Monday, 22 September 2008

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover
by Neal Stephenson

"Cryptonomicon moves conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods - World War II and the present. Our 1940s characters are mathematician and cryptanalyst Lawrence Waterhouse, and US 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. In the present-day, their grandchildren team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers."
This was recommended by a fellow blogger (Thanks, Aims!) It has been quite an effort to read - very thick, small print, and lots of detail, so it's taken an age to get through, but worth it in the end. I'd need to read it again to get the full story straight, but I don't think that's going to happen. The WWII sections are more interesting than the modern day plot about information and communication in the 21st century, although the theme through both periods is the need for cryptography to ensure that messages are secure and accurate. There's even a little factual appendix about how to create an unbreakable cipher.

Image of the book cover
Alias Grace
by Margaret Atwood

Narrated by Shelley Thompson
"In 1843, a 16-year-old Canadian housemaid named Grace Marks was tried for the murder of her employer and his mistress. The sensationalistic trial made headlines throughout the world, and the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and Marks spent the next 30 years in an assortment of jails and asylums, where she was often exhibited as a star attraction. In Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood reconstructs Marks's story in fictional form."
This started slowly, but has become more gripping as the story progresses. It's slightly spoiled by the audio editing - gaps between sections are not long enough, so it's hard to tell the difference between a quotation at the head of a chapter and the text of the chapter itself. I don't think I've read Margaret Atwood before, but I'll try some more on the basis of this one. I've got 'The Handmaid's Tale' in my enormous pile of books that are waiting to be read.

1 comment:

Brett said...

I have an award for you at my place :)