Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Regardless what one's option about Dan Brown, he is a well known author for his thriller fiction books. However, it seems he did not do a very thorough research before publishing Digital Fortress.

Dan Brown / Digital Fortress / Page 11

Dan Brown / Digital Fortress / Page 12

Linguaphiles in Livejournal have already pegged Dan Brown as an idiot.

Alan and I are annoyed with Dan Brown, especially considering he is interested in cryptography.

The excerpt is so painful and moronic quoting about "Mandarin symbols" and "Kanji language", where there is no such thing as "Mandarin symbols" or "Kanji language". Mandarin is a spoken oral dialect, and Kanji is part of Japanese writing system.

Alan also had this to say:

Apparently Dan Brown is just as ignorant as those tattoo yahoos. He thinks you can just "translate symbols" and have it make sense. Any code based on the translation of single characters from Chinese or Japanese to English, and then subjecting this to subsequent processing is bound to fail because of multiple meanings. (Sorry, Dan, but just picking the "Kanji" rather than the "Mandarin" meanings does not solve the problem.) Simply sending a coded message that included plaintext Chinese or Japanese would be such a stupid code because any translator could intercept and read it. And the topper is the assumption that someone could possibly translate something written in Chinese or Japanese out of sequence. Try to read any English text scrambled out of order! If it is to be possibly deciphered, first the message has to be put into proper order.


  1. The entire damned book is painful and bag-of-rocks stupid.

  2. He may be interested in character-systems, cryptography, etc., but he's not knowledgable about them. The cryptography in Digital Fortress is as brain-hurtingly awful to anyone who knows much of anything about cryptographic systems as this passage is to people who know anything about the Chinese and Japanese writing systems.

  3. If it's any consolation, his French is just as bad. In The Da Vinci Code, "French" characters say things like "Mon nom est Pierre" - obviously translated by Babelfish, because no French person would ever say that. If you're telling someone your name, you say "Je m'appelle Pierre."

    Oh, and the artist is called Leonardo, not Da Vinci. Vinci is the town he came from; "da Vinci" just means "from Vinci". Even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got that one right.

    If you want proper cryptography, try Neal Stephenson...

  4. No! I don't want to have to read this book! But . . . .

    That passage is so stupid! :is conflicted:

  5. *shudders* For those eager for Chinese flavor in their crime novels, skip Dan Brown. Go pick up one of Qui XiaoLong's Inspector Chen novels.

  6. Good. Now I have a reason never to bother with Dan Brown. That passage was ridiculous on so many levels... the "kanji language" and "mandarin symbols" bit being only one. K

  7. I have never read a book by Dan Brown, not even during the hype and now I'm happy I haven't wasted my time and money.

    Not only because of the Mandarin/Kanji error but his writing style is bad. People really think he's a good writer?

  8. This is PAINFUL.

    I am ashamed that I have read two of this guy's books. I did it mostly out of curiosity and to be able to tell my friends the guy is a hack, but still.

  9. Wow. I don't read any eastern languages, and my knowledge of cryptography is limited to skimming Wikipedia articles, but even I can tell how inane that passage is from a technical standpoint (leaving alone how utterly quotidian his writing style is). Talk about lowest common denominator...

  10. If the "encrypted" text was really in Japanese, wouldn't they had to have encountered some kana before someone realized they're trying to translate the wrong language?

  11. Ouch. Dan, there is no "Kanji language". Kanji is not "a Japanese writing system".

    Kanji is a Japanese word meaning "Chinese character(s)", whether used to write Chinese, or to write Japanese, or to create hideous, laughable tattoos. That's it. The word has absolutely no meaning beyond "Chinese character(s)".

    People just love to make the world more complicated than it actually is... : /

  12. Ahahaha. This is bloody hilarious. Not only is the Mandarin & Kanji bit stupid - the whole two pages presented here are horribly written. The guy writes like a 13 year old.

  13. the turkish guy, you-know-whoApril 3, 2009 at 7:40 AM

    There are conspiracy theories, based on this guy's books...and some people who actually believe in them-in my native good ole Turkey. *puts his head between his hands in embarassment*

    Well, if you write a Chinese text with Japanese modified characters, you'll get a text written without kana; then again some will be Traditional, some will be Simplified...and some others will be none. Still not too different enough to be completely incomprehensible.

  14. Wow, I sure wish I could earn a month's salary by telling Japanese from Chinese and badly translating it.

    And yeah, the thought of translating characters out of sequence is so ludicrous I spit coffee on my screen.

  15. Haha, not to mention Kanji is often mixed in with hiragana, katakana AND sometimes romanji in Japanese writing so a code translated with Kanji symbols only probably wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. I studied Japanese a few years ago but it's been much longer since I've read "Digital Fortress" and I didn't catch it then, but his Spanish (which I've known my whole life) made him look like a gringo that thinks all Hispanic/Latinos are from Mexico.

    I know not all the languages that populate China are written in the same type of script, but I would figure Mandarin and Cantonese have a similar writing system, yes? No? Anyway, that probably would have been more forgiving than to compare Chinese writing systems to Japanese...that's like those ignorant bastards that see a person who is Korean, Japanese, Vietmanese, etc and call them Chinese.

    Brown is often criticized for his lack of research. My high school physics teacher had a huge dislike for The DaVinci Code :P

  16. I would submit that Dan Brown's books are only "good" if you have no knowledge at all of the subjects he's writing about. In other words, you have to be more ignorant than he is. If I knew absolutely nothing about computers, or east Asian languages, or the Catholic church, or archaeology, or perhaps halfway decent writing...why, I'd think he was brilliant!

  17. Ignoring the language thing completely, it also implies that the NSA wouldn't have people that can read Chinese, when I am sure they have people who are knowledgeable of not only Mandarin and Cantonese, but also Toisan and Fukenese and all those other dialects in the country, as well as no one who knows anything about Japanese and is shocked to find out about a major component of the writing system.

  18. And to think that this guy once lived in Tokyo and that he was a Spanish teacher!

  19. Dan Brown is notorious for this kind of stuff in all of his books.

    It's so bad that the TV Tropes Wiki has their very own fiction trope named after him: "Dan Browned".

    Whenever you come across something in fiction that sounds plausible to laymen but completely ruins it for audiences familiar with the subject at hand, you've just been Dan Browned.

  20. Maybe he meant you could erm... "read it" in different ways, like phonetically?

    Looks like the only way you can decipher things from Chinese characters without knowing what the content is...

    Unless he thinks that Chinese characters are like English letters just made of more squigglies and lines...

    But who knows.
    I read that book a long time ago. Just passed through that section because I knew it would take more than myself to understand what the hell he was talking about. (I'm a Japanese native speaker- no way that concept was making sense in my head.)

  21. problem is that many people tend to treat chinese characters as kanji - ie it's japanese.
    at least Mr Brown got the part that kanji is derived from chinese (i think) ;)

  22. That book turn famous here in Spain because of their vision of the city of Sevilla. It was very funny, yeah... If Dan Brown goes to Sevilla, it would be really funnier...

  23. LOL. About 2 minutes of "research" on google or wikipedia would have been enough to improve on that passage. So glad I've always avoided Dan Brown.

  24. Its not just the writing, not just the crytpo, Dan Brown has shown throughout this book that he knows nothing about computers at all. Repeatedly he makes asinine errors about computer related things. Over and over. The entire basis of the story is ridiculous. Also, he seems to think Spain is a poverty-stricken, developing world country in which even phone service is doubtful, rather than a fully developed European nation with more cell penetration than the US. Overall, my favorite part of this book has been reading the reviews on Amazon, some of them are hilarious.

  25. I remember when Spain was an exporter of labor; and then Franco died. So Brown is only a generation or so behind the news.

  26. This passage made no sense to me. My father was a Chinese cryptologist in the Army and worked at the NSA, I'm sure they have had plenty of well trained people in both Chinese and Japanese for many years.

    Makes we wonder now that I think of it, the codes were all numeric, so I wonder what systems they use/used to do the encryption. Anyone suggest quick reference?

  27. I was read "Digital Fortress" and comment in my e-mail with Phill Zimmermann ( )
    And I was in mail say, "Mr Phill , now nobody believe that PGP is secure encryption. And your reputation will be under question. I understand what is fiction and what can be possible true. But most people cannot know how encryption not easy game. Also now NSA claim that AES128 secure up to 35 years. Where was disappear 4 time space duration, according testimony FBI director?" Mr Phill answer me: Major government agency (NSA, CIA, FBI , US Army , etc) use PGP not because it possible easy decrypt. No , reason is because they keep top secret information. And even AES128 is pretty sure and unbreakable using technology what still not invented yet. And sure not be invented in my lifetime.. This is about encryption, no point use foreign language to encrypt something, any pattern will make easy decrypted any text.
    So game with Chinese or Japanese reading Kanji are just game for small child.Any writing system make easy decrypt even good encryption. German WW2 Enigma is strong encryption machine but have 2 security risk and only because this it is possible easy open message.

  28. If the bad guys had really wanted to make the cipher unbreakable, they should have flipped all the Chinese characters upside-down before encrypting them.

    Alternatively, they could have "layered" the crypto, for example by translating their secret documents into Dutch before encoding them in Chinese characters. Even if the NSA had broken the encryption and Becker had recognized the characters as Chinese, they still would need to find someone who spoke Dutch to do the actual decryption!

  29. d brown vs. t clancyMay 1, 2009 at 9:42 PM

    Surely Dan Brown's books are published in Japanese, if not Chinese as well... I'd love to know what the Japanese translator did with that abortion of a passage. How much creative discretion can a translator take due to the original author being a complete dipshit?

  30. Yes, in fact, Digital Fortress did come out in Japanese translation under the title パズル・パレス ("Puzzle Palace").

    I read a few reviews by Japanese people, and several of them noted that the names of supposedly Japanese characters in the book do not sound very "Japanese."

    It might be interesting to try to find this same passage in the Japanese translation.


  31. They also have it in Simplified Chinese as 数字城堡 "Number Castle"!!! not
    数码堡垒 "Digital Fortress" !!!

    Check here:

  32. Dan Brown's only skill is making each chapter end in a cliff-hanger to keep you reading. Otherwise, he's an ignoramus AND a terrible writer.

    I thought the funniest thing in the Da Vinci Code was the discussion between between two allegedly brilliant men when they figure out the mystery writing isn't some kind of "semitic script," but instead was english written backwards.

    I'm ashamed to admit that after reading Da Vinci Code I read Angels and Demons because I was told it was much better than Da Vinci Code. Yeah.

    Then I read Digital Fortress, but at least then I had the excuse of being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and having limited access to reading material. It was worse than bad.

  33. Holy crap.

    I had never read a word of Dan Brown before, and that was... brutal. If that was a representative sample, then he is a profoundly bad writer. Painful, indeed! And I'm not even talking about his tragic, cringe-inducing "Kanji language" fail. I'm talking about the writing itself. I hardly even know how to describe it! That was like... the WWF of literature. About as pleasant as a folding chair to the dome.

    Seriously. That was like something written by a child.

    And this hack's a millionaire?? Either he's got supernatural powers of storymaking, or everyone in America's a freakin' idiot. Yeesh.

  34. Yes, as a Japanese major, I have to say this was an abomination.
    It is sad how many stupid people in America eat this shit up though. It is sad that any hack that can string a few words together can publish novels that make a shit ton of money...Like Dan Brown, and Stephanie Meyer. Where have all the intelligent people gone in the world? (Especially America)

  35. Dan Brown also shows himself as an idiot when he says that the 64-bit key would have 64 characters, too many for anyone to remember.

    A 64-bit key, in hexadecimal, would be 16 characters. Even the most basic research would turn up this basic fact.

  36. I am ashamed to admit I read The Davinci Code, although only to confirm in my mind that it was effectively ripped off from the Holy Blood/Holy Grail books - and lawsuit judgement notwithstanding it very clearly was taken directly from those books, as there are countless similarities. I think I can categorically state that he is the worst author I have ever read. His writing is abysmally stupid, unoriginal and pathetic.
    I can only credit his success to the fact that what he is writing is aimed at (roughly) a grade 8 reading level comprehension - and that is sufficient to challenge many of his readers. I will never touch another book by him and I am ashamed to hear he continues to be successful.
    When I read TDC, I believe I resolved every single so-called cryptic message in seconds. The longest time it took me to resolve one, was in the case of the mirrored english, where I had to walk to the bathroom in my apartment so I could hold the book up to the mirror to read it. The solution was obvious immediately of course.
    I am not suprised to hear that in the case of this book, we encounter the same level of ineptness and stunning lack of ability. Even I would have immediately known that this passage was utter BS on several levels, and I am stunned any editor would let this pass and that the book would be published.