Neal Stephenson really is a jolly good writer, isn’t he? He must be – he can churn out more words than aphids on a bed of roses (poor, but I’m working on it). He’s not so strong on names and places, which may be why most of his recent work has involved the same set of families through history, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for that.

The first book of his that was brought to my attention was Cryptonomicron (thanks Fraser). Once I had got into the rhythm of the most exceeding levels of detail, both in context and in conversation, I discovered it was a very good wheeze altogether. I won’t spoil it but I will heartily recommend it.

Particularly for anyone with more than a passing interest in security. It recently occurred that the book was about security, at every level – there was the global security issues of a world war, requiring technical security mechanisms such as cryptography, alongside more physical measures such as whopping great warships. Many were the examples (consider poor Goto) of how one can move from one type of insecurity to another, out of the frying pan and through a series of unexpected fires, before one finally realises that security is an ideal and not a reality. Compare these to the present day tales of financial security and computer crime, the characters constructing ever more complex architectures to protect both their data and themselves. Finally, the characters themselves were either blissfully inside their own comfort zone, or otherwise.

Security, what a mutilayered beast you are. Ignore my ramblings and read the book.


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