Cryptonomicon (was Re: [DWJ] Pratchett Convert)--corrected post

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Fri Jul 28 18:45:42 EDT 2006

On Thu, 27 Jul 2006 14:37:22 -0400, Elizabeth Parks wrote:

>spoilers for the Baroque Cycle?
>The other thing that annoyed me about it was the constant reference to Japan
>as Nippon, as though that was cooler and more correct.  I was living in
>Japan at the time and ran it by some  Japanese people, who thought it was
>really kind of strange.

I agree, though at one point in the book it's said that whether you call it
Japan or Nippon has to do with what part of the military you're in and where
you're fighting.  I also wondered if this was part of the "alternate
universe" thing that includes the fictional Qwghlm, but I don't know.

> I think one
>of the parts that really annoyed me was when (it's been a while, and all the
>names are blurring) Randy is thinking about his exwife (he really is the
>most unlikeable character, I think) and how shallow and pointless she is
>because she reads romance novels in secret.  This was the part of the book
>that turned me off him.

He thinks less of her for reading romance novels not because he has any
opinions about them, but because *she* makes a big deal out of being an
intellectual and a feminist and has systematically denigrated him for any
interest he had in popular culture, as well as for being a white male
technocrat.  When he finds her stash, it's both a surprise to him and a mark
of contempt for her hypocrisy.  Not that Randy isn't hard to like anyway,
because he is.  I think all the Waterhouse males are.  I thought Daniel was
a complete wuss for the longest time.

>It's an interesting mix of know-it-all and really-f*ing-smart.  And there
>are places where I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the research.  As in, had
>to go lie down and drink cool water, because the historical details were so
>excellent.  Even the things that were  in theory kind of repugnant--Newton's
>eye, the kidney stone surgery--I _loved_.  I loved the way it made me think
>about science, and about the day to day difference of modern and historical
>daily life, and the things I hadn't realized were the same or were
>different, or how different.

Yeah, I totally agree.  One of the things I hear from people sometimes is
how we're living in the very worst and most depraved of times ever.  In some
ways, that may be right, but when you talk about violence and war and sexual
depravity, there's nothing our ancestors haven't done more frequently and
worse than us.  And yet they were still people.  Stephenson did an amazing
job of presenting that time (in _The Baroque Cycle_) as though it were
happening right now, and none of that nonsense you sometimes get about how
they were ignorant and superstitious because they didn't have penicillin or
jet planes or whatever.
>About Eliza: it's funny how most of my memories about her are of sexual
>things, no matter whose filter it's coming through.  Think of how William of
>Orange ennobled her, for example, or how she gains favor with Louis.  She
>grew up in a seraglio, right?  It's funny how sex becomes less important
>with Eliza after the actual loss of technical virginity, though. . . and it
>changes by the end of the book.

Eliza definitely uses sex as a form of power.  Part of me wants to revile
this as an expression of the idea that women only have power insofar as they
can influence powerful me, but that's not really what's going on with Eliza,
I think.  She certainly has more financial power than most of the characters
in the story, and when she has to use sex to manipulate someone (i.e.
William of Orange, as you say) she then takes whatever power she gains and
wields it all on her own.  She's one of my favorite characters ever.  It was
fun to watch her pass through all these sexual or political relationships,
while only Jack ever had the power to really engage her heart.

Even though I love _Cryptonomicon_, I do still prefer _The Baroque Cycle_
overall.  What I would really like is yet another novel or series set in the
same world, with the same families.

Melissa Proffitt

More information about the Dwj mailing list