A couple of days I ago I commented on a post here and referenced this book therein. I got to thinking about what I had said, and I've decided Cryptonomicon deserves a review. I generally don't review books I've read way back before I joined this site (in this case it was three or 4 years ago that I read it), however, I think Cryptonomicon is an exception.
Cryptonomicon is a book loved by geeks, of certain persuasions. Its gets alot of great press from certain groups of people, when I read it it was because I'd heard it was a great read. Well what I can tell you now is that I understand why now, although, I didn't at the time, and it's not because of exceptional writing or a masterfully done plot. Let me sum the book up by taking from another review I read on another site.
Cryptonomicon is a book about badass nerds, doing badass nerd stuff.
That right there sums the entire book up pretty damn well. Why is this so great? Why does it find so much appeal? Because there aren't very many, if any, books like it. Sure other novels may gloss over the subjects covered here, but most of them don't want to focus on them. Who wants to read a chapter on cryptography in the middle of their novel? Heh, now your getting the idea.
The writing is nothing special. The plot rambles all over the place and I constantly struggled to figure out what if any direction it was heading in if any at all. The characters were interesting enough, featuring a WWII cryptoanalyst and his adventures working to stay ahead of the Nazi's, a gungho marine, a 90's era entrepreneurial computer guru's and his pals, and a mysterious priest, saddled alongside with historical figures like Alan Turing and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
But the characters don't make the book great, and the plot certainly didn't either. What makes the book great is that your average nerd wants to be like the one's in this book, doing that badass nerd stuff. That sort of thing is hard to find in literature for people of the technical persuasion, and so Cryptonomicon is a treasure to many nerds, because it does it so well and so genuinely.
But of course this sort of thing isn't going to appeal to everyone. So if you don't have dreams of creating an unbreakable cryptographic code or doing something ridiculously badass with a computer this might not be the book for you (it might bore you). Choose at your own discretion.