Posts Tagged ‘stephenson’
As I previously said I bought Anathem at the same time I bought Cryptonomicon, it was quite funny when I came to the counter the shop employee was an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while. We wanted to chat, but as it was the week before Christmas it was far too busy. A week later I was walking over a secondhand book market I saw a different friend selling books. It seems many of my friends are in the book trade.
Reading Anathem was a profound experience, the book is similar in form to many popular novels – Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings – following a young man, Erasmas, who is a novice to the real world, and is forced by an unseen power and/or destiny to leave his home and make a profound difference to the world. Like the stories mentioned it contains some elements of fantasy magic, although they are explained away scientifically in some cases. The protagonist, Erasmas, is part of a science based monastic order, who follow the Discipline of the mathic world.
As with many stories of this type it appeals to me and to others, although it is clear that they are formulaic in essence. The thing that most made an impact on me was a semi-religious order based on mathematics and philosophy, it’s the way I was sucked into the book and was (re-)introduced to many of the theories in mathematics, physics and philosophy of which I had not thought in a long time. It is much like reading Juvenal or Shakespeare and discovering the source and context of many well-known sayings. Only in reverse.
I believe that learning could be like this, in story form creating a source and context for much of the knowledge presented. I can certainly say I understand many of the concepts discussed better that I did when I was first introduced to them, although I might be prone to say Hemn spaces rather than configuration spaces.
A fantastic book, and a must read!
As an early Christmas gift my father gave me vouchers he didn’t want to get him and myself some books we would enjoy. I went out and bought Anathem – which I will discuss in a following blog – and Cryptonomicon. He was very happy with my choice, we had both enjoyed Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, and would be sure to enjoy these.
The book starts just before the age of modern cryptography, in a time when computers were people who performed computations, and weaves a story of the Waterhouse clan from grandfather’s fumbled first meetings with Alan Turing, through the cracking of the Enigma code, up to the modern age of fibre optics and Van Eck phreaking. It is ranges from witty to down-right hilarious, with lines like
“War is hell, but smoking cigarettes makes it all worthwhile.”
And it covers the art of cryptography in a way that I, a geek with some knowledge of cryptography, understand.
The story itself reads like a spy novel, with as much subterfuge in the WWII periode as in the modern age, where the discovery of information by lawyers and dentists can be as bad if not worse that the discovery by Nazis. In the end the WWII characters have died leaving legacies which ripple into the future, and those left alive are left fighting an enemy much worse than the Third Reich, corporations.
I really liked Cryptonomicon.