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Like a TV movie thriller - entertaining but shallow!

  • Mar 24, 2011
TRANSLTR is perhaps the most powerful multiple parallel processor computer on the earth, run by the National Security Agency, dedicated solely to the process of brute force code breaking. An extraordinary weapon against crime, drugs and terrorism, TRANSLATR clearly has enormous potential for human rights abuses and Ensei Tankado, a brilliant program and disgruntled former NSA employee is determined to find a way to pull this abusive tool out of the hands of the government. He has written DIGITAL FORTRESS, a complex algorithm that renders clear text into unbreakable code, and, unless the NSA acknowledges the existence of TRANSLTR to the world with a full confession of its true power, Tankado will release DIGITAL FORTRESS to the world. Of course, this would render TRANSLTR instantly obsolete and chaos would become the order of the day. Drug cartels, terrorists and other criminals could secretly communicate with complete impunity and US internal and external intelligence would become effectively blind. Tankado delivers his blackmail ultimatum and is promptly murdered by parties unknown. Of course, the frantic chase is on to find the key to DIGITAL FORTRESS and bury it before it is released through the internet to anyone who has a modem.

When Brown sticks to the "techno" side of techno-thriller, he is a master on solid ground, indeed. Brown's side bars about computer software and hardware, codes and code breaking are exciting and informative. Revolving around puzzles, viruses, worms, firewalls, mutating code strings and the internet attempting to hack into US government data classified "top secret", the climax of the novel moves at top speed and is definitely finely tuned edge-of-the-seat stuff! But novels by their nature must be populated with characters and here Brown fails rather badly, producing folks that can best be described as trite, cardboard and clichéd. Susan Fletcher, the brilliant but beautiful cryptologist with an IQ of 170, is the first to step up to the plate as a stereotype (I can clearly see the movie version now where she makes the transformation from computer nerd to ravishing hottie by taking off her glasses, pulling the bobby pins out of her tight bun, dropping full-bodied hair onto her shoulders with a provocative head shake and undoing the top button of a silky blouse!) Her fiancé, David Becker, a mild-mannered foreign language specialist from Georgetown University, discovers he has the abilities of a master spy and is able to elude the efforts of a professional assassin. Sadly, virtually every character Brown pulls into the story can be criticized in the same fashion as being singularly off the wall and unbelievable.

Don't misunderstand - Digital Fortess is a quick read and is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining! But like most every one hour made for TV thriller movie, it is also eminently forgettable in very short order and has nothing at all to commend it as being memorable!

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Quick Tip by . March 24, 2011
Digital Fortess, an exciting and informative techno-thriller about computer hardware and software, codes and codebreaking, is a quick read and is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining! But like most every one hour made for TV thriller movie, it is also eminently forgettable in very short order and has nothing at all to commend it as being memorable!
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About this book


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 ...

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ISBN-10: 9780312995423
ISBN-13: 978-0312995423
Author: Dan Brown
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
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