This book made me cringe. It seemed like every few pages I would have to roll my eyes or sigh or grunt in annoyance. It was written like a really bad by-the-numbers action movie and was completely predictable—all the plot “twists” could be seen miles in advance by everyone except the characters themselves. The book revolves around a gifted linguist professor and his girlfriend, a stunningly beautiful NSA agent who supposedly has a 170 IQ (and yet can’t figure out a simple square code at end of the book), and a few other people at the NSA.
This was clearly aimed at the mass market’s lowest common denominator. Everything is tediously explained as if the reader is a ignoramus. Hints are given out prodigiously, to the point that the reader knows whats going to happen well in advance—this makes it all the more maddening when the characters can’t figure anything out on their own. There are an astounding 128 chapters in the book, which is 372 pages long. Yes, that means each chapters is about 3 pages long—Bite sized chunk for the busy executive on the go, I guess.
Worse are the inaccuracies—if you are going to write a technical book the technical parts should at least make sense. But this feels like a cheap Hollywood film. Jargon is thrown around with reckless abandon. The author (and the 170 IQ NSA programmers) seem to confuse data with executable code and use them as if they were interchangeable. And they worry about viruses on their built-from-scratch 3 million CPU parallel processing supercomputer that no one in the world knows about (how does one buffer overflow a computer they don’t even know exists??). And they get really worried when someone claims the virus they caught was really a worm, as if a worm is somehow more severe than a virus. Plus, this “worm” isn’t trying to spread itself (which means it’s not really a worm) and is instead attacking their “security filters”. Oh yeah, and the security filters contain (among other things) “two sets of packet filters for FTP and X-eleven” and “a tunnel block”. And when the virus (excuse me, “worm”) attacks these filters, they don’t go away all at once—that wouldn’t be dramatic enough—they fade away slowly. “X-eleven filter’s going!” someone shouts, “Tunnel block half gone!” someone else shouts. And they somehow mysteriously know they have 40 minutes to solve their dilemma before the worm eats through all their defenses. Please. Not to mention they have a graphical representation of their filters and can see them being eroded by the virus (did someone specifically put that virus eroding UI in when the software was written?). And they can see the “EFF sharks” and hackers trying to break in to their system on this same representation.
Yes, that EFF is the same Electronic Frontier Foundation that in the real world tries to protect privacy and stop legislation that takes away rights. In the book, the people at the NSA are constantly whining about the EFF—they consider the EFF anti-government and as wanting all terrorists to have high-powered encryption so they can attack the USA at will. And the NSA are the sweet, benevolent version of big-brother that want to snoop all the worlds communications in secret and protect all of us sheep from the big evil terrorists. This book seems like it tries to put some political message out, but it’s so polarized, transparent and full of fear mongering that it can’t be trusted in the slightest.
I was severely disappointed by this book. I had heard great things about The Da Vinci Code and was looking forward to reading it. But I happened upon this book first due to a birthday present SNAFU between my sister and my dad and now I am skeptical. They both claimed this book was good, as was The Da Vinci Code. Well, it can’t be as bad as this book right?