2000 March 17


Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Wow.

It's over 900 pages, and I think I read it in three days. Then went back to the beginning and started reading it again.

Insert obligatory rambling here, about how a book nominally about cryptography manages to be at once technically detailed and also a gripping treasure hunt; about how all the nifty complex, multi-layered and sometimes plain off-the-wall digressions and side stories manage to pull together and work; about the unfortunate tendency of any female characters with more than a couple of lines to be principally somebody's love interest; about how this is the most thought-provoking book I've read since Brin's Transparent Society; about how a substantial part of it is about the adventure of starting a company, a subject I'm fascinated by these days; about how sometimes it's plain fuckin' hilarious.

True, but not the point, I think.

Back in Grade 10, I was actually first introduced to SF by my English teacher, Mr. Farrell, to whom I owe a lot of thanks that I'm not sure I've ever given him. My point at the moment, however, is that I'm put in mind of his definition of the field -- SF is the literature of ideas. Being about the future is only incidental, normally required in order to find a setting where one can dig into big new ideas.

Cryptonomicon therefore marks the point at which the present has caught up to SF. I would argue that it's clearly an SF novel, written by an SF author, with classically SF motivations and themes, set in a future the world has already arrived in as the author was writing.

It's an important book. Read it.

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