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Digital Fortress

By Murray Bourne, 28 Feb 2005

Dan Brown's 1998 effort, "Digital Fortress" was a fun read. The publishers make a big deal of his new-found fame via "The Da Vinci Code", with the following emblazoned prominently on the cover: #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Da Vinci Code . That's okay, but clearly his skills have improved since the "Digital Fortress" days.

Some of the themes in the book that I found interesting and/or disturbing...

  • The vulnerability of sensitive data and how protection of databases will continue to be a growth industry
  • The stupidity of keeping all vital data in one place
  • The motivation of many in high places (and not so high) is that they must look good, rather than be good
  • That even in 1998, Brown felt the need to explain to his readers such concepts as email, using a search engine and Netscape (what?)
  • The low respect that academics receive in Western societies (quotes like "I'm only a teacher", "I'm not rich, I'm just a teacher", "She can do better than a teacher"). This may be because Brown's father was a mathematics teacher - and they commonly suffer from esteem problems...
  • At least he has a brilliant female mathematician as the heroine - this is a rarity in fiction
  • It is obvious that Brown writes hoping his book(s) will be made into a movie one day
  • The depiction of Asians as the 'baddies'. (To be fair, there were baddies at all levels in the story)
  • It is nice having your intelligence challenged by the author (he throws codes at you every now and then - something he did a lot more of in Da Vinci Code) but then insulting that intelligence in other places with corny plot twists
  • A credibility gap in some of the plot (sending the professor to Europe on a dangerous mission, the visual representation of hackers getting into the system, and the last minute climax of the book)

Despite the shortcomings, I recommend the book, especially if you are into technobabble.

Related post: My rave about Da Vinci Code.

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