Cryptonomicon is bat-shit crazy.
It’s compressed hyperbole described in such deadpan overtones you have no choice but to run with it. And boy, does it run. It runs a skein across generations and across genres, romping through at least one country every fifteen degrees in latitude, spanning descriptions of hacker culture, the origins and evolution of crypto, fantasy role-playing, the pacific in WW-II (culminating in General Douglas McArthur’s curb-stomping of the Nippons), Tolkienesque metaphors, Haiku, digs at venture-capitalism, mafia machinations, number theory, an irreverent deconstruction of Greek theology, treasure hunts for war gold, and the first ever digital computer with mercury columns in thirty-feet lead pipes serving as RAM.
There’s more of this, but Ares himself couldn’t drag me back to that tome in search of better examples.
If the outrageous awesomeness isn’t getting through to you, consider this: The lead characters are (i) A gung-ho marine in the hobby of reading Japanese poetry who runs halfway across the world engineering fake accidents for the Germans to discover, including ramming a battleship bow-first into the Norweigan ice shelf (ii) A UNIX system administrator who fools an entire battalion of high-tech eavesdroppers by reading text files by flashing the LEDs on his keyboard in Morse, and (iii) A clique of world war II mathematicians headed by Alan Mathison Turing. Yes, Alan Turing is a lead character in Cryptonomicon.
Cryptonomicon isn’t recommended reading. It’s the kind of reading required when you think the world is not crazy-awesome and need someone to bash in your ill-conceived preconceptions with a sledgehammer, which for me is admittedly most of the time.