From Academic Kids

Cryptonomicon is a sprawling novel by Neal Stephenson that is more a combination of historical fiction and contemporary techno-thriller than the science fiction of Stephenson's earlier works. It follows two parallel sagas: that of cryptographers from World War II attempting to crack Axis codes (see U-413, U-553, U-691, Enigma machine, Alan Turing, Bletchley Park), and that of their descendants attempting to use modern cryptography to build a data haven in a fictious state resembling the micronation of Sealand's international status, as well as Brunei's social order and geography. It also details the political machinations that follow both efforts. Crytonomicon's backstory ties in heavily with the events and people featured in Stephenson's later work, The Baroque Cycle.

The title is drawn indirectly from the Necronomicon (the -nomicon serves as the word's root), a fictional work detailed within the works of the writer H. P. Lovecraft, even though when Stephenson came up with his title, he was not aware of the word's origin; he was simply seeking a Latin-sounding word that also had 'crypto' in it.

Cryptonomicon is notably heavy going for non-technical readers in parts. Several pages are spent explaining in detail some of the concepts behind cryptography. Despite the technical detail, the book drew praise from both Stephenson's science fiction fan base and literary critics and buyers.

The French and Spanish translations divide the book in three tomes.

The Cryptonomicon book that appears within the novel itself—described as a "cryptographer's bible"—is a fictional book invented by Neal Stephenson for the plot purposes of his book and does not exist in reality.

Stephenson includes a precise description of (and indeed a Perl script for) the Solitaire cipher (called "Pontifex" in the book), a cryptographic algorithm developed by Bruce Schneier for use with a deck of playing cards, as part of the plot. He also describes computers using a fictional operating system, Finux.

Major Characters: Robert “Bobby” Shaftoe, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, Alan Mathison Turing, Rudolph “Rudy” Von Hacklheber, Avi Halaby, Randall Lawrence Waterhouse, Goto Dengo, Andrew Loeb, Enoch Root, America “Amy” Shaftoe, Douglas Macarthur Shaftoe, Hubert Kepler “The Dentist”, Ebernard Föhr, John Cantrell, Tom Howard, Beryl Hagen, Paul Comstock, Gunter Bischoff, Julieta Kivistik, “Uncle” Otto Kivistik, Mary Ccmndhd (Smith), Glory Altamira.


  • ISBN 0380973464: Hardcover (1999)
  • ISBN 0380788624: Paperback (2000)
  • ISBN 0060512806: Mass Market Paperback (2002)
  • ISBN 157453470X: Audio Cassette (abridged) (2001)
  • ISBN B00009M9LW: e-book (Adobe Reader)
  • ISBN B00009M9LX: e-book (Microsoft Reader)
  • Audio download from iTunes and
  • Translations into other languages: Polish, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Korean, Japanese

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