Digital Fortress - By Dan Brown

With all the records broken by ‘Da Vinci Code’, expectations on Digital Fortress were soaring.

‘Digital Fortress’, though a fiction, actually deserves a place in a technology review. Having said that, it helps in demystifying IT Jargon's, as this book opens the often ‘thought to be complicated’ world of IT Security, to the non tech savvy reader, in plain, simple, easily understandable language. This is woven into an intricate plot, which has the makings of a thriller all the way.

The plot sounds a bit geeky for the want of a better word. The National Security Agency is the USA’s finest secret agency. They are responsible for the security of the entire country, hence their ability to gather intelligence is key to their task. As all terrorist communications and other threats tend to be in code format they have a super computer called TRANSLTR which has the capacity to break every code on earth. TRANSLTR does this by using the Borgofsky theory which revolves around the principle that: if you try enough codes in every permutation combination, one of them would be the eventual code. TRANSLTR, though can break every code, takes time to find the right one, but given the raw processing power (over three million chips), the most complex of them codes can be cracked in well under an hour. TRANSLTR is the main reason why NSA can be confident of nullifying every threat perceivable by humankind - of course, given time.

A former employee has a grudge and claims to have devised an algorithm which TRANSLTR cannot crack and he posts it on the public domain of the internet. The algorithm is protected by itself and he sets the challenge for the world’s top computer companies to crack it, if they cannot he knows that he can hold the NSA to ransom and attract major bids for what will become the standard in coding. The former employee dies the day the NSA becomes aware of the threat; the timing is too coincidental for foul play not to be part of the problem. The only question is who is behind the killing and will the deceased person’s back up plans be sufficient to bring the NSA to its knees?

The book bolts at a good solid pace throughout. It achieves two of the things, which are rare, lately in books, firstly, you are compelled into scanning the next few paragraphs desperate to find out what happened and secondly you wake up with it open on your bed on more than one occasion!

Brown obviously has a talent for writing and goes into a lot of detail on some of the finer points without ever getting boring. He is able to educate readers on historical anecdotes without you even realizing he has drifted from the main story. He mentions that his books are very research intensive and this is obvious from early on.

He has a good blend of different characters and mixes the sub plots in such a way that you are always disappointed when the story switches to another sub plot. There are enough twists in the book to keep everyone happy and the logic behind the solving of the puzzles is easy to follow.

With nonstop action, intrigue and a fascinating plot Digital Fortress is an example of the techno-thriller at its very best. The issues raised in Digital Fortress concerning privacy of communications and the very real threat of terrorism will have readers thinking about Digital Fortress long after they have put the book down. 

Brown does an excellent job at presenting technological wizardry and cutting edge intelligence information in such a way so as to please techno lovers and yet make the complex subject of encryption interesting and easy to understand. A must read for lovers of intrigue, thrillers and for anyone who loves an exciting story with a complex, layered plot and intriguing characters.

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