By Neal Stephenson

Rating: 4 stars

This is a geek’s book. Obviously written by a geek for geeks, it took me a while to decide whether I liked it or not. It’s a very rambling book and in the end, I decided that it was worth it for the journey, not the destination. Split into two time periods, it follows the work of cryptographers during WW2 and then a bunch of hackers trying to set up a data haven in south east Asia in the present day.

The book goes so far as to include snippets of Perl code, lots of equations and graphs (including some devoted to describing the relationship between the amount of work that one of the protagonists can do related to the last time he had an orgasm) and an appendix written by Bruce Schneier containing a real cryptographic algorithm that is used in the book. Oh, and there’s liberal sprinklings and explanations of Unix commands used by some of the present day geeks (who use a Unix variant called “Finux”, guess what that’s a reference to). Think of it as the antidote to that silly Dan Brown book allegedly about cryptography.

As I say, the book rambled an awful lot, and by the time it got to its destination I had pretty much forgotten why I was going there. It was enough to just enjoy the scenery en route.

Book details

ISBN: 9780434008834
Publisher: William Heinemann
Year of publication: 1999

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