Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Tetraktys is the Best Cryptographic Novel Ever

I’ve been remiss in not posting a review of Tetraktys, by Ari Juels. Short review: It’s better written and has better cryptographers than the ones in any Dan Brown novel, but that’s really damning it with faint praise, which it doesn’t deserve.

It’s a highly readable first novel by Ari Juels, who is Chief Scientist at RSA Labs. The story is about a cryptographer who discovers an ancient plot involving a secret conspiracy. The ending is a little Stephenson-esque, insofar as it’s abrupt, but I got the feeling that that was authorial intent, not accident.

I enjoyed it, but since I don’t review a lot of fiction, I’m a bit unsure what to say about it. Is it better than Cryptonomicon? It depends how you weigh value per word. I was jolted into writing a short review by the new FTC rules, because I both bought a copy and was given one. I read the one I bought when Ari launched the book at RSA last year, and after I’d read it (but months ago) his publisher sent me a copy. Oh, and Ari’s employer has bought me dinner, but not in the last year. Finally, the link to the book is a non-affiliate link as far as I know. But given the complex messiness of Amazon linkage mechanisms, I’m actually unsure.

Since I haven’t read the copy I was given, and I already had a copy, was I really given anything?

As regular readers know, I regularly disclose such things and have since I started this blog. But as this example shows, putting long and complex rules in place will never cover the messy and emergent chaos which is the world in all its glory.

Anyway, you should buy a copy and read Tetrktys.