Review by Booklist Review
Stephenson follows his startlingly original Snow Crash (1992) and The Diamond Age (1995) with proof that he can do as well at twice the page-count, and not only that, but with the promise that this immense volume begins a saga that may rival Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time in its eventual proportions. Volume one, then, is the well-told tale of a World War II code breaker whose descendants end up trying to track down the secrets of the Third Reich's cryptographers--secrets that may liberate or ruin the cybertech world of the present day. Stephenson mixes historical and contemporary settings, handling both with great skill, as he presents a large cast of vividly imagined characters, notably including the original code breaker's granddaughter, and makes both the tale's technology and its conspiracies highly believable. His choice to tell the entire story in the present tense rather calls attention to itself, and, given a book nearly 1,000 pages long, every word is not really essential. Still, this is a book that should be bought for the sake of saying that you have it and read, however long that takes, for the pleasure and intellectual stimulation it is likely to give to most readers. Imagine Tom Clancy turning to cyberpunk, and you have some idea of its broad potential appeal. --Roland Green
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Big, complex and ambitious, the new cyber-thriller from the talented author of Snowcrash and The Diamond Age calls to mind Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow in its intense, paranoid evocation of conspiracies and secret histories. Set in part during WWII, Stephenson's novel concerns Lawrence Waterhouse, mathematical genius, a friend of Alan Turing and, like Turing, a code breaker extraordinaire. Assigned to the super-secret Detachment 2702, Waterhouse is instrumental in the Allied plot to keep the Nazis unaware that their fabled Enigma code has been broken. Almost as a sideline, he helps trigger the computer age. Nearly 60 years later, Waterhouse's grandson Randy, a computer hacker with a knack for cryptanalysis, is attempting to create a high-tech data haven in Southeast Asia, only to discover that a variety of governments, multinationals and shadowy secret organizations want a piece of his company's action. Uncovering evidence of a long-dormant conspiracy with its roots partly in his grandfather's work in cryptology, Randy eventually discovers that enormous amounts of war gold are involved, enough not just to make him and his fellow hackers wealthy but to change the entire economy of the planet. This fast-paced, genre-transcending novel is full of absorbing action, witty dialogue and well-drawn characters. Amazingly, it is also, even at its tremendous length, only the first volume in what promises to be one of the most extravagant literary creations of the turn of the millenniumÄand beyond. Major ad/promo; author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Computer expert Randy Waterhouse spearheads a movement to create a safe haven for data in a world where information equals power and big business and government seek to control the flow of knowledge. His ambitions collide with a top-secret conspiracy with links to the encryption wars of World War II and his grandfather's work in preventing the Nazis from discovering that the Allies had cracked their supposedly unbreakable Enigma code. The author of Snow Crash (LJ 4/1/92) focuses his eclectic vision on a story of epic proportions, encompassing both the beginnings of information technology in the 1940s and the blossoming of the present cybertech revolution. Stephenson's freewheeling prose and ironic voice lend a sense of familiarity to a story that transcends the genre and demands a wide readership among fans of technothrillers as well as a general audience. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99.] (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Stephenson's prodigious new yarn (after The Diamond Age, 1995, etc.) whirls from WWII cryptography and top-secret bullion shipments to a present-day quest by computer whizzes to build a data haven amid corporate shark-infested waters, by way of multiple present-tense narratives overlaid with creeping paranoia. In 1942, phenomenally talented cryptanalyst Lawrence Waterhouse is plucked from the ruins of Pearl Harbor and posted to Bletchley Park, England, center of Allied code-breaking operations. Problem: having broken the highest German and Japanese codes, how can the Allies use the information without revealing by their actions that the codes have been broken? Enter US Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe, specialist in cleanup details, statistical adjustments, and dirty jobs. In the present, meanwhile, Waterhouse's grandson, the computer-encryption whiz Randy, tries to set up a data haven in Southeast Asia, one secure from corporate rivals, nosy governments, and inquisitive intelligence services. He teams up with Shaftoe's stunning granddaughter, Amy, while pondering mysterious, e-mails from firstname.lastname@example.org, who's developed a weird but effective encoding algorithm. Everything, of course, eventually links together. During WWII, Waterhouse and Shaftoe investigate a wrecked U-boat, discovering a consignment of Chinese gold bars, and sheets of a new, indecipherable code. Code-named Arethusa, this material ends up with Randy, presently beset by enemies like his sometime backer, The Dentist. He finds himself in a Filipino jail accused of drug smuggling, along with Shaftoe's old associate, Enoch Root (email@example.com!). Since his jailers give him his laptop back, he knows someone's listening. So he uses his computing skills to confuse the eavesdroppers, decodes Arethusa, and learns the location of a huge hoard of gold looted from Asia by the Japanese. Detail-packed, uninhibitedly discursive, with dollops of heavy-handed humor, and set forth in the author's usual vainglorious style; still, there's surprisingly little actual plot. And the huge chunks of baldly technical material might fascinate NSA chiefs, computer nerds, and budding entrepreneurs, but ordinary readers are likely to balk: showtime, with lumps. (Author tour)
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.