MORE CRYPTONOMICON….Over in comments at Ted Barlow’s site, Atrios wrote this in response to Ted’s complaint that he found the characters in Cryptonomicon to be “as exhausting as hanging out with a group of improv comics for a week”:

I agree about the characters, though I thought it a deliberate and appropriate stylistic decision and not just bad writing. A kind of ‘comic realism’ style. Having said that, I do agree too many readers didn’t notice that ‘comic ‘part.

Oh yeah. To me, Cryptonomicon was a long, funny, roller coaster ride of a comic book, sans pictures. The characters were supposed to be larger than life and the situations were supposed to be sort of absurd. That was part of the fun.

(Stephenson’s other books have the same roller coaster sense, by the way. The first chapter of Snow Crash uses this to hilarious effect, and some of the stuff in Diamond Age ? yes, I’m thinking specifically of the ship full of orphans floating offshore ? makes Cryptonomicon look postively sedate. And don’t worry about the Stephenson’s vaguely libertarian politics, just enjoy the books.)

Anyway, Ted, if you want exhausting characters, what you really need to do is read Infinite Jest, another book that both Atrios and I recommend highly. That’s an exhausting book, but worth every exhausting minute. But if you do read it, two pieces of advice: (1) read page 223 first, and (2) read the first chapter again after you’ve finished the book.

UPDATE: Stuart Turner emails to point out that, like most books these days, Cryptonomicon has its own website, It’s several years old, but if you’re interested it has an author bio, an excerpt from the book, and an interview with Stephenson where he discusses his next book.

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