Cryptonomicon Spine

It’s a 1999 copyright, and I have a first edition, that I read first, presumably in 1999. Would’ve been a blog post, but before it was a blog, back when I hand-rolled my entries. Might have to look for it.

I own a digital copy in addition to the first edition, and been meaning to get back to it. Circumstances, situations, made me dig out my old copy so I could read it again.

With the exception of the Stuart Woods books, I tend to not buy hardback unless — I trust that Neal Stephenson books are often worth rereading, but mostly, especially these days, I prefer library copies. There’s a whip-smart elegance with an insouciant air of “look how smart I am,” layered in with various other dazzling word-play. Then there’s the plot and story, with an excruciating amount of detail mixed in for good measure.

“LET’S SET THE EXISTENCE-OF-GOD ISSUE ASIDE FOR A later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored.” Page 24.

Always start at the beginning, and that’s after introducing other players.

What prompted this rereading, besides the obvious “End of the World” playing out in media? There was a mention, no link, about books that people buy but don’t read. This is, at the very least, my third pass through the book. Get something different, each time. 8/5/99? So would’ve been, extrapolating, June or July ’99. Makes it a classic, to me. 25 years later, and it still engrosses me?

Can’t say it’s his finest, and I was looking forward to rereading Termination Shock in the near future, both as a timely tome, and escapist fiction that is set, in part, here in Texas.


But for the second or even third time? Cryptonomicon sent me to poking around on a world map, looking for islands and cities, trying to figure out the setting. History, as well.

Casablanca, for example, was still putting asses in seats decades after Bogart had been paid off and smoked himself into an early grave.” Page 121.

Always intriguing suggests that feed the story, albeit in slightly oblique manner, but this on the order of the heavy Russian tomes from days of yore.

“In general he doesn’t know what to make of the Brits because they appear (in his personal observation) to be the only other people on the face of the earth, besides Americans, who possess a sense of humor.” Page 324.

There is that.

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.” Page 364.

Some things never change.

“But whenever a business plan first makes contact with the actual market—the real world—suddenly all kinds of stuff becomes clear.” Page 406.

No plan survives first contact — “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” (Reacher)

Stands up well to rereading, fascinating command of language and factual fiction.

Getting towards the end of the novel, and it’s a big, heavy novel, right at 900 pages, typical of that author, but getting to the end?

Old professor suggested that most authors are telling the same story, over and over, in different formats, but essentially the same tale, again and again. I cold finally se that in the body of work, but only just, and I would spend as much time looking up places, points in history, and random details just because it suits me.

Fascinating to reread and get new details.


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  • : 24 November, 2023
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