Monday, April 18, 2011
I first read about Neal Stephenson in a Wired article in 2006. Since then have been on the look out for his books. Every year will go to Strands book facility and will ask them about any of his books - they will draw a blank.
Anyway - found this book in JustBooks in February- the wonderful library chain that has been feeding me books for the last 2 years.
This is one big masala book - has some mathematics ( yep - equations, graphs and all that ), computer stuff of late 90s when the book was written ( Finux is the OS one of the main character uses - I do not know why he did not use the word Linux ), has an elaborate VC/lawyer, entrepreneur battle, nerd culture of late 90s - and of course the whole underlying theme - cryptography.
The book starts during World War II and the interesting stories are only here. Alan Turing and his college buddies fight it out ( one of them is a German and goes back to work for Hitler ). Each party will try to break each other's cryptosystems and once broken they will do lot of stage managed accidents in order to keep the opposite party from knowing that they have broken the code - so they will not change it.
The present and past keep alternating - and the whole story centers around a ton of Gold buried under a man made lake by a Japanese Naval Captain who would have escaped from an air attack - escape from sharks, land on a cannibal island, escape from them, get captured by a rogue Japanese Army who are the ones secretly stashing tons of Gold. The Captain while designing the elaborate tunnel system will also plan his escape route through that without his bosses knowledge.
The location of the Gold is hidden in an encrypted message which will finally be cracked by our hero ( who uses Finux ) and the story will end with them bombing the gold out.
After reading this book I do not feel awkward to encrypt all my stuff with TrueCrypt and Keepassx - someday will blog on my paranoid setup !
I salute thee Neal Stephenson - you are the next Michael Crichton.