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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but obviously one of his earlier books
Ok- first off... I really did enjoy this book. However, now that I have all 4 of Brown's novels, I have noticed a certain formula that Dan Brown uses.

1- Use the word "Incredulous" as often as possible (although he kept the word to a minimum in "Digital Fortress" less than 10 occurrences).
2- The bad guy MUST be known by a term/phrase instead of a name...
Published on June 16, 2004 by CKE

versus
138 of 157 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good - read Cryptonomicon instead
First off, I loved A & D and liked DVC. Second, I am a computer programmer with experience in cryptography. So this book really hurt me.

This book is painful to read. Most of the facts, much of which are crucial to the plot, are just flat out wrong. Dan Brown does not know very much about computers, cryptography, guns, or intelligence work, and it shows...
Published on December 30, 2004 by Amazon Customer


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138 of 157 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good - read Cryptonomicon instead, December 30, 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (Charlotte, NC USA) - See all my reviews
First off, I loved A & D and liked DVC. Second, I am a computer programmer with experience in cryptography. So this book really hurt me.

This book is painful to read. Most of the facts, much of which are crucial to the plot, are just flat out wrong. Dan Brown does not know very much about computers, cryptography, guns, or intelligence work, and it shows. His research was pathetic. This alone will turn off many technically-savvy folks.

Aside from that, the plot, while containing a few surprises, has very predictable twists, and any intelligent person could chart out the whole plot after about 30 pages. Even still, the pacing makes for interest, until the end. The climax was one of the worst I have ever read in any techno-thriller novel, and that is saying a lot considering how crowded this field became after Tom Clancy made it big. At best, only a cheesy early 80s movie would try to bring the final scene to celluloid (think "Wargames", but dumber). It's like a comic book.

If the gentle reader of this review is really interested in a good techno-thriller involving computers and cryptography, read "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson. He is a real live programmer and cryptographer, and also a fine writer.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Digital Fortress - Digital Garbage, August 10, 2004
By 
I would give this book 0 stars if the system allowed. It is that bad. Had I read this book first, I would never have read the rest of Dan Brown's books. I enjoyed "The DaVinci Code" although it too was filled with many historical errors that were easily overlooked and did not distract from the story, this book was just poorly researched and written. From the undeveloped main characters to the thin plot line, this book became one that I put down often as it was unable to hold my attention for any length of time. I found myself (my spouse did the same when she read it) skimming over the text looking for something that was just not there. The last 20 pages or so were just a blur of indescribable babble.

Without giving away any of the plot, if there is one, let me throw out some of the really bad things that made my grey matter quiver. First, two really intelligent main characters (she with a 170 IQ) who couldn't find their place in the story. If this were a movie, people in the audience would be yelling at the screen "Look out, the killer is right behind you!" The setting - Fritz Lang meets Dr. Strangelove. I really hate it when an author tries to bend truth to make the story work. For example, when the power goes out in the Crypto center there doesn't seem to be any sort of emergency lighting installed. Well duh my author, did you ever see those little battery boxes with lights on them over every exit door? They are required by law in every building constructed since Sherman redid Atlanta. Foreign Nationals with a known history of hateing the USA, working, evidently without supervision, in a top secret 'Umbra' installation. A sprinkler system protecting a billion dollar computer system? Hope those weren't government plumbers who did that installation. Burning computer chips that give off oxygen? Did my science teacher have that wrong 50 years ago? A fire so hot it melts steel but leaves the female lead unharmed? I haven't seen attempts at plot twists this bad since those old movie serials back in the 1940's and 50's.

Sorry Mr. Brown, I would have to say that if there is an ultimate code in this book, it is the one between authors and professional reviewers who give any book put in front of them a "wow factor" and claim the author to be the new Tom Clancy. I should have taken a clue from the first review in the paperback, written by David Pogue, "..._and if Dan Brown's gut-churning story were any realer,..." What the heck is 'realer' anyway?

Pass this one up. Don't waste your money. Save a tree or something. Wait for the next Clancy or Cussler.

Ron Rutherford
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166 of 194 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Painful like an icicle jabbed thru the eye & into the brain, November 11, 2004
By 
Rimesh Patel (Washington D.C.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Wow, where to begin. This is the second Dan Brown book I've read and I'm guessing it'll likely be the last. To begin, if you plan on reading this book, forget suspending your disbelief, rather tie up your disbelief, take it out back and shoot it lest it resurface while you're reading the book.

Yes, this book contains an impressive amount of plot holes, factual errors, non-existent technology, etc. The NSA (which is in fact bigger than the CIA and the FBI) is portrayed as an organization with no more than perhaps 20 employees, none of whom come in on weekends. Employees with 170 IQs who act as if they had a 70 IQ. 12 gauge printer cable? The NSA has full-time employees that work as translators -- they don't hire temp college professors to read Chinese/Japanese. Programmers/mathematicians DO NOT MAKE an exorbitant amount of money working for the NSA -- they are still subject to the federal payscale. X-eleven, not 'X11'? Brute force code-breaking as the primary decryption method????? VSLI, not VLSI??? Tracer programs which don't have to be executed, but act on their own? Ugh.

I can overlook these things if they appeared in a well written, taut storyline. In his defense, Dan Brown doesn't include a preface to this book espousing the accuracy of the books' general facts as he does in the prefaces for Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. So you have to take it as FICTION and not non-fiction. He does claim to have corresponded with former NSA employees during his research for this book. Having a bit of experience in the industry, I would say that either Dan Brown had no such correspondences with former NSA employees, they fed him misinformation deliberately, or Dan Brown was informed the basis of his entire book was nonsensical by these former employees, so he decided to throw all their suggestions in the trash and continued to write this book anyhow.

Regardless, the ultimate downfall of this book is BAD WRITING. The characters are flat and annoying. Their actions are contradictory to their personalities -- for no other purpose than to move the 'plot' along. I think Dan Brown has a Word-a-Day calendar and he uses that new vocabulary word several times in the 10-15 pages of writing he produces that day. Words such as 'andalusian' are used several times in a 3 'chapter' span and then never again surface throughout the book.

Most frustratingly, Dan Brown apparently never learned similes are functional and get the point across, but should not be used often as they can be extremely annoying and counterproductive to getting a point across. Towards the end of the book all these sentences are seriously used in less than 2 full pages:
- "The commander rose through the trap door LIKE Lazarus back from the dead."
- "Freon was flowing downward through the smoldering TRANSLTR LIKE oxygenated blood."
- "Susan was standing before him, damp and tousled, in his blazer. She looked LIKE a freshman coed who'd been caught in the rain. He felt LIKE the senior who'd lent her his varsity sweater." [nice double simile, huh?]
- "Her gaze was LIKE ice -- the softness was gone. Susan Fletcher stood rigid LIKE an immovable statue." [another one] "The puddle of blood beneath Hale's body had spread across the carpet LIKE an oil spill."

Believe it or not, there are more in this 2 page space, but I'll stop here. Yes, the writing is THAT groan-inducingly bad. These two classics in the book make me laugh every time I think of them -- "Like in a cheap hollywood movie, the lights went out in the bathroom just as she heard the scream," and "any more interesting than last night and I'll never walk again."

Ultimately, I did finish the book -- one reason I gave it 2 stars instead of one. A small reason was because I hate leaving a book half read, but I finished it more so to see how much more ludicrous the book would become. There's a good premise in the book, but a better writer was needed to coax it out. Dan Brown is not that writer.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Deja Vu, October 26, 2004
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but didn't I just read this plot in Deception Point? Granted, I am not aware of the chronology of his works, but this book merely follows Brown's safe setup, the double crossing boss, the incredibly intelligent and yet laughably gullible woman, the European connection, incompetent assassins and the absolutely shameful dialogue in the 'love' scenes.

The references to our thirty-eight year old female Head of Cryptography never having sex with an animal "and until last night, it was true." and the part where she says "Any more interesting than last night and I'll never walk again" just made me shudder. The author even repeats himself; twice we read that any third grader with a modem can gain access to the NSA's main databank. The tedium stretches over many paragraphs at the end while these supposed sharpest brains in the country act like a bunch of five year olds trying to find the code whilst I am screaming the answer (or perhaps I am super intelligent and should sign up for the NSA without delay?) and please, if you still insist on reading this novel, PLEASE don't read the final chapter. You'll just die of embarrassment.

Dan Brown is starting to stretch his capabilities. I suggest he take a long vacation, (with his wife, and actually LISTEN to how she talks romantically), live off his mega Da Vinci Code earnings and come back in five years with an original idea.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth it, October 10, 2004
What if reality was like a Dan Brown book:

..."Hey ma, what's for dinner?", the boy asked innocently. A second later, his jaws fell apart. He was looking at a food item that was first served in imperial Rome only on the second full moon of every year. His mind racing, he whirled around to face his mom. It was clear from her pale visage that she too, knew what was at stake. "Yes, Henry, the same vegetable that only grows in certain parts of the world, that the medieval artist Duracelli immortalized in his classic painting, you must have it." As Henry stood there, immobilized with shock, a part of his mind was calmly processing everything he knew about what was in front of him, how the name of the plant came from the Greek god of ants, who had, in legend, used this vegetable as his crown. "Maa", Henry finally croaked, "you're going to make me eat broccoli?"...

Dan Brown creates assassins who are disgraces to their professions. The mute in digital fortress, the "assassin" in Angels and Demons, the albino in Da Vinci Code, I wouldn't pay these people two cents to engage their services, if an assassin can't bump off harmless academics, then they really aren't good for much, are they? And as for his love stories, the less said about them the better, except that, maybe, an eigh-year old, whose only experience of true romance has been to pull on his love's pigtails, could craft a better story. Mr. Brown's characters and conversations border on the ridiculous, they're so bad they almost make you cringe with embarassment.

So, it'd be better for everyone involved if Mr. Brown just started a series of books called "Sensational facts I learned about X after researching into it for the past twenty months," where X can be digital history, cryptography or whatever catches his imagination next.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gets everything wrong, November 25, 2004
By 
Forget about the fact that the author knows nothing about computers, programming or cryptography. This is often the case in popular literature. What makes the book really droll is its ineptitude in addressing much more basic issues, such as:

The author believes Spain is a backwards country. The swipes at Spain provide some of the most enterteining bits in the book. Here are just two of the many: "Getting an international connection from Spain was like roulette, all a matter of timing and luck". And "A punctured lung was fatal, maybe not in more medically advanced parts of the world, but in Spain, it was fatal."

The author believes oxygen is released during combustion: "She sensed [the fire] rising faster and faster, feeding on the oxygen released by the burning [computer] chips."

Basic confusion about measurments is obvious in the description of a 'vast' underground facility: "Susan stared as the dazzling facility. She vaguely remembered that 250 metric tons of earth had been excavated to create it." This would correspond to less than a 5x10x5 meters hole. Was the NSA headquarters located in somebody's basement?

But funnier still is the clumsy writing:

Brown is tone-deaf when it comes to the musicality of the language. A collision is described as a "bone-crushing crash".

Hackers breaking into a system elicit one of the many inane similes employed by Brown: "Jabba spun toward the [monitor]. Two thin lines had appeared outside the concentric circles. They looked like sperm trying to breach a reluctant egg."

The main character makes a toe-curling reference to a night of passionate love, to her fiancee: "Susan smiled coyly. 'Any more interesting than last night and I'll never walk again.'"

In the middle of a chase scene Becker runs into the Seville cathedral. A brief description of the cathedral is given, which seems lifted from a local travel brochure, ending in the delicious "To the left and right of the altar, the transept of the cross houses confessionals, sacred tombs, and additional seating." Additional seating!

My real questions are how can such garbage get published, and who is Nelson DeMille who proclaims, on the cover, Dan Brown to be 'pure genius' and 'the most accomplished writer in the country'. What country? Spain, perhaps?
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71 of 85 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Technological BS, June 14, 2005
By 
I sure hope that the technological errors in Digital Fortress are not a reflection of Dan Brown's research abilities. Some of the errors were so glaring that I wanted to throw the book out the window. But I'm used to seeing similar problems in movies, so I thought I'd go along for the ride. But here are some of the biggest blunders:

1. The NSA commander wants to patch some encryption code with a backdoor and replace the version on the web with his own. This won't work because no one in security trusts code that doesn't match a hash from the original author. This is how code is authenticated. Is standard practice. His patch would cause the hash to fail. Also, everyone else who really wanted the encryption code already downloaded the original version - just like the commander did. They aren't going to get a new one. What BS!

2. A $2B computer designed to crack codes would have separate code and data spaces in memory. It would be impossible for an encrypted communication to infect the host with a "virus" or "worm" because the communication would only be in the data memory space. Just because Microsoft doesn't use secure systems architecture doesn't mean the NSA wouldn't! More BS!

3. No one hand-solders CPUs even if they are in a $2B computer... And especially if there are 3 million of them! It's called "wave soldering"... Brown obviously connects hand-soldering with extreme technical know-how because he later has the head computer geek hand-soldering a chip inside a running mainframe. Can you say BS!

4. When a computer overheats, the temperature tolerance of the CPU may be exceeded by a few degrees, especially in highly sensitive, high-performance equipment. Silicon, by it's nature, changes in resistance dramatically when the temperature exceeds operational parameters. If it gets too hot, the circuits slow down. There's no way a "virus" or a "worm" could cause anything other than a system shutdown due to temperature variations - and a really sensitive system would automatically shutdown when the temperate range was exceeded by a few degrees. There's no way in heck the system would continue to run until it reached a temperature where the silicon would explode! Come on - I thought Brown did at least some research.

If anything, these errors make me think that Lewis Perdue actually did Brown's research for Da Vinci Code - but not willingly...
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but obviously one of his earlier books, June 16, 2004
Ok- first off... I really did enjoy this book. However, now that I have all 4 of Brown's novels, I have noticed a certain formula that Dan Brown uses.

1- Use the word "Incredulous" as often as possible (although he kept the word to a minimum in "Digital Fortress" less than 10 occurrences).
2- The bad guy MUST be known by a term/phrase instead of a name (here he is known as "North Dakota").
3- The bad guy is double crossing the good guys... and you are NOT supposed to suspect this.

4- The novel must take place in the course of one day.
5- Your hero must wake-up and not have a clue that he will spend his entire day many miles away from home, while being chased by bad guys.
6- All good guys must be experts at something very arcane.
7- The ending must be weak.

If you follow these steps you too can write a Dan Brown novel. ORRRR you can use this formula to figure out the book you are currently reading after about 100 pages.

Of course, tweaks the formula for each of his books. However, "Digital Fortress" is clearly the little brother of all Brown's books. The plot is interesting and while the it certainly is a "Page Turner" you notice pretty quickly that everything doesn't quite add up. Like when the deaf guy notices all of the people entering the street because he HEARS a bell being rung.

As others have pointed out, Brown has taken quite a few liberties with computer programming. Even though it took me two tries to get through FORTRAN, I had very little trouble figuring out a few of the mistakes.

For the most part I enjoyed the novel. Since I know the Brown "Formula" it didn't take me very long to predict EXACTLY what would happen... but hey, sometimes a little predictability is ok!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Where was the proof reader?, November 30, 2003
By 
Jonathan Buckley (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Reviewers seem to love or hate this book. Those who loved it, were impressed by the techno-babble and enjoyed the action. The rest of us realized what nonsense Dan Brown wrote whenever he strayed into any technical area (not just cryptology) and found the characterizations thin and the plot predictable.
My question is, how can Mr. Brown have so little pride in his work? Many of the technical/scientific errors would have been trivial to correct. Did he not even bother to have it proof read by someone with even minimal computing/science knowledge?
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nice book...if you don't mind all the technical inaccuracies, October 28, 2005
By 
This book is so riddled with inaccuracies and unrealistic that it was unreadable for me. I'm certainly no cryptography expert, but I've been developing software professionally for over 10 years. Spoiler warning, everything discussed below is revealed in the first (of 9) CDs, which is about as much as I could stand.

- In general, it seems that the author is trying to emulate Clancy when describing technologies, but they come off as a high-school sci-fi writing. For instance, the concept of any computer with three MILLION cpu's is breathless hyperbole. It reminds me of Carl Sagan's "Billions and Billions" catch-phrase, or for something more current, Dr. Evil's ransom of "One MILLION Dollars!". The description of the computer itself being five stories tall is straight out of the mainframe era of the 1970's too.

- Somehow the embedding of carbon fibers in a clear polycarbonate dome renders it resistant to a multi-megaton nuclear explosion.

- The description of public-key cryptography is wrong, possibly because it is completely glossed over, but why let facts get in the way of the plot.

- The character development is right out of a first-year college course on fictional writing. The description of the Japanese "villan" is overly melodramatic, as he was born to a woman who died during childbirth and witnessed Hiroshima. Clearly with a background like that how could he not be justified in hating the US, yet we are to feel sympathy for him because he is disfigured? "He's bad, he's good, he's bad, he's good! I like him and hate him. Oh, I'm so conflicted!" Please.

If you are looking for a REAL book on crypto, check out Neal Stephenson's book _Cryptonomicon_. It's not as easy a read but still approachable for non-techies, the characters are better developed, and a much better book overall.
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Digital Fortress
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (Paperback - 2009)
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