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Digital Fortress
By Dan Brown

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Digital Fortress

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Digital Fortress
By Dan Brown
Thorndike Press - Large Print Edition (2004)
ISBN: 0-7862-5979-5
Genre: Techno-Thriller

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - July 11, 2005

Digital Fortress is a well-crafted thriller by Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code. Digital Fortress is a story about honor, duty, and betrayal and the underlaying threat posed to our digital world by cyber terrorist. The story revolves around the exploits of Susan Fletcher, a mathematician and cryptographer who works for the NSA (National Security Agency). When the Agency encounters a seemingly unbreakable code, Fletcher is called in to break it. What she discovers when she tries to break the code will have implications not only for the Agency, but for the entire U.S. intelligence aperture, and by extension, for the country as a whole.

The code that Fletcher is tasked with breaking hides an ingenious program that enables data to be encrypted in such a way that it appears to be undecipherable - and looks as if it will stay that way, even taking into account future advances in decryption technology. Using this program would allow everyone from corporations to terrorist to encrypt any data sent over the internet or between computers. While this program would help stop corporate espionage, it would be a boon to those that the government most wants to keep an eye on - terrorist, drug dealers, and other 'bad guys' who use electronic data.

While Fletcher tries to uncover the verity of the code, and to break it, it is discovered that a 'decoder ring' exists that contains the decryption code for the program. Fletcher's fiancee, David Becker is sent to Europe to recover the ring. While Becker is engaged in a cat-and-mouse game of chase in Europe, Fletcher finds that her efforts are being stymied at every turn. Even some of her co-workers are going out of their way to make sure that she does not discover the true nature of the code. Worse, the Agency, in an attempt to conceal the danger posed by this code, embarks upon a course of misdirection and outright lying to the public and to other governmental agencies. This concealment extends to the highest echelons, where even the Director of the Agency is so interested in pursuing his own agenda that he is willing to needlessly risk the lives of his operatives. To get to the truth, Fletcher follows the trail through cyber space, and physically, around the globe. At every turn danger awaits - and if she fails, the world will be forever changed.

Digital Fortress is a techno-thriller at its best. The story is well-paced, thrilling, and Fletcher is an intelligent and admirable female hero. The fact that she is beautiful and has an adoring fiancee in the form of David Becker, who aids Fletcher in her quest, does nothing to distract from the main thrust of the story - which is that Fletcher is the main hero and that it is via her brain power that the danger will be adverted - if it can be. Best of all, Brown ably explains the importance of encryption software, how they work, and how they are decrypted. Digital Fortress offers readers an engaging romp through cyber-space, while providing them with enough action to keep the pages turning from start to finish.

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