Book Review: The Digital Fortress

Faru Yusufali - 1B Nanotechnology
Posted on: January 20, 2010

Title: The Digital Fortress
Author: Dan Brown
Year; 1998
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Have you seen a sentence anywhere that uses the words “algorithm” and “guns” at the same time? I’m pretty sure you haven’t, even if you are a science geek. I, however, stumbled upon a book that uses these words in combination many times over. The Digital Fortress by Dan Brown is a sci-fi thriller that attempts to please both the sci-fi devotees and the average thrill seeker in one fantastic novel.

The story revolves around a young mathematician, Susan Fletcher, who has been called by the NSA to crack an algorithm that has rendered the agency’s main code-breaker machine useless. With the added mystery surrounding the algorithm creator’s sudden death, the plot, in essence, is a race against time to prevent a national emergency that threatens the safety of the United States.

While this is one of Brown’s less popular books, it does not disappoint in providing the reader with the rare “need-to-finish-the-novel-in-one-sitting” thrill. With the exception of the opening chapters, the story is fast paced and full of twists and turns. Uncommon to Dan Brown’s other books; the protagonist is a strong woman who excels in this male-dominated profession. The other characters support the protagonist well and are clearly defined within the fabric of the narrative. The storyline itself is unpredictable and the events that occur at the same time are given equal attention. The accuracy of the technology used within the plot is also well-researched and provides the reader with enough background knowledge to follow the sequence of events with ease. The many surprises in the story prove to be unpredictable and succeed in maintaining the readers’ interest with no difficulty (the fair bit of action does not disappoint either!)

In a nutshell, Dan Brown’s publication proves to be an enjoyable read and is comparable to the immensely popular Robert Langdon series. I highly recommend this book, especially to engineers, since it effortlessly combines the “geekiness” of computers with Bond-worthy action.