I’ve just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s extraordinary novel, Cryptonomicon, and it’s done my head in. For a start, it’s about half as long again as David Copperfield. I’ve written novels in a shorter time than it took me to read Stephenson’s book. And then, as I read it, I kept asking myself: how does he know all this? It’s obvious that he’s a serious expert on computer technology and the science and history of codes and code-breaking, especially in the second world war. But he knows everything else as well, about wartime Britain, about the wartime Philippines, about submarines, about the technology of tunnelling, about just lots and lots of things.
More important, he deploys all this knowledge in a multi-stranded, multi-charactered, pan-global story of the kind that hasn’t been done much since the Victorians, and the different narratives and characters converge with the most amazing virtuosity. It’s got the wild imagination of Gravity’s Rainbow, with the added attraction – for me, at least – that I almost always understood what was going on.
Lovely post. Wonder if I should point Sean at “In the Beginning Was the Command Line”? Or is that really just for geeks?