Editor’s Note: A Salute to Cryptonomicon and one the most entertaining fictional characters ever, Bobby Shaftoe.

A real song, close enough name, different guy, but our Bob is often at sea, so, yeah

I recently reread (just had to get that in there) Neal Stephenson’s book Cryptonomicon. I remember really loving it the first time, but I liked it even better this time. I’ve now started on The Baroque Cycle, which spans 8 books, 3 collected volumes and around 3,000 pages.

Cryptonomicon features two timelines. One that is made up of, essentially, historical fiction revolving around WWII and a second timeline about a group of businessmen/hackers who strive to create a data haven and oh yeah, to boot Neal Stephenson is possibly the first person to put to print the concept of digital currency.

So one of the fascinating things about this book is the cryptocurrency just didn’t exist when I first read it. It’s a bit of a mind trip rereading (cause I forgot a bunch of the plot) and realize that the concept he’s pushing has become an actual currency. Other people have taken note of this as well.

The thing is, the WWII storyline is the one that really jumps off the page to me. The more modern timeline is great, but the WWII storyline is my favorite thing I’ve ever read. A LOT of stuff goes down during this timeline but the most important things (IMO) that happen are cryptography wins the war for the Allies and the digital computer gets invented as an offshoot of this endeavor.

Doing the grunt work and not knowing what for (most of the time) is Bobby Shaftoe a marine raider. Here’s a list of things Shaftoe, The Real Lizard King, gets to do during the war….(FYI MAJOR spoilers here)

  • Fights the Japanese in China
  • Becomes a poet/haiku writer
  • Tries Sushi in China and starts a street brawl with the Japanese
  • Sires a son in Manila (1st time) on the same date WWII kicks off for the US
  • Fights for his life in the Galapagos Islands and henceforth becomes the real Lizard King
  • Has an interview with Ronald Reagan that ultimately gets him re-enlisted to Attachment 2702
  • The plane he’s on almost gets shot down dropping off a dead Marine cook in a wetsuit in the Ocean
  • Goes to Malta
  • Goes to Italy and kills a bunch of Italians
  • Goes to Norway and is on a boat that purposely crashes into an iceberg
  • Gets to Sweden (1st time)
  • Almost gets sunk on a crashed U-Boat in Qwghlm (fictional place) but first retrieves an important safe
  • Gets super duper hooked on Morophine
  • Captured by the Germans on a U-Boat but makes friends with wunderkind captain G√ľnter Bischoff and helps them evade Allied and German forces both looking to blow the U-Boat to smithereens
  • Goes to Sweden (2nd time) becomes a stevedore, and possibly becomes a father again, also kills a bunch of Germans
  • Goes to London
  • Then to D.C.
  • Then San Francisico
  • Then stows away on a marine vessel to New Caledonia
  • Stows away on a plane to Brisbane
  • “I’ve killed more Nips than seismic activity”, he gets himself into the Army, no rank and flies off to Dutch New Guinea
  • He meets sworn enemy, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who sends him to Manila (2nd time) to help lead the Huks resistance agains the Nips (using vernacular that was employed in the book and during WWII)
  • Briefly reunites with his baby’s mama and meets his son (kills a shitload more Nips in Manilla along the way)
  • Runs back into MacArthur in Manilla in a bathroom by a baseball diamond and is enlisted for another mission
  • Blows up a Japanese stronghold in Manilla and himself with it

Sorry Jim Morrison, you’ve been thoroughly outmaneuvered here by the true lizard king.

Anyway, just a great read and I cannot recommend this book enough.