Mrs. Graham, my Jr. High English teacher (one of the best teachers I had growing up), taught me to always give any book at least fifty pages before giving up on it. The book (and the author) deserved at least that much, she said.
You know, you can't judge a book by its cover, and you shouldn't make a snap decision after just a couple of pages, generally speaking.
Well, Saturday I took the kids out to adventure for the afternoon to give Shauna some peace and quiet. (It was her turn to be sick.)
We ended up at a bookstore in Bountiful. I told the kids they could have a choice: we could go out to lunch somewhere or I'd buy them each one book of their choosing.
Here's what we ended up with:
That last book was my purchase. I hadn't planned on getting a book, but it caught my eye. I've read Dan Brown's other books, usually on airplanes, and enjoyed them well enough. (My favorite was Angels & Demons, then The Da Vinci Code, with Deception Point coming in a distant third.)
The premise behind Digital Fortress is so ridiculous: a former NSA-cryptographer has created an unbreakable—by brute force even—algorithm that employs (get this), "a rotating cleartext", and has encrypted his software (with itself) and released it on the Internet so people can bid on buying it.
There's a super secret NSA super computer, TRANSLTR, that supposedly can brute force anything (till this new algorithm shows up which is the crisis our protagonists find themselves in) that has to "virus scan" messages before it decodes them and rejects outright (without decrypting) any that might infect it.(!?)
I suppose that last bit might be plausible if the NSA had purchased the machines OS from Microsoft, but presumably it was a custom job (Microsoft's monopolistic dominance doesn't extend into the three-million node super computer market yet).
Anway, the book is just awful. I got to page 50 (and actually finished out the end of the current chapter, so I read a bit farther even), and am going to call it quits. Oh, and I'm not the only one who thinks the plot has major holes; even some of the faithful have a hard time stomaching it.
I wish I could get my money back...
—Michael A. Cleverly
Monday, May 16, 2005 at 18:09
I just finished it. Those of us not so literate in programming found it easier to suspend disbelief. However, I also placed it dead last in his books. Like you, Angels and Demons was my favorite.
My area is English Lit., not math or CS, and "Digital Fortress" is just godawful even as light entertainment. I quit at page 54, with enough errors discovered to write an article. Susan is held up at the NSA gate after being summoned on the double, a guard knows her IQ, when asked how long her big ol' computer has ever run she (with her 170 IQ) does not see that she has been summoned because it is running beyond anything that could be called normal time, she and Strathmore (also a company that makes BOND paper) are two high level executives who are doing the work of technicians, S. gives an expositon rather than simply explaining the problem, neither realizes that if Tankado could find an algorithm someone else would find it sooner or later (see Norbert Weiner in "The Human Use of Human Beings"), etc. ad nauseam. I won't discuss the wretched prose of the work beyond mentioning that "bacterial virus" is nonsense; Mr. B. means "biological virus." On the basis of my high school algebra, I assert that 10 to the 120th power is 10 followed by 119 zeros or 1 followed by 120, not 10 followed by 120. I got my copy from the library where it is going real soon.