Cryptonomicon – by Neal Stephenson

It seems like most of the books I read now I do not finish.

Cryptonomicon showed up on my desk one morning in my inbasket. I had to walk around the office and ask detective-type questions to figure out who put the book there. One of my colleagues thought I’d love it. But she was reluctant. You don’t put a book with 1152 pages of small print on your boss’ desk and then expect him to spend all those hours reading it.

We talked about it later, when I was at about page 100, and I told her I couldn’t get into it. She assured me I should stick with it. I’d get hooked.

Today, at page 187 I folded a dog-ear and put it on the shelf. I can’t do it.

Stephenson is a great writer. He does excellent description, and obviously he weaves a great story. How else could he get away with paperbacks two and a half inches thick that people buy and read?

Here is a section from page 120. They are in Manila in the Philippines:

Randy is already satisfied of this, and just stands there with arms crossed, looking at the river. It is choked, bank to bank, with floating debris: some plant material but mostly old mattresses, cushions, pieces of plastic litter, hunks of foam, and, most of all, plastic shopping bags in various bright colors. The river has the consistency of vomit.

Avi wrinkles his nose. “What’s that?”

Randy sniffs the air and smells, among everything else, burnt plastic. He gestures downstream. “Squatter camp on the other side of Fort Santiago,” he explains. “They sieve plastic out of the river and burn it for fuel.”

“I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago,” Avi says. “They have plastic forests there!”

“What does that mean?”

“Downwind of the city, the trees sort of comb the plastic shopping bags out of the air. They get totally covered with them. The trees die because light and air can’t get through to the leaves. But they remain standing, totally encased in fluttering, ragged plastic, all different colors.”

Descriptive, interesting, foreign, but somehow not capturing my motivation to keep turning the pages by page 187. On to the next book on the reading shelf.

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