Note: spoilers and rant ahead.

A strange thing goes on with Dan Brown's books - they are being read in reverse order. After the wild success of the Da Vinci code, I found about Angels and Demons (and liked it less...), and after that I found out about Digital Fortress (and liked it even less, as I'll explain momentarily). It seems that this is the reading order of many people, due to some marketing tricks of Brown's publishers.

Anyway, to the book. What I like about Dan Brown's books is that apart from being fast thrillers, they also have interesting contents. The religion/secret societies of his previous two books I've read have been quite interesting. However, in Digital Fortress, Dan Brown took upon a theme much closer to my heart, one of my favorite topics, actually - Cryptography. And this was the beginning of the end... I don't know, maybe a christian-religion specialist reading Angels and Demons or Da Vinci felt the same as I do, but the gross inaccuracies, exaggerations and the amount of plain rubbish in Digital Fortress is astounding.

First of all, a ultra-clever computer with 3 million processors might break a 64 bit key in seconds, but NO, Mr. Brown, it doesn't scale linearly. It doesn't mean it can break arbitrarily large keys in under a hour. I'll leave the maths for a separate topic, but anyone with a clue should understand that adding a bit makes the problem TWICE HARDER. Million bit keys... pfffttt... Second, there's no "Bergofsky principle" - not ANY algorithm can be brute-forced, OTP can't. Third and most important, there's no such thing as "rotated cleartext". Not that no one knows how to do it, it doesn't exist even in theory - if there would exist such a thing, it wouldn't help the encryption in any way. Again, I might talk more on this in a separate entry.

With all of this read in the first 20 pages, my motivation for the book fell immediately. Come on, how can I relate to the characters' problems when I know they're completely unreal ? Dan Brown fixed a little of this by admitting that Digital Fortress is a hoax, but the fact that NSA's best cryptographers believed in its existence is ludicrous.

The rest of the book is the usual Dan Browinsh sweeping action. But even in that, it's somehow less captivating than in Da Vinci. And what's all this stuff about bashing Spaniards ??

In any case, since Da Vinci is his latest, it seems Brown is improving. I won't read any other of his earlier books, but if his new book (which is currently in the pipeline) gets great reviews and won't be about a topic I know, I might give it a try.

Sorry for a grumpy review, this book simply annoyed me :-)


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