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Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Cryptonomicon

Categories: [ Books ]

ISBN: 9780060512804

© Amazon.fr

Two parallel story lines: World War II and modern times.

World War II: Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse is an american geek of maths, who befriends Alan Turing and Rudolf von Hacklheber at Princeton and joins the very small circle of code breakers after the attack on Perl Harbour. Along with Bobby Shaftoe, a Marines sergeant, and the mysterious, former-priest Enoch Root, they lead Detachment 2702 which is performing tactical deception operations to hide the fact that the allies are able to break many german codes. During one mission that Waterhouse did not take part in, Shaftoe and Root are made prisoner by Günter Bischoff, a U-boat captain, who although he is a German, doesn't approve of the Nazi's politics, and who eventually becomes their friend. They are all three stranded in Sweden for a several months where they meet von Hacklheber who is trying to escape from Goering's clutches, before Bischoff returns to the Kriegsmarine and is given command of a new, advanced submarine (because he blackmailed Dönitz, Großadmiral of the Kriegsmarine, to reveal information about hidden war gold). Shaftoe then tries to rejoin the US Army in the Philippines, where he befriends General MacArthur; Shaftoe has a girlfriend and a son he has never seen in Manila and wants to find them. He eventually dies in a commando mission while taking a japanese fortress where human computers are generating random streams for a not-yet-broken japanese cipher nicknamed Arethusa. Waterhouse, who built the world's first digital computer using valves, manages to break the code. He discovers that the Japanese have been hoarding gold in a secret cache on an island in the Philippines. Their plan was to create a new currency backed by gold, to be used after they have invaded the whole South-East Asia. Goto Dengo, the japanese officer who designed the cache, was, with a Chinese slave named Wing, one of the few survivors among the people who worked there, since the Japanese officers where to kill all the Chinese slave workers before commiting suicide. Since Arethusa was used for rallying Bischoff, von Hacklheber, Root and Goto to Shaftoe's funeral, Waterhouse manages to go there and has a discussion with Root who convinces him that the gold best remains hidden forever. A later discussion with his superior, Earl Comstock, who is convinced Arethusa is a sovietic code and later founds the NSA to do so, decides Waterhouse to steal the punch cards containing the Arethusa messages and to replace them whith pure random data. Bischoff and von Hacklheber eventually die when their submarine, loaded with Japanese gold from a less-secure cache meant to fund the dig for the main one, is sunk by the americans.

Modern times: Randy Waterhouse, grandson of Lawrence Waterhouse, is working in the Philippines at laying telecommunication cables between the Sultanate of Kinakuta and Manila. He's working with his friend Avi Halaby for Epiphyte(2), a startup aiming at creating in Kinakuta a data haven named the Crypt, and eventually the first electronic money based on cryptography. The startup uses the services of Douglas MacArthur Shaftoe, Bobby Shaftoe's son, to do the underwater work. They find Bischoff's submarine and its gold, which leads to Epiphyte(2) being sued by the Dentist, one of its investors, for not-strong-enough contract with Shaftoe's company, which would prevent the investor to get his hands on the gold. The Dentist has no proof there actually is gold, this attack is only a way to force Epiphyte(s)'s members to give him a majority of shares. Shaftoe then works hard to get the gold out of the submarine before The Dentist's goons can investigate the area. While on a trip back to Manila, drug is planted in Waterhouse's bags and he's sent to prison, but “someone” interceded in his favor and he's assigned a decent cell and allowed to keep his laptop. Since a digital copy of his grandfather's Arethusa messages are stored on his encrypted hard-drive, Randy suspect that he will be spied upon in his cell. At first he suspect the Dentist to be behind his emprisonment, but after a conversation with the latter he starts to rather suspect the Chinese general Wing who was also interested in the Crypt. He therefore works on Arethusa without ever displaying its ciphertext on-screen. At some point, a mysterious man with whom he had had e-mail conversations about cryptography and the Crypt appears in the cell next to his; the man is Enoch Root. When he eventually manages to break it, he displays faked information on his screen about the location of the gold, and is “magically” released from prison. When Avi learns about the gold, he wants to acquire it to back Epiphyte(2)'s electronic currency. They meet in Tokyo with Goto Dengo, whose company is already bulding the Crypt, to convince him to help them dig the gold. With Shaftoe, Root and a few men, they go to the island, where they manage to find the entrance. By injecting huge amounts of gasoline and air into the tunnels, they melt the gold and extract it in its liquid form, while Wing is digging at the wrong location.

[ Posted on April 6th, 2010 at 17:31 | no comment | ]

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