Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Tetraktys

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Security 216

brothke writes "Imagine for a moment what his novels would read like if Dan Brown got his facts correct. The challenge Brown and similar authors face is to write a novel that is both compelling and faithful to the facts. In Tetraktys, author Ari Juels is able to weave an interesting and readable story, and stay faithful to the facts. While Brown seemingly lacks the scientific and academic background needed to write such fiction, Juels has a Ph.D. in computer science from Berkeley and is currently the Chief Scientist and director at RSA Laboratories, the research division of RSA Security." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.The book, which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller, tells the story of Ambrose Jerusalem, a gifted computer security expert, still haunted by his father's death, a few months shy of his doctorate, who has a beautiful and loving girlfriend, and a bright future ahead of him. This is until the government gets involved and Jerusalem's plans are put on hold when the NSA asks him to join them to track down a strange and disturbing series of computer breaches.

Tetraktys, like similar thrillers, has its standard set of characters; from corrupt State Department and World Bank officials, a dashing protagonist with a long-suffering girlfriend, to mysterious and obscure terrorist groups. This terrorist group is in the book is comprised of followers of Pythagoras.

As to the title, a tetraktys is a triangular figure of ten points arranged in four rows, with one, two, three, and four points in each row. It is a mystical symbol and was most important to the followers of Pythagoras. While mainly known as the creator of the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagoras of Samos was an influential Greek mathematician and founder of the religious movement of Pythagoreanism. Those wanting more information can watch a video about the symbol.

As to the storyline, the NSA is trying to recruit Ambrose as they feel that the terrorists, who form a secret cult of followers of Pythagoras have broken the RSA public-key algorithm. Breaking RSA is something that is not expected for many decades, but if a revolution in factoring numbers were to occur sooner, RSA's demise could happen that much quicker. And if RSA was indeed broken by the antagonists, it would undermine the security of nearly every government and financial institution worldwide and create utter anarchy.

A good part of the book centers on the cult of Pythagoras. Its followers believe that truth and reality can only be understood via their system of numbers. The NSA needs Jerusalem's assistance as he is one of the few people who have the mathematical, classical and philosophical background to help them. It is he who ultimately connects the dots that the Pythagoreans have left, which leads to the books dramatic conclusion.

The book is a most enjoyable read and one is hard pressed to put it down once they start reading it. The reader gets a good understanding of who Pythagoras was and his worldview via Juels weaving of Pythagorean philosophy into the storyline.

While the book is not autobiographical, there are many similarities between Ambrose Jerusalem and Ari Juels. From identical initials, to their lives in events in Berkeley and Cambridge, to RSA and more.

For a first book of fiction, Tetraktys is a great read. As a novelist, Juels style approaches that of Umberto Eco, in that he weaves numerous areas of thought into an integrated story. Like Eco's works, Tetraktys has an arcane historical figure as part of it storyline, and an intricate plot that takes the reader on many, and some unexpected, turns. While not as complex and difficult to read as Eco, Tetraktys is a remarkable work of fiction for someone with a doctorate in computer science, not literature.

The book though does have some gaps, but that could be expected for a first novel. The reader is never sure what the Pythagoreans are really after or why they have resurfaced, and one of the characters is killed, for reasons that are not apparent. Readers who want more information can visit the Tetraktys web site.

As to the book's protagonist, Ambrose Jerusalem is to Juels what Jack Ryan is to Tom Clancy, meaning that his adventures are just beginning, and that is a good thing.

For those interested in a cryptographic thriller, Tetraktys is an enjoyable read. The book interlaces Greek philosophy, mathematics, and modern crime into a cogent theme that is a compelling read. And if the exploits of Ambrose Jerusalem continue, we may have found the successor to Umberto Eco.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase Tetraktys from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

cancel ×

216 comments

BORING! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870333)

Were you aware that Jews did 9/11? Now THAT is interesting!

Talk about getting your facts right! (5, Funny)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870335)

...tells the story of Ambrose Jerusalem, a gifted computer security expert, ... who has a beautiful and loving girlfriend.

Yeah right!

Re:Talk about getting your facts right! (2, Insightful)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870375)

That's the first incorrect "fact". Wonder how many others there are.

Re:Talk about getting your facts right! (5, Insightful)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871625)

There's one right in the review: World's first cryptographic thriller? Has he never heard of Cryptonomicon?

Re:Talk about getting your facts right! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870925)

I think slashdot needs a 'Mary Sue' tag

Re:Talk about getting your facts right! (2)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871373)

All kidding aside, that bit broke my suspension of disbelief before even picking up the book. Ambrose? Jerusalem? Beautiful AND loving???

Re:Talk about getting your facts right! (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871835)

Beautiful AND loving???

According to the "attractive, intelligent, sane: pick two" law, she'd have to be out of her gourd.

(hey, if you can throw around Godwin like it's some kind of holy writ, I want in)

Svefg cbfg! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870357)

Never heard of him nor the book before, but I'm in the mood for some fun reading so I'll give it a shot.

science? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870407)

While Brown seemingly lacks the scientific and academic background needed to write such fiction, Juels has a Ph.D. in computer science from Berkeley

Does Computer Science really qualify as "science"? It seems much more like mathematics to me.

One place where CS might be considered a science is in the empirical characterization of software/computer systems. But even there, the nearly complete lack of statistical rigor shown in C.S. papers suggests a big difference between computer scientists and, for example, physicists.

Re:science? (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870471)

It seems much more like mathematics to me.

And you consider mathematics to be what, art?

Re:science? (2, Interesting)

Dr Tall (685787) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870537)

Frankly, yes [wikipedia.org] . Art of the most beautiful kind.

Re:science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870633)

math == art [fragsworth.com]

Re:science? (4, Insightful)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871707)

I consider it to be closest to philosophy, though I don't see why it can't be it's own field. Science and mathematics have completely different epistemological outlooks.

In science, if you say that anything has been "proven", you get laughed out of all respectable circles. Instead, you demonstrate a hypothesis by providing experimental evidence.

In mathematics, if you say that something has been demonstrated by empirical evidence, you get laughed out of all respectable circles. Instead, you need to prove everything rigorously.

Hopefully you can see a fundamental difference.

Re:science? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870501)

Yeah, but "Computer Mathematics" just sounds so ridiculous.

Re:science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870695)

"Computer Math" was the name of my CS class in 1984 when I was in high school.....you insensitive clod!!

Re:science? (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871203)

Really? So what DO you call the use of a computer to solve with "brute force" complex Mathematical problems, like very large prime numbers, or roots of very complex equations, or Computational Fluid Dynamics problems???

Re:science? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871843)

Computing.

Re:science? (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871935)

Too broad, that term is vastly overused. There are distinct differences in each area of application of computing power. I know, I've worked in many of them in my 30 yrs of Software/Systems.

Re:science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871239)

Right, so they call it "discrete mathematics" instead.

Re:science? (2, Interesting)

Dr Tall (685787) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870591)

It depends what you mean, and I think a lot of people are conflicted about it. If "science" means to make predictive theories about the way the natural world operates, then no, CS isn't science. If "science" means to make claims in a verifiable, empirical, and unbiased fashion (that is, the scientific method), then CS theory proofs and industry debugging seem a lot like science to me.

Re:science? (3, Informative)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870597)

Physicists are trying to discover unknown facts by using known facts and empirical testing.
.
Computer professionals have a broader scope. Some of what they do is to create known predictable systems from known facts and known rules. Occasionally, they are asked to discover previously unknown facts from these rules. Perhaps only the latter should be called "Computer Scientists" so as to differentiate them from "Computer Engineers" or "Programmer/Journeymen" or the other different positions involving computers.

Re:science? (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871049)

Mathematics is science. CS is mathematics. Apply transitivity, and Bob's your uncle.

One thing I disagree with in your post is the insinuation that mathematics and science are separate entities. I should hope that anyone who's taken upper-level mathematics and upper-level physics knows there are significant points of convergence. When you have distinct fields that are both utilizing the same mathematical principles, there's a fairly strong indication that those disciplines belong together.

But that's not all. CS (and mathematics as a whole) rely not only tie into physics (and biology, and chemistry), but also into philosophy, linguistics, and a host of other seemingly completely unrelated fields. CS is not only a true science, it is in fact the single point of convergence for almost every other field of science out there, even social sciences.

First cryptographic thriller? (4, Informative)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870429)

which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller

Toast by Charles Stross would be a counterexample to this ludicrous claim.

Re:First cryptographic thriller? (2, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870643)

which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller

Toast by Charles Stross would be a counterexample to this ludicrous claim.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow counts, too. Maybe a bit further away from literature, but it's more than a match for a Brown or Clancy novel.

Re:First cryptographic thriller? (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870657)

not to mention Simple Simon [amazon.com] (which was turned into Mercury Rising. [wikipedia.org] )

Re:First cryptographic thriller? (4, Informative)

Jason69 (661789) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871237)

You would think since the submitter referenced Dan Brown in the review, he would have recognized that Digital Fortress, a cryptographic thriller by Dan Brown, was published before this book.

Cryptonomicon??? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870431)

"The book, which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller"

Perhaps the reviewer has never heard of Cryptonomicon....

Re:Cryptonomicon??? (0, Troll)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870495)

Notice how my comment above beat yours and also did the quote tag correctly ;-)

Cryptonomicon is a decent example, but I'm not sure it is a "thriller" in the sense meant by the author.

Re:Cryptonomicon??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871059)

...and also did the quote tag correctly ;-)

Says the noob with a 1.5MM+ UID. There is more than one way to format a quote here, asshat.

Re:Cryptonomicon??? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871161)

Perhaps the reviewer felt, as I did, that the only thrill in Cryptonomicon was returning it to the library.

Re:Cryptonomicon??? (1)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871435)

Digital Fortess, also by Dan Brown, is a year older than that and centers around cryptograpohy. Though it is Fiction.

slashdot editors must live in caves (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870477)

For believing these claims. WRONG!

Re:slashdot editors must live in caves (1)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870619)

Dude, if you know of a way to get Internet access in a cave let me know, because that would be totally sweet.

I'd totally register the domain stalac-site.

Re:slashdot editors must live in caves (2, Funny)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871233)

OSAMA?? Is that you??? I got this guy from the Government that is here to help you with your cave...

Re:slashdot editors must live in caves (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871333)

How about using tubes?

You could put stuff like wires in the tubes. Or just use them as waveguides.

Re:slashdot editors must live in caves (1)

jaysonsings (1608093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871199)

what claims?

Excuse me, but... (3, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870507)

Isn't "cryptographic thriller" an oxymoron?

Re:Excuse me, but... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870989)

Short Answer: "No"
Cryptographic Answer: "Ab"

Cryptographic Mystery, might be though.

Re:Excuse me, but... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871335)

I've been up for 2 days, scratch that... that's something else that I can't remember the word for...

But, still Cryptographic Thriller isn't an oxymoron, the thrill could be from deciphering what's encrypted, and something doesn't have to make sense, to be a thrill. Some drugs are like that, you don't *really* know WTF is going on chemically, or in general, but it's a thrill. There are some movies like that as well, on the first viewing, you get a couple glimpses of what the whole story might be, but it's not till the second (or more) viewing (deciphers) that it makes complete sense.

Why not a book?

fuckit, I'll go to bed.

What? (2, Insightful)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870511)

Imagine for a moment what his novels would read like if Dan Brown got his facts correct.

That's like asking me to imagine what an Agatha Christie novel would read like if no one committed a crime.

Re:What? (5, Funny)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870889)

Asking people to imagine a Dan Brown where he got his fact straight is closer to asking people to imagine what an Agatha Christie novel would read like if set in a postapocalyptic future where giant mutant weasels fight off vampire dogs aided by elves from a parallel universe, in a metaphor for the fifth century Roman Empire and the collapse of the Catholic church.

Performed as a play written in iambic pentameter, and directed by Spike Lee.

Re:What? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870983)

I represent a leading film firm, and I'd like to talk to you about optioning this script for a Summer 2011 release!

Re:What? (2, Funny)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871137)

You're going to have to talk to Agatha Christie's estate. The play is called 'The Mousetrap', it's been running for over 50 years in West End.

Re:What? (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871213)

Ever since I saw The Mousetrap, I've been very suspicious of Miss Marple's true reasons for always being there when someone has been murdered...

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871499)

She's a ghoul. She eats the dead.

As opposed to Poirot, who, of course, is a necrophiliac.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871009)

Oh man! I'd so pay money for that!

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871025)

And, just like a Dan Brown novel with correct facts, that sounds almost as awesome as it does improbable.

Re:What? (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871445)

Asking people to imagine a Dan Brown where he got his fact straight is closer to asking people to imagine what an Agatha Christie novel would read like if set in a postapocalyptic future where giant mutant weasels fight off vampire dogs aided by elves from a parallel universe, in a metaphor for the fifth century Roman Empire and the collapse of the Catholic church.

Performed as a play written in iambic pentameter, and directed by Spike Lee.

Which is, strangely enough, exactly what happens in the @$$clown's next novel!

Re:What? (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871599)

No, you're confused. The plotline itself isn't in the next novel.

His next novel, called 'The Play's The Thing', is about a lost Agatha Christie 'novel' (although actually a play) with that plot, secretly directed by Spike Lee at a theatre on 'Underground Broadway'.

It eventually turns out this Agatha Christie novel was used to send a message through time revealing who Shakespeare really was.

Spoiler: Shakespeare is really Arthur Miller, a fact the Actors' Equity Association has been covering up for 900 years.

Let's be fair (5, Funny)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870543)

While Brown seemingly lacks the scientific and academic background needed to write such fiction

Now, now, let's not leave out literary background from that list.

Re:Let's be fair (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870935)

And 'culture' background.

And 'human being' background, while we're at it. (Dan Brown is actually an AI feed by Usenet conspiracy and pseudoscience groups.)

Re:Let's be fair (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871467)

And don't forget the 'not having down's syndrome' background.

"World first?" (2, Informative)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870547)

brothke starts a sentence,

The book, which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller[...].

which of course isn't true. E.g., Cryptonomicon.

Re:"World first?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870585)

Crypto-who-i-what?

Re:"World first?" (1)

CByrd17 (987455) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870605)

Yes, exactly what I thought of first.

Re:"World first?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871095)

and Digital Fortress (by Dan Brown) which was... horrible.

Re:"World first?" (1)

jaysonsings (1608093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871281)

'which might' he wrote. so he is still technically correct. and besides the fact, Cryptonomicon is way tooo long!!! I got bored after the 8th repetition.

Re:"World first?" (1)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871305)

Digital Fortress (Dan Brown) has some cryptology thrills in it as well, a year prior to Cryptonomicon

Poor Dan Brown (4, Insightful)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870587)

I'm sure he's crying all the way to the bank. Maybe the reason he writes his books lacking technical authenticity is at least in part because that's what people want to read?

Re:Poor Dan Brown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870729)

I wasn't aware that people read science fiction to find out what was possible today....

Re:Poor Dan Brown (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870859)

Part of what makes the slashdot we know and love are those personalities driven to ignore the main point of something solely for the sake of pedantry. How can they enjoy a work of fiction when some of the facts are made-up?

Re:Poor Dan Brown (2, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871033)

Maybe the reason he writes his books lacking technical authenticity is at least in part because that's what people want to read?

That's what some people want to read. Hell, maybe even most people. But as long as there are enough people who want to read books with a technical gimmick where the technical part isn't complete gibberish, this one sounds like a good bet. Not every author has to write for every reader, you know? And the fact that Brown's books are popular doesn't make him immune from criticism.

Re:Poor Dan Brown (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871067)

Or maybe, they just don't care about authenticity in their fiction and it doesn't affect them either way.

Re:Poor Dan Brown (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871547)

I think he writes books lacking technical authenticity because fact checking and research are hard, expensive prospects and the vast majority of Americans are far to dumb to know the difference. Why spend a million dollars on extra research so you can sell a few thousand more copies to the few nerds who give a shit and can tell the difference?

Re:Poor Dan Brown (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871681)

Maybe the reason he writes his books lacking technical authenticity is at least in part because that's what people want to read?

As others here have pointed out, his books also lack literary quality... although say that is a bit like saying positrons lack negative charge. Brown's books are the popular antithesis of good fiction. His big hit--whose title I don't recall, thankfully--is a characterless episodic melodrama based on a wild sub-academic speculation regarding the nature of the Holy Grail. The crazy book he ripped the speculation off from is called "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail." [*]

Brown posits an hallucinatory world that has as much to do with actual academia as "House M.D" has to do with real doctors, without the faintly redeeming feature of Hugh Laurie talking with an American accent.

And people eat it up. If anyone tried to do the same sort of thing without the egregious stupidities that pepper Brown's work (my favourite: referring to Arabic as "Islamic", and claiming medieval Christian scholars used it as a language to hide secrets because they believed it already profane) they would not get the same readership because Brown is writing for the ignorant majority

It is a truism of writing that when a struggling but competent author sees a badly written best-seller and says, "I can write way better than that!" their work will never see the light of day, because publishers see "better than that" every day of the year. They don't buy it because they know it won't sell as well as garbage like Brown's. Trying to best Brown by improving literary and factual quality is like trying to best McDonald's by improving nutritional and aesthetic quality. That's not what people in that market are looking for.

So yeah, you're right: Brown is writing garbage because that's what people want to read, which is kind of sad (for them.)

[*] Aside: we know that there is up to a 25% chance that a baby will be fathered by someone other than the mother's pair-bonded mate. Even if the crazy speculation is true, therefore, after 100 generations there is conservatively a 1 - 0.9**100 = 99.9973% chance that any nominal progeny of Jesus would not actually be the progeny of Jesus, but the descendant of some lucky medieval interloper. And since Jesus' bother James, and later his nephew, lead the revolutionary Jewish organization Jesus founded, it is not clear why other family members would have to be hidden away, particularly as other people of nominally royal descent were always available to lead as well.

Re:Poor Dan Brown (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871809)

"And since Jesus' bother James, and later his nephew, lead the revolutionary Jewish organization Jesus founded, it is not clear why other family members would have to be hidden away, particularly as other people of nominally royal descent were always available to lead as well."

Don't you mean James along with Peter, John, Barnabas, Paul, etc.? :)

First cryptographic fiction? (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870617)

Imagine for a moment what his novels would read like if Dan Brown got his facts correct... The book, which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller

Imagine if the reviewer did some research before posting here. Bah! Why bother with even a simple search to see if there are any previous works which might be construed as fiction involving cryptography. You would think that Ben would at least recall Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. If that does not fit ones definition, there's a list suggested by Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

Re:First cryptographic fiction? (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871051)

Really, Cryptonomicon is heavilly based on fact. Very few of the deviations from the real world in said book were not highly deliberate (since all fiction requires deviation from the real world or they would not be fiction).

But it is rather how many novels make little or no attempt to follow the facts. But even worse is TV. Look at CSI. That is awful. Similarly 24 is pretty bad in terms of technology realism. One of the few shows I've seen that really tries is Burn Notice. They clearly have a staff of experts who assist in making the portrayal of technology, weapons, and explosives accurate. No GPS trackers that magically transmit the location to a computer. No hackers who magically break into things. Generally speaking none of the mistakes present in absolutely every episode of CSI, 24, or most other technology heavy fictional television programs.

If other shows tried as hard, many of these other programs would be significantly improved.

Fiction == Making shit up. (0)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870655)

Last time I checked, fiction IS making shit up, not making sure everything's 100% correct and accurate.

Asking what The Da Vinci Code would be like if the author got the facts right would be like asking what J.R.R. Tolkien's books would be like if he got the facts right.

Re:Fiction == Making shit up. (3, Insightful)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870795)

If you are going to weave history into your fiction or (even worse) if you are writing historical fiction, the actual facts you use should be checked and correct. There are rules to the game. Just as you cannot conjure up a ray gun in a work of fantasy or cast a spell in a hard SF novel (unless you're trying for some cross-genre thing) and not get laughed out of a publishing house, you aren't supposed to play particularly fast and loose on historical facts in a work that is supposedly historically based.

Re:Fiction == Making shit up. (2, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870969)

Dan Brown claims 99% correctness with the Da Vinci Code. I'm sure no one would care if he hadn't made that and similar claims.

Re:Fiction == Making shit up. (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871847)

Maybe he meant gramatically.

Re:Fiction == Making shit up. (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870979)

Tolkien did get the fact rights.

Which wasn't too hard as he invented those facts in the first place, but whatever.

Re:Fiction == Making shit up. (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871285)

Making up what is necessary to tell the story is very different from making everything up. The first is, pretty much, what all fiction writers do; the second is pure laziness.

Tolkien's an interesting example. How do you come up with a believable fantasy world? Well, for one thing, you create a history for it. The history you create has echoes of real history and/or well-known mythology, so it feels right to the reader. You populate your world with people who are products of that history, who live in a self-consistent world and react to their surroundings in believable ways. If you're really dedicated, maybe you even come up with meaningful, believable languages for them to speak. All of which, of course, Tolkien did -- and most fantasy authors don't, which is why poorly thought out sword-and-sorcery epics come and go all the time, while Tolkien's work endures.

In the case of fiction set in the more-or-less real world, it's both easier and harder. Easier, because most of the worldbuilding is already done for you; harder, because if you make a mistake, there are going to be a hell of a lot of people who know exactly where you went wrong. If you give a damn about your own work, you'll try to do the latter as little as possible, and put just as much effort into your background research as you do into characterization and plot. There are plenty of authors who just don't care, of course, and plenty of readers who don't either; that's their choice, but those of us who do care reserve the right to point and laugh.

Re:Fiction == Making shit up. (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871855)

Easier, because most of the worldbuilding is already done for you;

I don't believe authors ought to be involved in what's called "world building". :)

Correction: First Cryptographic Thriller (2, Informative)

SporkLand (225979) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870717)

Cryptonomicon [wikipedia.org]

Oh noes! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870727)

What has the world come to when we can't rely on our works of fiction for our facts! Oh, Discordia!

Re:Oh noes! (2, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871117)

Willing suspension of disbelief is easier when you aren't being asked to disbelieve everything you know all at once. In other words, no, people shouldn't rely on fiction for factual information. (Which doesn't stop people from doing it, as the constant "citations" of Gattaca and Jurassic Park in any /. discussion touching on genetics shows nicely.) But for a lot of readers, if the author comes up with a believable background, it makes the story itself a lot more enjoyable.

Dan Brown? (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870779)

Dan Brown is relevant to this review... how?

Imagine if Stephen King got his facts right about supernatural entities.... Sheesh. There's a reason it's called fiction. The non-fiction section is on the other side of the book store.

Re:Dan Brown? (1)

jaysonsings (1608093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871429)

the difference is that dan brown claims to write accurate historical fiction. Stephen King is pure science fiction.

Kindle Edition? (1)

1a1n (868356) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870881)

what sort of novel for geeks in 2009 does not have a Kindle edition? This one, i guess... bummer - i was going to buy it - now i'll forget. /i

Re:Kindle Edition? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871591)

Real geeks wouldn't touch a kindle with a 0x0a' pole?

Why do the credentials matter? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870897)

Many of you saw The Matrix, despite the people behind it lacking a degree in Artificial Intelligence. You all went and saw Transformers, and (might) have enjoyed it. And let's not get started on how many movies are gutted at Bad Astronomy... And yet, despite this, we watch them anyway and enjoy them, despite the technical inconsistencies and writers lacking in super-special-awesome credentials of doom. Odds are, if you're reading this, you don't have those credentials either.

P.S. Totally posted this from the console of a Gibson. :P

Re:Why do the credentials matter? (1)

jaysonsings (1608093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871607)

as others have posted, Dan Brown says that his fiction is closer to historical truth. that is the reason for the differnce.

Re:Why do the credentials matter? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871777)

Quite right (although I wouldn't see Transformers even on a dare.)

Better examples:
- William Gibson gleaned the "cyberspace" concept used in Neuromancer from a PBS special he saw on the future of computing.
- Kate Bush was inspired to write her groundbreaking hit "Wuthering Heights" after seeing the second-half of a BBC adaptation of the book (she read the book afterwords just to fact-check.)

There's to be sure loads of others.

It's called creative license (1)

DJRyanJ (1501989) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870909)

Brown freely admits that his books are not based entirely in fact. It's called creative license - the facts that Brown has written about weren't quite interesting enough to make his book a bestseller, so rather than that he modifies them a little bit for public consumption.

Re:It's called creative license (1)

fracai (796392) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871791)

Actually, Brown repeatedly contends that his books (at least The Da Vinci Code anyway) are one step away from history books. He has several times stated that the only fiction involved in The Da Vinci Code is the present day action surrounding the main characters. Everything else is claimed to be entirely accurate, including those "facts" which are easily shown to be poorly researched, misinterpretations, or debunked hoaxes.

First crypto thriller? (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#28870927)

the world's first cryptographic thriller

Cryptonomicon doesn't count as a cryptographic thriller? Perhaps I misunderstood the term. (Not that I'm claiming it's the first, just that it's the first thing that came to mind when I read "cryptographic thriller".)

Dear Slashdot Genii: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28870993)

Has any reader considered the possibility of the N.S.A. breaking public-keys?

Yours In Akademgorodok [youtube.com]
Kilgore Trout

Horrible Reviewer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871073)

The book, which might be the world's first cryptographic thriller, tells the story of Ambrose Jerusalem, a gifted computer security expert, still haunted by his father's death, a few months shy of his doctorate, who has a beautiful and loving girlfriend, and a bright future ahead of him.

Worst, sentence, ever.

This terrorist group is in the book is comprised of followers of Pythagoras.

Was this review written by a second grader? Non-English speaker? Why are you reviewing this book? Go learn English first.

and that's when my eyes started bleeding (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871109)

This terrorist group is in the book is comprised of followers of Pythagoras.

Did Yoda write this review??

imagine? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871145)

Imagine for a moment what his novels would read like if Dan Brown got his facts correct.

His novels would still read as though written by a cheap hack, whose best friend is cliché.

It's called "fiction" for a reason (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871149)

Since when does any work of fiction have to have the "facts" straight? A good story is a good story and what the "facts" are is entirely irrelevant. You might as well say, "Jules Verne's From The Earth To The Moon would be more interesting if he got his facts straight." Sheesh! go buy an imagination.

Reality check (1)

kaizendojo (956951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871267)

While Brown seemingly lacks the scientific and academic background needed to write such fiction, Juels has a Ph.D. in computer science from Berkeley and is currently the Chief Scientist and director at RSA Laboratories, the research division of RSA Security.

And while Juels is a Chief Scientist and director at RSA Labs, Dan Brown is a multimillionaire and is currently hanging out in his pool at his palatial mansion and dating smoking hot models and actresses.

So much for writing *accurate* fiction...

Re:Reality check (1)

jaysonsings (1608093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871523)

So do you mean to imply that wealth trumps truth?

Last time I checked (1)

SilverJets (131916) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871593)

The Da Vinci Code was fiction. Exactly what facts should the author of a work of fiction get straight?
If the morons that read that particular book took it for truth that's their problem not the author's.

plugin required? (1)

bokmann (323771) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871773)

If the author is smart enough to write about 'a gifted computer security expert', why does the video of the tektrakys require a plugin from Microsoft?

Re:plugin required? (1)

jaysonsings (1608093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28871895)

perhaps the ISP requires that?

CREATIVE LICENSE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28871799)

Dan Brown took liberty with Christianity using "creative license".

      To most here thats not a problem, in fact its a badge of honor, anything to distort, obfuscate or lie in order to plant new seeds and do their small part to inflict damage to win new agnostic, atheistic or anarchistic converts to their ranks.

    I dont have a problem with all of that as long as were following that lead and writing the same in regards to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and whatever fucking ism exists.

    How about Climatism?

    Oh but wait, if one were to write that book and make that movie they would either be a anti-semite, evil right wing gop christian conservative or a GW denier.

Thats the Slashtard Groupthink so fuck you all, your all fucking doomed anyway and I am enjoying watching the bottom fall out of your plexi-glass houses and the best part, YOU VOTED FOR THIS SHIT.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...