If I had to read this book back in 1998 when it was published I would have chucked it after the first few pages. Back then cryptology meant Aravind Swamy in Roja, NSA was something I hadn’t heard about and ‘computers’ to me meant MS Word and MS Paint. But now I’m in that comfortable place where I am aware of NSA and their snooping, knowledgeable enough to understand bigbig computer terms and ignorant enough look beyond any technical inaccuracies in this book. Book snobs might look down upon Dan Brown and his readers but that’s them. I like Dan Brown.
The plot : Someone has created the holy grail of encryption software or something and the NSA wants it. Because this means that everyone’s secrets will be safe inside the Digital Fortress and the American government can’t peek into people’s
bathrooms emails all over the world. This miracle code thingy has put NSA’s supersnooper computer TRANSLTR on a digital wild goose chase and it is unable to break it. Like in all Dan Brown thrillers here also you have the standard threesome: a boss, a beautiful woman with brains and a clueless professor dragged into something that doesn’t concern him in any way. You also have the mandatory mysterious assassin with the odd name, a clock ticking away on a countdown and a puzzle that needs to be solved. Then there is the standard parallel good intentioned person(s) trying to figure out/ stop what the main three are up to. And of course a nailbiting chase that happens in a European country with some gruesome murders thrown in for extra flavour. Then the item, here it is a ring, that has an inscription or something that has to be solved to stop the digital apocalypse or something. And spoiler: The boss. Wait. Did I just join the book snob club?
The puzzles: North Dakota. Hello, we know that Dan Brown likes anagrams. I figured that out longlong before they did. The ‘mystery’ code in the ring was such an anticlimax. Hiroshima-Nagasaki. Uranium 235-238. Hello, that was so so obvious. I could have solved that five pages before they did.
But anyway. Typical or not, I enjoyed the book. A much needed quickie thriller. I’ve crossed out all the Dan Brown books off the list now. And I’m eagerly waiting for his next one.