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Digital Fortress (D. Brown)

2004-09-06 2 min read Books marco

Digital Fortress is a fast-paced thriller with a strong technological background and an odd location in National Security circles.
Before Dan Brown moved to religion as a topic, security and espionage were his main themes. Both Digital Fortress and the earlier Deception Point deal with the interaction between espionage and politics, bringing the delicate balance between good and evil to attention.
Dan Brown loves twists. The plots of his novels are the conventional spy novels, in which a good pair/couple deals with a series of ambiguous and powerful characters. Readers are required to think that these powerful characters are on the good or the evil side depending on the torque of the plot’s twists at the moment.
Digital Fortress is about a secure encryption algorithm and the need to have a trap door into any such algorithm. There is one historic fact behind this story line: the FBI demanded that any encryption algorithm have a secured trap door, such that nobody could encrypt anything that the FBI couldn’t read.
Unfortunately both for the book and the FBI, that’s a little bit like asking to create a lock that can always be opened by a master key, but that is supposed to be secure: the good guys will use it, exposing themselves to the bad guys that stole the master key; the bad guys aren’t going to be as stupid as using an encryption mechanism that is easily decoded.
As a result, the technical part of the novel is deeply flawed and not too interesting. The plot, though, is acceptable in its fatal twists and turns. The characters are sometimes believable – allthough Dan Brown would be well-advised to research the ‘eternal father figure’ in his books. Is it something that he came up with, or is it the brainchild of an editor?
In any case, Digital Fortress ends up being a little formulaic. I am glad Mr. Brown found a much more compelling environment in the Catholic Church.