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Digital Fortress: A Thriller Mass Market Paperback – November 4, 2008
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Exitment, thrill and suspension never let me leave the book even for a few minutes.Published 23 hours ago by Sang Han
Good concept, but could do with modernising & the "soft, fluffy" bits a total rework - they are extremely corny.Published 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
Wow! What a ride! The story flowed at a fast pace, especially towards the end of the book. This book would make one heck of a movie as long as they stayed true to the book. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Annette
It kept my attention throughout and was very enjoyable to read.Published 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
An interesting book based on what has happen with NSA since it was written.Published 18 days ago by William French
Dan Brown's books can be very wordy, however they never disappoint! The action kept my interest and it's twists and surprises kept me awake! A great book, well worth reading.Published 20 days ago by helenvan