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Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson is definitely a flawed novel. I'd pretty much agree with someone who said that it's a good WWII novel mired in three crappy ones. The bits with Randy Waterhouse were dull. I sort of liked Randy and Douglas/Amy Shaftoe, but I couldn't care less about the "plot" of that section (Whoo, they're founding a company, and now it's founded so they're doing something else, and ooh, look, now we're lookin' for gold!), and I thought that he made a HUGE mistake by bringing back Andy Loeb at the end — but that seems to be a Stephenson Hallmark: He doesn't realise that Things Can Be Mentioned Once. Andy was awesome in the backstory section, where he was just this nutjob who sorta showed up, and mysteriously disappeared. And I was sorta OK with the bit where he was part of the hive mind, since that was kinda neat. But to make him the Dentist's lawyer? Stupid. AND the part where he inexplicably comes in to start attempting to kill Randy's Girlfriend? That was the dumbest damn thing ever. I just wanted to sit Stephenson down and go "Look, Neal, it's OK to just have bits of the story to just happen in the background — you can have something be funny or surreal without ever having to bring it back to tie it up. Loose ends, especially those involving characters who have maybe 5 pages of screen time total, aren't the end of the world." (Granted, it could be argued that Cryptonomicon leaves a bunch of Loose Ends, anyway — "Welp, we found the gold! Whoopee!" — so, y'know, why pick the Andy Loeb story to tie up?)

I did like the WWII sections, though, and I think that both the bits with Waterhouse/Turning AND Shaftoe needed to be there, rather than just choosing one story or the other. But I completely-100%-no-qualms-with-saying-this could have done without Goto Dengo — I don't mind so much his occasional bits in the Shaftoe part of the story, but the whole bit with the Goldmine that tied into the Randy story? That was just so damned BORING I didn't care. Not to mention that it fed into the stupidest part of the book — I wouldn't have even minded the Randy bits if it was actually more about the Cryptography or even the Boring Company, rather than the stupid-assed Let's Go Huntin' For The Lost Gold Of Kuntakinte or whatever the fuck it was. Or was the lost gold in the Philippines? Whatever, I don't care. Gold is dumb.

One thing I thought was hilarious though, was, well, y'know how when it came out, everyone seemed to be saying variations on "Cryptonomicon was good, but Stephenson really needed an editor!" — I'd agree with that, although not necessarily because it was so overly long. At least in the First Edition Hardcover copy, there's a metric ton of typos and other such errors. My guess was that when the galleys came back, Stephenson was so sick of the book, he just signed off on it to get it out of his house. (Anyone who's read a different printing: Has this been fixed?)

It's a pity, because even though I sorta enjoyed Cryptonomicon, his next book (Quicksilver; when I originally wrote this, I don't think the title wasn't even released) looks Utterly Horrible. And it appears that he's following through on what he talked about in making Cryptonomicon part of a Cycle. So, next up, we get to look forward to The Waterhouses' Adventures Through Time Vol. 1: The Early Years. Hooray. I still have yet to read it. In fact, when Stephenson's website for it posted the first chapter or so, I scanned it, and came away feeling like my feelings were right. It's sad, because Snow Crash and The Diamond Age were really good books. Hell, I even dug the Stephen Bury books he wrote with his uncle. Man, now I'm all kinda bummed out thinking about this.)