Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 19, 2000

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

The discussion of Neal Stephenson’s recent Hugo-nominated novel drew a crowd of sixteen, including two first-time attendees. Cryptonomicon is a complex and long novel (over 900 pages) with several plot threads taking place during World War II and in our present day. Topics explored in this book include code breaking, haiku, pipe organs, early computers, ballroom dancing, Internet startups, dental care, conspiracies, and the proper way to eat breakfast cereal. The WWII segments primarily follow two Americans: Lawrence Waterhouse, a mathematician involving in breaking Japanese and German codes; and Bobby Shaftoe, a tough and competent Marine who travels all over the world pulling off near-impossible missions for the Allies. The present-day sections of the book largely follow the adventures of Lawrence’s grandson, Randy, a gifted computer programmer involved in a high-tech startup company in the Philippines.

We found this book to be a fascinating and engaging reading experience. We were initially intimidated by the book’s size, but soon grew deeply involved in the

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Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 1, 2000

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Nine people participated in this discussion, including two first-time attendees. The subject of this discussion, Pullman’s The Golden Compass, is the first of a planned trilogy called “His Dark Materials”. The setting of this book is a world vaguely like our world in the present day, with some notable exceptions. Politics have had different results over the past hundred years or so, air travel is done by zeppelin and hot air balloon, and there are secret societies of witches and intelligent warrior bears. Additionally, each human has a companion called a “daemon” that looks like an animal, talks only to its designated human, and houses the soul of its human. The story involves a young girl, Lyra, who has been raised as an orphan but discovers that her parents are still alive and on opposite sides of a power struggle among secret societies. Both sides want to kidnap Lyra for reasons she does not understand, so she travels all over Europe as a fugitive, trying to figure out what’s going on and how to keep herself and her friends safe. She carries with her a mysterious compass-shaped instrument, given to her by a kindly Oxford professor, that supposedly is very powerful if she can only figure out what it does or how to operate it.

We liked a lot about this book. Everyone thought the society of bears was cool. Lyra is fully developed and realistic, and we appreciated Pullman’s daring in

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