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on June 16, 2006
Dan Brown has inspired me to read and actually find it enjoyable. I was never a vivid reader and despised reading most books I picked up "Deception Point," another novel by Dan Brown. I read it and was hooked. For each of Dan Brown's 4 books, I have never been so into a book in my life, I read for hours on end hoping to finish the novel to read the ending. Admittedly, I believe that The Da Vinci Code was over-hyped. Of the 4 books of his that I have read, The Da Vinci code was the worst. Digital Fortress, however, was not disappointing.
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on May 23, 2006
Normally one to keep to something our book club is reading ("Life of Pi" by Martel, or "Katzenjammer" by McCrae), I veered off the path in search of my own "grail." Low and behold, I found Dan Brown. No I have NOT read "Da Vinci Code" but I will. DF is my first book of his and I loved it! This is just not something I'd ususally pick up, but WOW! What a punch this one packs. I guess if you're expecting a hyped up book, you might be disappointed, but I hadn't heard that much about "this one" and wasn't expecting much. Must also recommend the novels "About a Boy," and "Katzenjammer" by McCrae. Also, anything by Brown.
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on June 24, 2005
Although "The Fort" (Fort Meade, home of the legendary and most secretive National Security Agency) seems to be at the thematic center of this book, the author, a member of the high-IQ Mensa society, is at least as much interested in humanizing the male and female protagonists (both of whom have IQs that would dwarf those of plain vanilla Mensans) as in the maze-like nuances of abusing code making and code breaking in the computer age.
True enough, the opportunities for rogue activities abound in the "black world" of cryptography -- and, plausibly, they might even extend to the highest reaches of the organization whose mission was so sensitive that even its acronym remained classified until very recently.
Clearly, the author risks treading on the sacred, potentially killing ground that he fictionally represents. Indeed, the author claims to have been informed of details about the NSA by two trusted aficionados of the secret world.
He did not need to acknowledge these sources since his fictional work is harmless fun -- only interesting to the crypto lords and wizards, perhaps, for its recruiting potential (and NSA is facing a crisis of personnel as perhaps never before in its history).
Yet the games presented in the Fort -- and in the field -- to complicate the mystery and to bring it to a literarily satisfying conclusion have a pattern too, and for those interested in trying their mastery of the black arts, a coded message is included.
The pattern and play of the work do suggest that high spirits and thinking "on the fly" are still valuable -- Cold War or none! I enjoyed this book great, but try it for yourself. Pick up a copy! Another book I need to recommend -- very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, an unconventional, weirdly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
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on July 15, 2004
This being the 3rd of Brown's books that I've read, I probably won't pick up any more. Da Vinci left me a bit cold, if only because some of the puzzles were simple and all the "codes" in it were not from Da Vinci, but from a 2ndary character. 3 stars.
Angels and Demons attracted me since I'd recently been to Italy, and I enjoyed reading about some of the places I'd actually been, but the "awe and wonder" of the ambigrams felt a bit silly and contrived, since there are websites that can automatically create these types of things for you. 3.5 stars.
While I'm not saying Digital Fortress didn't have its moments, I feel it is the weakest of the three. When the reader sees the answer to the final puzzle immediately, and it takes the supposedly brilliant people in the book more than 20 pages to figure it out, that gets frustrating. I'm of certainly no more than average intelligence, so I expected more. The characters often very quickly jump to highly emotional conclusions/actions without considering other options. I also dislike the author's use of phrases similar to, "<character> was absolutely certain that <wrong thing> was true, there could be no other explanation!", when quite clearly there could be many other explanations. I've noticed he does that in every book, and it grates.
The more I read from Dan Brown, the more I suspect he's writing for younger people...maybe 8th grade or early high school. There is merit in this, but I guess it's just not for me.
All that said, if you loved his other work, you'll probably love this one, too. Characters are similarly drawn, similarly emotional, and the plot is similarly (i.e., "quickly") paced.
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on July 11, 2004
Well it would have been hypocritical not to give it a couple of stars since I read it to the end. Wish I'd resisted the urge to do that, but the short chapters and the-thrill (even murder)-a-minute pace, like a bad addiction, were hard not to give in to.
The flaws in the plot were gargantuan. Would be interesting to have a contest to see who could tally the largest list. (Don't read further if you plan to read the book!) Several come to mind immediately. The main thrust of the book is that Strathmore, the Deputy Director of NSA, was attempting to write a back door to a rogue encryption algorithm that he thought (mistakenly) was for all practical purposes capable of producing uncrackable codes. The world unknowingly would get his doctored algorithm, and NSA could secretively snoop the production of its codes. This he was doing in secret on a weekend in his office. So he invites the attractive Susan over for some reason. But why? She could only blow his cover.
Another. Somehow Strathmore figures that the author of the original algorithm would never bother to check or would have great difficulty checking the revised version that NSA would put on the Net against his original. You run a BINCOM program and see in about 2 seconds that modifications have been made.
Then there's the 2 billion-dollar computer that burns up because it was drawing too much current and it could not be cut off. I guess they ran out of money for circuit breakers. Later a machine with the NSA database of sensitive data could not be unplugged from the Internet when its access regulation was being thwarted by a worm. Etc., etc.
'Course without the flaws, like with much fiction, you wouldn't have had much of a story, but Brown stretched things wildly.
Now I need to figure out the flaw in my makeup that led me to use my time this way.
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on July 7, 2004
For me, the hallmark of a Brown novel is that it is exactly as "Riveting!" and "Relentless!" as the back cover would have you believe. The chapters are short bits concentrating on one storyline, each ending in a mini cliff-hanger. The reader rolls from one chapter to the next trying to amass enough of a sense of resolution so (s)he can put the book down...which never happens. THAT's Brown's narrative momentum and THAT's what is missing from Digital Fortress.
The characters are a bit drab and, as described above, the structure does not have the momentum of his other work. There is also a point at the end (when the big "reveal" happens to explain what is REALLY going on) when, as a reader, I felt like I was way ahead of him. He had already said enough to give away the twist, but I was forced to read 2 pages of conversation and cinematic details as the answers dawned on the characters and events played out. It was a terrible suspense killer right at the end of the book that left me with a sinking disappointment. NOT what I usually get from Dan Brown.
BUT if you have read everything else Dan Brown and just want more, this one is fine but it might not meet your expectations after reading his other stuff.
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on June 29, 2004
Digital Fortress I thought blew the socks off the DaVinci Code. Then that is my own opinion. Digital Fortress is about Susan Fletcher; a cryptologist working for the NSA (National Security Agency) who comes across an code that is unbreakable by TRANSLTR; a super computer that can crack a million lettered code in six minutes.
Now the man who created the code; Mr. Tankado who worked for the NSA, but now he is dead and a ring that has the key to decipher the code is GONE! So now it is up to David; Susan's boyfriend where he goes on a cat-and-mouse chase to find the ring where he is being followed by a man in rim glasses. He then tries to get information out of the people David talked to, one person he just killed. Now back at NSA, Susan made a trace to see who sent the code, and all she has to go on is a name: NDaktoa. But there is something that is scary; if the code could be sold, then anyone in the world can send it to the NSA which it can cause havoc and release information about secret operations, protected witnesses, and just about every secret that the government has. It is then that Susan finds out that this Japanese man who wants the code is trying to buy it off of NDakota, and it turns out that NDakota is working for the NSA! So now, the man who's name is Greg Hale. He then kills one of his co-workers when the power goes out in the NSA building, and now he wants out! I am not yet done with the novel, but man I thought this was much better from Dan Brown. Since being what one reviewer a 'geek', there are some facts in here about the super computer clocking pretty fast with millions of processors going all at once. It can happen if someone is willing to put money into the machine. So if you want to check out a good thriller, read Digital Fortress.
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on June 28, 2004
I am not a computer fan, so the computer technology here is all greek to me ~~ which still makes this an entertaining read. It's predictable, not as well-written as Dan Brown's later works, but still, it's a riveting read ~~ perfect for a hot summer day.
Susan Fletcher is one of the top cyber programmers at NSA, engaged to be married ~~ her finace' was sent off on a mysterious errand when she was called into work. Turns out to be a long day at work. NSA is the spy of all spies ~~ NSA is the mainframe for which the government depends on for its top secret intel files ~~ NSA can spy on just about anyone in the world with just a few keystrokes. And that is where the trouble begins. With an ambitious programmer dead, the race is on to prevent a meltdown among the investigating communities. Susan Fletcher finds herself right in the middle of a mess that she never thought she would be in.
It is interesting. The computer jargon would thrill my husband more than me, but it was still a fascinating read. It was a quick read ~~ Brown used his trademark skills here ~~ where every page is a suspense-filled page. In spite of its predictablity, it is a fun read.
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on June 26, 2004
I put the Da Vinci Code down after two chapters and said "Never again". This was a bad hangover promise and I then read Digital Fortress in entirety. This time I am keeping the hangover promise. No more Dan Brown for me.
Dan Brown isn't writing for software engineers, computer techs or anyone who has the most basic computing knowledge here. Don't rip him apart for this. He is writing at a level for a young teenage (possibly pre-teenage) market or someone who wants to read a book (any book) but doesn't want anything too demanding.
He has his market. This is obvious with sales achieved. Just don't expect anything good from him until he writes from the heart rather than the wallet. The last time I read anything as poorly structured and unbelievably trite throughout was a supposed literary offering by Jeffrey Archer (British author, convicted criminal and complete arse).
Here's a thought... Almost everyone with a TV in the US (or even the world) has caught an episode of CSI. If you haven't... This TV show follows the activities of the forensic department of the Las Vegas police. In each episode one forensic expert will explain to another forensic expert, in great detail, what they have discovered even when the second expert has witnessed the procedures which have lead to the scientific conclusion of the first expert. You would hope that both experts would know what/how etc and may get a little ticked off when their colleague is telling them what they already know. They 'hmm' and nod... and on to the next scene. This is how Digital Fortress works. It's a TV plot for a show about experts but with an ignorant/inexperienced audience in need of education. So Mr Brown employs the CSI device of "expert telling expert what they already know" and letting the reader/viewer listen in. It's bloody annoying in CSI and it's a badly used and abused device in Digital Fortress. Even worse when the audience knows the information is flawed or downright incorrect.
I rarely regret reading a book of any sort but this left me shaking my head in disbelief. How did this drivel sell so many copies?
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on June 24, 2004
This is the third Brown book I have read (Deception Point & Da Vinci Code are the prior books). Brown has an uncanny ability in all his books to bring the reader in at the beginning and put you on a roller coaster ride that you can't get off. This book is no exception.
Brown seems to like codes and puzzles, which permeate all his books. In this one, a programmer appears to write a cryptographic algorithm that even the NSA's most powerful computer cannot crack. This most powerful computer, TRANSLTR, is a super computer that uses quantum principals to be able to "brute-force" any encryption key that can be written by man in no longer than a few hours. If the NSA cannot crack the algorithm, then they will no longer be able to spy on terrorists and other bad guys, who can encrypt all their messages with this new algorithm (nicknamed Digital Fortress).
The programmer, who designed Digital Fortress, puts the algorithm out on the Internet encrypted with its own algorithm, so it is free to download by anybody and can be later used to do all their encryption, if they have the encryption key that the programmer set in the code. The programmer offers to sell the key to the highest bidder, so there are several powerful individuals that are anxious to get the key at any cost.
The programmer keeps the key etched into a ring he is wearing. Unfortunately for him one of the "anxious" individuals has him killed, but not before he is able to pass the ring off to some innocent bystander. The NSA learning this sends a "school teacher" (David) to retrieve the ring and bring it back to them so they can break the algorithm. The schoolteacher goes on a "treasure hunt" around Spain trying to locate the ring. Unbeknownst to David, he is being trailed by the programmer's killer, who is killing everybody that David has spoken to. The killer is waiting for David to track down the ring so he can eventually kill him.
Meanwhile, David's girlfriend Susan is trying to track down a partner of the programmer, who might have a copy of the key. Susan is a top cryptographer for the NSA and uses various programming methods to try to locate the partner's email account. While this is going on, havoc breaks loose at NSA headquarters with a power failure and a lurking killer.
This book is not quite as good as the other two books I read by Brown. One of the main problems that I could see coming a mile away is that the killer trailing David, efficiently disposes of everybody David has talked to. When the time comes for him to kill
David, he becomes totally inept. I can't really fault Brown on this because this seems to be a popular thread in most thrillers.
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