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.
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.
on July 1, 1999
As an avid fan of Cryptography, I read this book cover to cover on a boring day. The plot isn't too bad, however, the author confuses programs for algorithms as well as confusing public key algorithms with symmetric key algorithms. I can forgive these, but what gets to me is a major point in the book. It appeared that TRANSLTR "broke codes" by brute force and finding patterns in the ciphertext. This would appear that it was designed for finding plain*text* and not executables. Even if the plaintext was an executable, who would be stupid enough run executable code from anyone? Also, it appeared to me that the decrypt included source code (which they analyzed at the end) which would make the whole thing make less sense because it'd have to be compiled. One would think they'd analyze the source code thoroughly before running anything on TRANSLTR. My last concern was over the "Gauntlent". "Gauntlent" would need the plaintext of the binary (or source code) to analyze before it could know anything about the payload (because any encryption algorithm worth anything will produce a random output). If one needs the plaintext that only TRANSLTR can find, how could it prevent anything it didn't know the contents of!? Despite the technical flaws, it was a good book. I liked the ending too.
on May 29, 2004
The more Dan Brown I read, the more I enjoy Dan Brown. The man is a master of the fast paced thriller and it is fun to watch his growth from one book to another even if I did begin my acquaintanceship with his blockbuster "The DaVinci Code."
Brown's books always start fast and "Digital Fortress" is no exception. Ensei Tankado dies in a Seville plaza. He raises his hand, fingers outstretched . . . and dies. Susan Fletcher, a National Security Agency cryptographer is roused from her dreams first by a call from David Becker, her university professor boyfriend who tells her he has to postpone their planned weekend romantic retreat in order to fly off to an unknown destination. Seething and disappointed, her anger if interupted by a call from Commander Strathmore, her NSA boss asking - commanding - that she come in on this Saturday to help on an emergency project.
It seems Tankado has launched an attack on NSA's most secret computers.
From that point on, Brown takes you on a non-stop adventure - and it's fun.
Brown's characters are well rounded and don't engage in super-heroics, though they do seem to catch more than their share of lucky breaks. But Brown's plotting carries you over those points so fast that you fail or simply don't want to notice them.
For the thriller fan, "Digital Fortress" is an exhilarating read.
on November 17, 2003
Few thrillers dare to tread on the turf of the NSA, preferring the comfortable terrain of the FBI or CIA. As portrayed by Brown, the NSA relies upon stealth, brainpower and technological wizardry to monitor the world's voice and data communications. The plot revolves around a brilliant, ex-NSA scientist, Tankado. Worried about the government's ability to monitor all communications, he has threatened the release of a totally new cryptographic technology, termed "Digital Fortress".
Digital Fortress is impervious to traditional "brute force" attacks and, thus, the NSA's highly parallel supercomputers. The only chance to contain this groundbreaking technology lies with Susan Fletcher, head cryptographer, and her fiance, David Becker, who has been sent to Spain to retrieve Digital Fortress' only key.
Ignoring the book's technological explanations (many of the cryptographic and other details are flat-out wrong), the plot is pretty exciting. Few novels deal with the NSA with all of the requisite, technically daunting explanations... but Brown has rendered a pretty exciting story around the NSA, even if many of the background details are off-base.
on April 17, 2004
Note this review contains spoilers
I would rather give this 2 1/2 but since you can't I'll have to round down on this book, on account of having WAY too many plotholes. Here's some of the more notable ones.
The idea of a "rotating cleartext" makes absolutely no sense. If decrypted text is still shifted into gibberish after inserting the encryption key, how can a rotating cleartext EVER be used on a practical level?
If the assassin in Spain was deaf, how did he know the names of all his victims?
Strathmore kills an innocent man who is trying to cut power because "if Digital Fortress is going to be the NSA's new baby, he wants to be sure it's unbreakable!" Someone tell me why it matters if it's unbreakable or not?
Wasn't it a bit weird that Strathmore suddenly came to the revelation that Digital Fortress was fake at the EXACT same moment Susan did even though they were in completely seperate rooms?
ZIP is not an encryption algorithm
Digital Fortress is mildy entertaininf if you've got nothing else to read but there's alot of other stuff you could read first.
on May 30, 1998
I was very excited to start this novel, as it was billed as "smart" and "real." I was hoping to finally read something that portrayed the world of software and computer security as it really is.
However, what I got was pretty much the standard Hollywood-style depiction of computers. You know what I mean: user interfaces that consist of big, blinking words and accept commands like "abort destruct sequence"; computer viruses that somehow magically jump from data to code and start executing; network firewalls that have Atari Breakout (or Breakin, I guess) to display hackers on the attack. Please.
But I can suspend disbelief. After the first 30 or so glaring technical errors, I decided I *had* to if I wanted to finish the book. The trouble is that Dan Brown apparently had some 14-year-old wannabe hacker as his technical advisor. It seems like every other time Brown tries to make a real technical reference, it's slightly askew. Like his constant reference to X-eleven. Or a patronizing (but incorrect) description of Public-Key crypto systems. Or referring to PGP as a cryptographic algorithm.
OK, I said I can suspend my disbelief. I did. What's left is a fine Ken Follett or Patrica Cornwell adventure. Until the climax, when the final answer is painfully obvious, and a room full of crypto-geniuses are standing around, and not figuring it out. This drags on for chapters, until you think Brown must have had some minimum page count to fulfill for the publisher. It certainly can't be intended to increase the suspense.
Despite all this, I couldn't help liking the story. Maybe it just appeals to my own vanity as a programmer. But I generally like Brown's style, and I definitely will buy his next book. I just hope he gets some better technical support.
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.
on October 15, 2003
Dan Brown has been getting a lot of press lately for his most recent novel, *The DaVinci Code*, which debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. *Digital Fortress*, Brown's first book (published in 1998), is another taut, intelligent thriller designed to keep you up late.
Just as *The DaVinci Code*, *Digital Fortess* is peopled by highly intelligent characters. Susan Fletcher, brilliant mathematician/cryptographer, and her linguistically accomplished fiance David Becker are both caught up in a plot against the National Security Agency's secret--indeed, officially nonexistent--super computer. With the brute force of its three million processors, TRANSLTR is capable of breaking any code in an average of about six minutes. Or it is, at least, until the action of the book begins, when TRANSLTR is fifteen hours into at attempt to crack a code its creator claims is unbreakable. The clock ticks loudly in this book as David, Susan, and other NSA employees work to break the code and/or discover its pass-key before the algorithm is made public and/or a computer worm destroys the security protecting the United States' most confidential information. Meanwhile, an assassin is dogging Becker's steps in Spain, an NSA employee may be in cahoots with the author of the code, and a zealous security guard is pushed to his death in the bowels of the super computer's housing.
Some of the plot twists in *Digital Fortress* are predictable, but this hardly detracts from the book. Brown's debut novel is a riveting thriller you'll find hard to put down.
on March 6, 2004
After having read "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons" I was ready to attempt to crack another mystery thriller by Dan Brown. The previous books were a challenge to solve but "Digital Fortress" did not measure up. The basic plot of a super computer "code breaker" gone mad was interesting but it was evident within the first 75 pages that the mystery was going to be easily solved. The charcters were given highly educated credentials but didn't seem very brilliant when it came to solving fairly obvious clues. This was very evident in the last part of the book when the computer printed out the "Ceasar's Box" algorithm. A room full of scientists and UBER computers geeks took forever to come up with the simple answer "3".
Perhaps because this was Dan Brown's first book and he hadn't mastered the skill he showed in "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" that I wasn't overly impressed with this effort. If you've read other books by him you'll quickly see that he follows a similar formula for each of his books. While this book wasn't bad, it doesn't come close to his later work. If this is your first Dan Brown book you'll probably enjoy the read but if you've read his other books first, you might end up a little disappointed.