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Neal Stephenson Eos Literature & Fiction 928
Summary: Neal Stephenson enjoys cult status among science fiction fans and techie types thanks to "Snow Crash", which so completely redefined conventional notions of the high-tech future that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if his cyberpunk classic was big, "Cryptonomicon" is huge... gargantuan... massive, not just in size (a hefty 918 pages including appendices) but in scope and appeal. It's the hip, readable heir to "Gravity's Rainbow" and the Illuminatus trilogy. And it's only the first of a proposed series--for more information, read our interview with Stephenson.
"Cryptonomicon" zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods--World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, cryptanalyst extraordinaire, and gung ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They're part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702, and he explains the unit's strange workings to Waterhouse. "When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first.... Of course, to observe is not its "real" duty--we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its "real" duty is "to be observed".... Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious."
All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroes--inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe--team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers. To top off the paranoiac tone of the book, the mysterious Enoch Root, key member of Detachment 2702 and the "Societas Eruditorum", pops up with an unbreakable encryption scheme left over from WWII to befuddle the 1990s protagonists with conspiratorial ties.
"Cryptonomicon" is vintage Stephenson from start to finish: short on plot, but long on detail so precise it's exhausting. Every page has a math problem, a quotable in-joke, an amazing idea, or a bit of sharp prose. "Cryptonomicon" is also packed with truly weird characters, funky tech, and crypto--all the crypto you'll ever need, in fact, not to mention all the computer jargon of the moment. A word to the wise: if you read this book in one sitting, you may die of information overload (and starvation). "--Therese Littleton"

My Comments: A fictional novel about Codes and Codebreakers, which leaps back and forth between a World War II past, and the World Wide Web of today. Absolutely fantastic; a must read!

Sixth Column
Robert A. Heinlein Baen Literature & Fiction 256
Summary: Last of the free nations to fall, America had been invaded and conquered. Ironically, even as Washington had been destroyed, a secret laboratory charged with developing weapons to defeat the invaders had discovered a new system of controlling energy and matter. A super-weapon is developed, but who will use it to liberate America? Reissue.

My Comments: Read it four times. Lost it during a move. Such an awesome book, I had to buy a new copy.

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
Neal Stephenson Spectra Science Fiction & Fantasy 499
Summary: John Percival Hackworth is a nanotech engineer on the rise when he steals a copy of "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" for his daughter Fiona. The primer is actually a super computer built with nanotechnology that was designed to educate Lord Finkle-McGraw's daughter and to teach her how to think for herself in the stifling neo-Victorian society. But Hackworth loses the primer before he can give it to Fiona, and now the "book" has fallen into the hands of young Nell, an underprivileged girl whose life is about to change.

My Comments: A spectacular spellbinder. Social engineering on a grand scale.

The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons & the Front Line Is Everywhere
James Adams Simon & Schuster History 368
Summary: Has the computer chip changed the nature of warfare? Will it eventually change war beyond current recognition? Adams, the former defense correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the "London Sunday Times", believes that information will become the ultimate weapon and that future battlegrounds will be everywhere we live and work. While the weapons and technology of war will improve beyond even technofiction's expectations, it's the "information warfare" that will be critical in foreign wars and in the war against domestic crime.
We've already seen some of what is to come in the Gulf War's camera-equipped smart bombs. Soldiers can now be equipped with hand-held computers that can send messages and information back to superiors. And among the weapons to come: microwave cannons; plasma guns; devices that can see, smell, and hear; and even robotic "ants" that can swarm and explode around the enemy. Soldiers will wear uniforms powered by body heat that automatically relay important information back to their base camp. Helmets will be able to locate incoming fire, help a soldier see under all kinds of conditions, and locate others in a patrol.
The ability to attack an enemy's civilian infrastructure, such as communication networks, air traffic control, bridges and dams, and electric grids, will be part of the new era of war. With the advanced state of digital imaging, misinformation campaigns in enemy countries can take on a much more convincing role. All it takes is for one country to have a few skilled hackers, and suddenly the number of troops, the hardware, and the nuclear devices don't matter. Could there be an "electronic Pearl Harbor?"
Adams's research and journalism experience has made him aware of how much information warfare is being planned for and how much is already in place. His concern, in part, is that there has been little public debate about this, even though it affects our future so dramatically. Adams says "As David proved against Goliath, strength can be beaten. America today looks uncomfortably like Goliath, arrogant in its power, armed to the teeth, ignorant of its weakness." "--Elizabeth Lewis"

My Comments: Astonishingly good! Great subject.

Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage
Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew PublicAffairs History 384
Summary: Little is known--and less has been published--about American submarine espionage during the Cold War. These submerged sentinels silently monitored the Soviet Union's harbors, shadowed its subs, watched its missile tests, eavesdropped on its conversations, and even retrieved top-secret debris from the bottom of the sea. In an engaging mix of first-rate journalism and historical narrative, Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, and Annette Lawrence Drew describe what went on.
"Most of the stories in "Blind Man's Bluff" have never been told publicly," they write, "and none have ever been told in this level of detail." Among their revelations is the most complete accounting to date of the 1968 disappearance of the "U.S.S. Scorpion"; the story of how the Navy located a live hydrogen bomb lost by the Air Force; and a plot by the CIA and Howard Hughes to steal a Soviet sub. The most interesting chapter reveals how an American sub secretly tapped Soviet communications cables beneath the waves. "Blind Man's Bluff" is a compelling book about the courage, ingenuity, and patriotism of America's underwater spies. "--John J. Miller"

My Comments: The untold story of american submarine espionage.

The Butlerian Jihad
Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson Tor Books Science Fiction & Fantasy 704
Summary: Frank Herbert’s Dune series is one of the great creations of imaginative literature, science fiction’s answer to The" Lord of the Rings."

Decades after Herbert’s original novels, the Dune saga was continued by Frank Herbert’s son, Brian Herbert, in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson. Working from Frank Herbert’s own notes, the acclaimed authors reveal the chapter of the "Dune "saga most eagerly anticipated by readers: the Butlerian Jihad.

Throughout the Dune novels, Frank Herbert frequently referred to the war in which humans wrested their freedom from “thinking machines.” In" Dune: The Butlerian Jihad", Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson bring to life the story of that war, a tale previously seen only in tantalizing hints and clues. Finally, we see how Serena Butler’s passionate grief ignites the struggle that will liberate humans from their machine masters; here is the amazing tale of the Zensunni Wanderers, who escape bondage to flee to the desert world where they will declare themselves the Free Men of Dune. And here is the backward, nearly forgotten planet of Arrakis, where traders have discovered the remarkable properties of the spice melange....

My Comments: A Dune novel. Another book by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Keeping the Dune saga alive and kicking. Here's the story we've all wondered about. Humanity's struggle to overthrow the intelligent machine. This book contains all the catalysts for the Dune series. The origins of the series, and the culmination of a legacy in literature. The pages of this book burn brighter than a SuperNova. Packed with a thousand beginnings, "anything is possible" between these pages. It's not the first Dune novel, but it is the beginning of the Epic that is Dune. Intense and rich, dripping with Melange. Vibrant characters, dramatic involved plots, and a backdrop as rich as any in the Sci-Fi universe. If you've read any of the Dune novels, you'll want to read this one. This book is filled with Dune origins; unlike any other novel in the series, this one book explains much of the rich history which defines the Dune mythos. The worst thing about this book, is one of the best things; it's 'to be continued!'

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