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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(1 star). Show all reviews
on April 23, 2001
Steven Levy is not a good writer, but he desperately wants to be a popular one. "Crypto" sees him fawn all over the cypherpunks in a way that would do the likes of Barbara Walters proud. The book suffers in two ways because of this: not only is Levy intent on brown-nosing his libertarian pals, but he can't be much bothered painting their opponents as more than paranoid pencil pushers. If you're looking for two-dimensional characters with just enough personality to flesh out a 500-word magazine story, you've come to the right place.
As if this weren't enough, Levy's history as a hack working for the likes of Newsweek and Wired has lent his prose a hyperbolic air. Almost every one of his sentences wants to have an exclamation mark at its end! And many do!
Worse, his technical descriptions manage to be both condescending and often incorrect (he completely misses the invalidity of non-repudiation in public-key cryptosystems, for example). Simon Singh's "Code Book" does a much better job of describing technical details of cryptography without making the reader feel like a semi-literate Newsweek reader.
Singh's "Code Book" drifts off into incoherence in describing the technology and politics of the last few decades of crypto history, in what is otherwise an excellent book. This weakness of Singh's should be Levy's strength, since it is the entire focus of "Crypto". Levy, with his undeniable ability to butter people up and get them talking, and several hundred more pages to spare than did Singh in his closing chapters, ought to be capable of an excellent job of filling in the missing details.
Unfortunately, Levy is happy to settle for a cast of characters and set of plotlines that would do more justice to a "Superfriends" comic book. The libertarian crypto geeks use their magical mathematical powers to fight the evil government control droids, and win!
Levy has turned a truly fascinating tale into a breathless pile of twaddle. If anyone takes this book seriously, they're missing out on a far more complex and compelling story that has yet to be told with the care and detail it deserves.
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on January 30, 2003
It is more of a history of the characters than the history of RSA or cryptography. I would recommend Simon Singh's The Code Book for anyone wanting to learn about the history of cryptography. In just one chapter of the Code Book, Simon Singh puts in more unbiased and detailed information in an infinitely more interesting and readable manner than Levy crams in this whole book of uninteresting chapters.
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on May 1, 2001
This book is poorly written. Neither does it explain the true mathematics nor does it give a good history of the development of cryptoanalysis.
Anyone interested in the history and development should read The Code Book by Simon Singh which is well written and the subject comprehensively reviewed. I give Simon Singh's book 5 stars!
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