Cryptonomicon is notably heavy going for non-technical readers in parts. Several pages are spent explaining in detail some of the concepts behind cryptography, for example. Stephenson even includes the details of the Solitaire cypher (called Pontifex in the book), a cryptographic algorithm developed by Bruce Schneier for use with a deck of playing cards, as part of the plot. Despite this, the book drew praise from both Stephenson's science fiction fan base and literary critics and buyers.
The title is drawn indirectly from the Necronomicon, a fictional work detailed within the works of the writer H. P. Lovecraft, even though when Stephenson came up with his title, he was not aware of the word's origin. He was directly inspired by the fictional book's appearance in the Evil Dead series of comedic horror films.