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Digital Fortress: A Thriller by [Brown, Dan]
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Digital Fortress: A Thriller Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 1,593 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 2879 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 2 edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JH8LPW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,790 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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