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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To make it or break it
This is the second book by Simon Singh, and he readily admits that he was surprised by the success of the first; 'Fermat's Last Theorem'. If you enjoyed that, then this will delight and entertain you, as well as lead you forward in an easy manner. There are some very complex ideas and processes encountered, yet each is tackled not as a whole, but as a series of small...
Published on 12 Aug 2004 by Mr P R Morgan

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad option for kindle
Do not buy it for kindle, I was really getting into the book but since it lacks most of the ilustrations I got really frustated, I dont think ill finish it, a real shame because it is is such an interesting book
Published on 28 Oct 2010 by Lui


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First class read, but with at least one silly mistake., 7 Dec 1999
This is a first class read. Very nice explanations throughout, and is highly recommended. The story about the codes behind the fate of Mary Queen of Scots was fascinating. Personally, I liked the discussion of modern stuff like the story about Zimmermann and PGP best of all, a really important subject in this computer age.
But one error in the book is directly silly, page 378: After talking about Linear A, Etruscan, and Iberian Pre-Roman script he says: "and the futhark runes from Scandinavia are equally unfathomable". I know very little about the first three alphabets, but as a Norwegian (and therefore Scandinavian), the last statement is indeed news. The name of the alphabet (futhark) itself implies that texts can be read, it is the first six letters in this (phonetic) alphabet ("th" is one sound, like in "this"). If you know some old-nordic (very close to modern Islandic, taught in Norwegian secondary schools) and memorize the sounds for each letter (see a good encyclopedia), you can read material like 8-900 year old messages found in excavations in my home town of Bergen in Norway without very much trouble. So much for being "unfathomable".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good for people keen to learn about cryptography., 15 Oct 1999
By A Customer
Great book to read, the mix between history detailing the different uses of ciphers and codes and the actual 'inner workings' of the ciphers throughout the ages really works. It's not often a book that crosses the boundary between a technical book and a novel and survives. The novel side of the book comes out well, with the history flowing nicely up to the present day, and through into the future. The technical side of the book only presents itself when needed and never really troubles the reader. It must be noted that it's not intended to give the full alogorithms for the ciphers so readers looking for that information may be dissapointed. On the whole a very good read, and the code challenge is a great idea
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad option for kindle, 28 Oct 2010
Do not buy it for kindle, I was really getting into the book but since it lacks most of the ilustrations I got really frustated, I dont think ill finish it, a real shame because it is is such an interesting book
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, disappointing Kindle edition, 5 Oct 2010
I'm not going to review the actual text itself here - there's enough other reviews talking about how excellent it is. Rather, I'll mention how disappointing the Kindle conversion of this title is: rather than having been specifically prepared for the Kindle, it seems the publishers simply scanned the print version and ran it through an OCR package. Incorrect characters abound in the text - for example, the letters "AT" get repeatedly used where a capital 'N' is intended in the section explaining RSA encryption. Also, most of the diagrams from the original text are missing, and where they are present, they are hard to read and flow badly with the text, often being several pages away from the text that refers to them.

It's a shame, because it's a truly excellent book, and the fact it's still readable despite all the errors and omissions is a testament to Singh's talent as a science communicator, but really, if this level of sloppiness and lack of care from publishers is what we can expect from Kindle editions in the future, it is a disappointing future indeed.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Read, 4 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking (Paperback)
The author manages to combine history, maths and cryptography, all "dry" subjects, into one very entertaining ride through the world of the cryptographer. As a total novice I found that the explanations were clear and the book set at the right level. This is not a textbook, it is a very entertaining read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendous book worth every penny., 26 Jan 2000
I bought this book with some intrepidation from a personal Amazon recommendation. What an absolute revelation. As someone who has only a rudimentary understanding of codes, ciphers and mathematics, the book presented what could have been a dull sequence of essays into a bright, interesting and, most of all, enjoyable history of codes and their place in society. I defy anyone to read this book and not contemplate the possibilities of 'cracking' today's so called unbreakable codes - do they not learn from history!
Simon Singh weaves the complex business of encryption and decryption of information with historic events starting with Mary Queen of Scotts through to todays Internet security. The book builds from the first principles of coding information and when the reader finally arrives at internet security (PGP, RSA etc..) they have a good foundation to understand how it all works.
The predication of the future, and what this may hold for the code makers and breakers is at first glance pure science fiction. Further reading though shows that this is not a mere 'finger in the air' view, but based on well founded theory that may be closer than we think (though Michael Crichton's Timeline does seem to be taking it a bit to far!)
The cipher challenge is still underway and has a good following on the net, though cracking code 10 will probably result in more than 10,000 (a phone call from GCHQ anyone?). I am sure for the purist David Kahn's offering is a must have over The Code Book, however for someone wanting a great lead in to the subject and is not in the know, then The Code Book is a must have first buy! (it's considerably cheaper too).
In todays information society, this is a must have. Next up Fermats Last Theorem....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very easy to read but very hard to put down!, 6 Jan 2000
By A Customer
'Excellent. Best book I have read for ages.' is an opinion that is held by everyone I know who has borrowed it. Apart from the chapter about hyrogliphics it is simply fantastic. Simon Singh's style make the job of understanding complex theories a great deal easier, far from being a dry account of codes and cyphers it is a gripping read. Excellent, if you are at all interested in cyphers you must buy it! A word of caution though: dont lend it out, its hard to get back!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book on the history of codes and ciphers, 11 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This is a very readable book that gives an entertaining and fascinating insight into the world of codes and ciphers (particularly its impact in politics and military). It is light reading unlike most cryptography books, which usually have a great deal of maths, and is full of intruiging stories on how codes and ciphers have affected history upto the present day. I enjoyed reading this book.
Simon Singh has a real talent for explaining potentially complicated sciences in a simpler and interesting manner. I would recommend this book to crossword or puzzle enthusiasts and anybody who likes to learn a little about interesting scientific fields. This book does a fine job without assuming too much about the reader.
I would like to point out that this book is probably not specially intended for computer programmers or professional cryptographers and hence I disagree with the Amazon.co.uk reviewer who critisised the book for not referring to 'Applied Cryptography' - there is no comparison since both books serve completely different purposes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A poor man's "The Codebreakers", 12 Jan 2000
By A Customer
An emminently readable book, as per Singh's other work. Rather remarkably, he has again succeeded in balancing a meandering stroll through history with technical details, and the book hardly suffers through the inevitable holes in both. Particularly fascinating, from my point of view as lowly comp.sci. student, was the detour into the solving of ancient scripts.
As a gift for anyone with a burgeoning interest - or anyone else, for they would surely develop an interest - this is ideal, and is how I came to have a copy.
There are other, more expensive, books dealing specifically with the history or science of ciphers: Singh clearly admires David Kahn's seminal "The Codebreakers"; while F.L Bauer's "Decrypted Secrets - Methods and Maxims of Cryptology", for example, concisely examines the nuts and bolts.
From the same school as "Longitude" and "Fermat's Last Theorem", what I'm saying is that, were it my own money, I'd have waited for the paperback.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read......think, read......think, read......think, 27 July 2000
This review is from: The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking (Paperback)
Truly excellent. I would thoroughly recommend "The Code Book" for those who don't wish to read their books passively. It could well be the solution to your "'difficult to buy for at Christmas' relatives/friends" poser.
Even if you have no interest in the title, trust me, just buy it and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Through my job I know first-hand how difficult it is to present technical information in lay-man's terms but Simon Singh seems to cope with admirable ease. Despite (as I understand it) having no background in the subject of 'code making and breaking' before turning his hand to authoring this book his enthusiasm shines through, almost willing the reader to share the same admiration and respect which he obviously has for the techniques he describes and the discoverer(s) of such. His writing style means that you constantly feel involved.
This is the 3rd book I have read on the (loose) subject of crytpography in the past few months, a subject I got into almost by accident but continued with as I was spurred on by constantly stopping to think about what I had just read and inevitably thinking "Wow! That's clever! and even though I understand it I would never have thought of it myself in a million years". Simon Singh's book is the best of the 3 as it strikes a perfect balance between breadth of content and delivery. It is much more mainstream than his previous effort "Fermat's Last Theorem" (which incidentally was also excellent even if the maths got pretty heavy in places).
I look forward to his next book.
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The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking
The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking by Simon Singh (Paperback - 6 May 2002)
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