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Digital Fortress: A Thriller Mass Market Paperback – November 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

In most thrillers, "hardware" consists of big guns, airplanes, military vehicles, and weapons that make things explode. Dan Brown has written a thriller for those of us who like our hardware with disc drives and who rate our heroes by big brainpower rather than big firepower. It's an Internet user's spy novel where the good guys and bad guys struggle over secrets somewhat more intellectual than just where the secret formula is hidden--they have to gain understanding of what the secret formula actually is.

In this case, the secret formula is a new means of encryption, capable of changing the balance of international power. Part of the fun is that the book takes the reader along into an understanding of encryption technologies. You'll find yourself better understanding the political battles over such real-life technologies as the Clipper Chip and PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) software even though the book looks at the issues through the eyes of fiction.

Although there's enough globehopping in this book for James Bond, the real battleground is cyberspace, because that's where the "bomb" (or rather, the new encryption algorithm) will explode. Yes, there are a few flaws in the plot if you look too closely, but the cleverness and the sheer fun of it all more than make up for them. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and a lot of high, gee-whiz-level information about encryption, code breaking, and the role they play in international politics. Set aside the whole afternoon and evening for it and have finger food on hand for supper--you may want to read this one straight through. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The National Security Agency (NSA) is one setting for this exciting thriller; the other is Seville, where on page 1 the protagonist, lately dismissed from NSA, drops dead of a supposed heart attack. Though dead, he enjoys a dramaturgical afterlife in the form of his computer program. Digital Fortress creates unbreakable codes, which could render useless NSA's code-cracking supercomputer called TRANSLTR, but the deceased programmer slyly embossed a decryption key on a ring he wore. Pursuit of this ring is the engine of the plot. NSA cryptology boss Trevor Strathmore dispatches linguist Dave Becker to recover the ring, while he and Becker's lover, senior code-cracker Susan Fletcher, ponder the vulnerability of TRANSLTR. In Seville, over-the-top chase scenes abound; meanwhile, the critical events unfold at NSA. In a crescendo of murder, infernos, and explosions, it emerges that Strathmore has as agenda that goes beyond breaching Digital Fortress, and Brown's skill at hinting and concealing Strathmore's deceit will rivet cyber-minded readers. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Pháo Đài Số (Vietnamese version of Digital Fortress) (Book 313206)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312944926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312944926
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,481 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Brown is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code and, previously, Digital Fortress, Deception Point, and Angels and Demons. He is a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent time as an English teacher before turning his efforts fully to writing. He lives in New England with his wife.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
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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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By R. M Rutherford on August 10, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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169 of 198 people found the following review helpful By Rimesh Patel on November 11, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Md Ehteshamul Haque on October 10, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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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