|This "cult" novel of mathematics, computer science, espionage and
warfare follows a mathematician through World War II and his grandson
through the creation of a (less than ordinary) silicon valley start-up
company. For more information (and more of my comments) you may look at my review which appeared in the AMS Notices.
To sum it up: Not only did I
really enjoy reading this book, but I think it makes a good
"advertisement" for mathematics because it portrays math as
interesting and useful.
The book includes a clever introduction to modular arithmetic and its
role in cryptography, bits of information theory, also some stuff on
Riemann's zeta function and Gödel's theorem. However, there are
a number of glaring mathematical errors, including a several
references to factoring large primes.
"While math is not the central focus of
the book, indeed many of the segments
are completely devoid of any math
whatsoever, it permeates the thinking
of at least two of the main characters
and that thinking is described in some
detail. As a programmer/computer
scientist/someone who thinks math is
neat I found this to be quite enticing.
Walking thru London becames a graph,
executing a will becomes a two-
dimensional sort in physical space.
Read the book for the excellent quality
of Stephenson's writing and story
telling but enjoy the book for
Stephenson's love of math and
engineering. Then read The Diamond Age
for a refresher course in elementary
computer science. :O)"
Actually, I would rate this book somewhere between "excellent" and "amazing". I
am not a mathematician. Indeed, though I seem to have been attracted to books with math themes in them ever since I can remember (such as the Clifton Fadiman books), I never did especially well in math, and even had a real fear of fractions
in elementary school. Nevertheless, my reading of Cryptonomicon was the motivation for me -- at the age of 50 -- to go back to school for a second undergraduate degree, this time in Computer Science (my first is in Communications). Obviously, Professor Kasman's closing comment in his review of Cryptonomicon about not
being surprised in the future to hear people refer to this novel as an inspiration for them in choosing a career in mathematics is not farfetched at all.
Tragic, comic, and totally memorable.
history repeating itself exponentially. wicked!
Absolutely superb. The 'Turing's Cycle Chain' section is astonishing in Stephenson's ability to explain a complex idea in an engaging and understandable way. I loved this book; it's in the bibliography to my degree in computing. Quite possibly my most favourite book ever, at this point in time...
Having previously read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and enjoyed it, I was looking forward to Cryptonomicon. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement. Yes, it does a good job of explaining some math and making it interesting, and there are also some really exciting action passages. However, the way Stephenson chose to tell his story is just plain bad. There are so many story lines that are introduced and then never developed that it becomes hard to really care about what's happening because you know it's not going to lead anywhere anyway. And while some story lines do get resolved, many do not. It's sad to say but I started hating this book and finished it only to see just how bad it could get. Ultimately, I got the feeling that the author had decided to write a 1000 page book and then tried to figure out how to fill the pages.
Intricate story lines, good math, fascinating history, complex and entertaining characters, some very hilarious scenes. I loved it!
There is a section in this book where one of the characters writes a function for his own horniness, based upon various variables (such as the presence of his landlady's cute daughter). It is very clever and very funny indeed. It is also quite a neat illustration that can be used in teaching people how to conceptualize writing a function of a novel phenomenon.