War of the Wired

Obliged to move his two plotlines toward some kind of convergence, Stephenson does so gradually, and with a masterful sense of pacing. But the end, when it comes, is a letdown. Stephenson's attempts to raise Randy & Co.'s data-haven project to the same world-historical level as Detachment 2072's fight against the forces of holocaust—for instance, by suggesting that it will fund a grassroots project to teach the little people of the world how to resist genocide—seem forced and unconvincing. More dismayingly, especially for an author as committed to the pleasure of the genre fiction text as Stephenson is, the book's final pages peter out with an awkward abruptness, taking us as far as the action's climax and then leaving us there without so much as a postclimactic cuddle.


By Neal Stephenson
Avon, 928 pp., $27.50
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These things happen, of course (deadlines impinge, energy flags), but the impression given is of a sudden loss of faith. It's as if, in the last minutes of writing, Stephenson had come to doubt that he'd really pulled off his ambitious feat—that he hadn't in fact succeeded in reimagining the last half- century as an invention of hackers. That, more than any strictly narrative delights, is the thrill Cryptonomicon promises and irrevocably delivers.

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