on 15 January 2001
I was somewhat daunted when I first glanced at this book, as a reader of 'popular' titles on cryptology I was somewhat baffled by the mathematics. After reading carefully, though, I found that the maths was logical and well presented and it led me by the hand until I could feel long-atrophied brain cells last dusted off in school reawakening. It seems that books on cryptology fall into three classes. If you want to read about history and understand the basics then 'The Codebreakers', 'Seizing Enigma', 'The Code Book' and 'The Emperors Codes' are definitely the way to go. If you're a serious academic mathematician then there are journals and textbooks that should be read in detail. If, like me, you're somewhere in the middle, becoming interested in the way modern codes actually work within your computer then this is an excellent introduction and very legible. It is clearly intended as an academic primer (there are questions at the end of each chapter) and this doesn't harm it at all. The book was published too late to reveal the winner of the AES cometition, which is a shame since a complete description of Rijndael would have been most welcome but there are descriptions of DES and RSA among many others and a very good description of Elliptic-curve encryption.
This is a fairly technical book and I wouldn't have wanted it to be more so, but I am not a mathematician and the way this book is paced I didn't need to be.
If you are frightened of equations then this really won't make you happy but if you're comfortable with algebra and can dredge up some primitive calculus from the depths of your past then the book will guide you into the more complicated areas with gentle ease.