, grandson of Lawrence who is also building a crypt of data in order to make tons of money for his company.

I loved Shaftoe. He was blunt and hilarious. I loved that when he ran into Waterhouse, he hated him with all his talking. He was a man of action, not of words. I was always entertained when the story was focusing on him. I loved it when he unsuccessfully tried to drown himself because he thought he was about to be caught by Nazis.

The parts with Lawrence Waterhouse were a bit dry at times. They were the parts that I had to slow down to understand what he was talking about with all the encryption. I enjoyed that an actual historical person, Alan Turing, was a character in the book that Waterhouse interacted with in college. While it was a struggle to get through some of the encryption parts, since that is not a major interest of mine, the rest of the storyline involving him kept my interest. I knew the encryption parts were a major part of the story, so I didn’t want to skim, but understand what was going on. I laughed at the parts where he was building the first computer, especially since he made RAM with tubes.

In the sections about Randy Waterhouse, he was starting a company with some friends to make tons of money by creating electronic money and a crypt of data. This lead him to the Philippines where he met America Shaftoe, the granddaughter of Sgt. Shaftoe. These two are hilarious when they decide they are attracted to one another, yet can’t have normal conversations with one another due to their own awkward ways.

While Goto Dengo is only superficially introduced in the beginning, his story comes in somewhere towards the middle. I loved his storyline, especially the areas of him trekking through the jungle, hiding from cannibals, being sneaky while digging tunnels, and other adventures.

I enjoyed the last half of the book more since all the various storylines started to come together. People from all generations and areas interacted with one another and it finally comes to the big conclusion. I was actually waiting for it continue, even after it was done, and so very long. It was that good that I could have kept reading about the various adventures of everyone involved.

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