Author: Neal Stephenson
Series: Baroque Cycle #0
Cryptonomicon is one of those bricks that can kill you, if thrown with adequate velocity. It can damage your metacarpals and wrists, and it may even make your head hurt. It’s a proof of the ultimate self-indulgence as much as that of sheer writing talent. So what can a poor reviewer do with such a conundrum?
Let’s be blunt: this is no Anathem. Cryptonomicon can claim more kinship with Seveneves, in that infuriating unevenness, disjointedness and political context that characterises both books; as Seveneves, it makes the readers follow two separate timelines, merging together, to an extent, through the generational and thematic links. Unlike Seveneves, it wears its juvenile, masculine self-obsessions on its sleeve, gladly offering pages upon pages to vapid ruminations on the necessity – or lack of it – of masturbation, virginity, and large wisdom teeth, and regaling the readers with facts about workings of the prostate. I would’ve gladly been spared all of it; and I’m also pretty certain the book would’ve been much better if a good editor went through it with the requisite ruthlessness and sharp eye. I’m also quite sure Stephenson thought back in 1999 that he was fearlessly pushing boundaries of custom and habit, introducing new hot cultural topics into the sanitized reality we purportedly live in; alas, there is a good reason for not having prolonged pooping scenes, or brushing teeth/ flossing/ pimple removal/ put whatever physiological activity you want here/etc. in mainstream novels. It’s not revelatory; just boring. It doesn’t bring value to the plot, doesn’t endear the protagonists nor does it make them more relatable – if anything, it makes them look more like self-obsessed, anally retentive jerks. Of course, there are hypothetical – and a few real – examples of when such literary devices might work, especially when making a self-obsessed, OCD asshole of the protagonist is the author’s intention; sadly, Cryptonomicon is not one of them.Continue reading “Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon (1999)”