Forty-year-old atomic physicist Jason Dessen is living a normal life in present-day Chicago. Working as a undergrad physics professor, he lives in a brownstone with his wife and teenage son. Every Thursday evening, the family enjoys a home-cooked meal and spends time together. Sometimes, Jason and his wife ponder on what their lives could have been before their son—but Jason believes he has a life that he wouldn't give up for anything.
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Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
When the NSA's invincible code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant and beautiful mathematician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power. The NSA is being held hostage...not by guns or bombs, but by a code so ingeniously complex that if released it would cripple U.S. intelligence. Caught in an accelerating tempest of secrecy and lies, Susan Fletcher battles to save the agency she believes in. Betrayed on all sides, she finds herself fighting not only for her country but for her life, and in the end, for the life of the man she loves. From the underground hallways of power to the skyscrapers of Tokyo to the towering cathedrals of Spain, a desperate race unfolds. It is a battle for survival—a crucial bid to destroy a creation of inconceivable genius...an impregnable code-writing formula that threatens to obliterate the post-cold war balance of power. Forever. (catalog summary)
If you like technothrillers, like Digital Fortress, or thrillers in general, check out these titles as well:
9800 Savage Road: A Novel of the National Security Agency by M.E. Harrigan
In a tale inspired by events leading up to the September 11 attacks, a small team of intelligence analysts is horrified when satellite phone calls by Osama bin Laden are abruptly halted in the wake of a high-profile murder that marks the beginning of an escalating series of disasters. (catalog summary)
The Boost by Stephen Baker
Ralf is a software prodigy. He works in the US government office that updates the software in the population's boosts—networked supercomputers contained in a chip implanted within the brains of 99 percent of the world's population. Invented by Chinese researchers in 2032, the boost is credited with leading humanity to its most significant cognitive leap since the discovery of fire. Days before a national upgrade, Ralf notices that the update includes an open surveillance gate—meaning that Americans, who had negotiated high levels of privacy with the Chinese manufacturers, will now be subjected to the invasive Chinese standard. Ralf attempts to hack the boost, but is caught by agents working for Washington's preeminent lobbyist. His boost is ripped from his head, and Ralf barely escapes with his life. Pursued by the lobbyist's mercenary cadre, Ralf flees to the US-Mexico border, where there are others like him—"wild" humans on the fringes of society, unenhanced by technology. It's a frightening and backward world controlled by powerful drug lords. Ralf's only hope is to somehow work with these wild bosses of the analog world—in hopes of winning back freedom in the digital one. (catalog summary)
Let me get this out of the way: if you're not a "computer person," someone with more than a vague knowledge of computer networking technology, Brain Jack, by Brian Falkner, is probably not the book for you. If, however, you ARE such a person, Brain Jack will start off as the kind of thriller that you think you will love, but its ending, like so many other cyber-thrillers, feels rushed and absurd. Don’t get me wrong--you'll enjoy reading it, but don't expect anything too deep from this book.
Sam is the generic hero of our story. He's 17; he's a computer prodigy; and he's going to save the country from itself. The world of Brain Jack is set only a few years into our future. Falkner does a good job of building a world that, initially, is entirely conceivable based on our present. Computer technology is even more prevalent, and its consequences all the more potent. Las Vegas has been the victim of a nuclear attack that has left it in ruins, and the rest of the country is decaying under strict martial conditions.