Techdirt Reading List: Cryptonomicon
from the a-little-fiction-for-you dept
We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt.
In previous Techdirt Reading List posts, we’ve covered a bunch of different books about encryption and the crypto wars of the 1990s, arguing that it might be useful for more people to understand the past to avoid having to repeat the same old fight all over again (though, if we must, hopefully the eventual outcome is the same). However, a friend recently suggested another book on cryptography that is a bit different: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Unlike all of the other books on crypto that we covered, this one is fictional. However, it may also be the most entertaining and readable.
If you haven’t read it, I should warn you that it is a big book and also, like an unfortunate number of Stephenson’s books, it tends to go off the rails as he struggles to figure out how to end it (Stephenson is one of the best writers around, but has always struggled with endings). However, a key plot point in the book is encryption (the title may be a hint) and it actually does a pretty damn good job of explaining encryption in a way that is really understandable, often by going back and discussing earlier versions of encryption, but also comparing them to more modern encryption as well. Definitely worth a read (or a re-read if you read it a while ago)…