Digital Fortress: A Thriller Hardcover – May 15 2004
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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.
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Another great book by Dan brown. I started to read it in bed at night and I could not put it down well worth readingPublished 6 months ago by browndcm
I liked this book as much as or more than other Dan Brown books and couldn't put book down - would make a great movie.Published 14 months ago by Jeff
Good book. I find the text size a bit small, but that might be because I'm a bit old now. Should've gotten the e-book version.Published 14 months ago by Yubo Qiu
Unfortunately I was enjoying this book - forgot it at my daughter's house and they claimed it - they loved itPublished 14 months ago by Valerie Ritchie
Maybe i read this book too late. I think this may have been a great thriller 10 years ago when we didn't have all the advances in technology we see today. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Jose Burgos
Little disappointed never finished it. Gave it to a friend.Published 24 months ago by Lillian Cummings
Almost didn't read this because of online reviews but it was better than I thought it would be. Not Dan Brown's greatest but still a good read.Published on June 5 2014 by Regina