The Cipher: John Ford
What would you do if you could hack into someone’s emails, credit cards, stock trades, government secrets and nuclear codes? What would you do if your father created a business that could do just that and more? Robert “Smiles” Smylie might not be the brightest light bulb on the technological block but he’s smart enough to know a good thing when it falls into his lap. A father who is a genius and software mogul and a girlfriend who is extremely smart, genius you might say and an autistic neighbor named Ben, a math nerd, together battle some dangerous situations, attend a conference that will change all of their lives forever. Within this plot there are many subplots as we learn more about Smiles, his past and the fact that on his 18th birthday he came into 7 million dollars. Meeting with his Dad’s appointed attorney and overseer of the trust he learns about a letter and package from his ailing dad that the lawyer is to give him at their meeting. But something is not right and when he questions Mr. Hunt about the letter and the package he claims no knowledge of one and destroying the other. But, this won’t stop him or his friend Melissa who happens to be the daughter of the lawyer who learns more about her father that leads her to a suicide that starts the book of a man named Andrei who supposedly committed suicide, worked for his father’s company and was passing documents to the Russians. Added in he learns that the letter was from his birth mother and Melissa learns that there’s a link to this man and Smiles’ stepmother Rose. Looking into her files, Melissa finds some interesting emails that were sent from Rose to her father. The plot thickens as she investigates further, checks out Andrei’s house and learns that someone is watching the house and an investigation is underway. Why? She was not told.
Smiles is determined to attend the same conference as Ben and when the speaker approaches the podium he is stunned to see that it’s his birth mother who rejected him and left him at age 2. But, Ben’s reaction to what she says is nothing compared to what happens when he realizes that he cracked an ancient, real-life riddle necessary to modern data encryption systems and now he can hack into anything. Imagine having the power to unlock, unleash and access every electronic secret in the world. Rather than leave it to the NSA and the authorities, Smiles decides to capitalize on the finding in a different way. Did Ben really figure out how to fast-factor the product of two primes? The author and Ben explain what he was able to do in Chapter 46. What would happen if Smiles’ father’s company could be hacked into. What would happen if anything encrypted by Alyce or any other company that sues public key cryptography could be decoded? Encryption as he learned at the conference does not just protect credit card numbers. Encryption is how “ they keep everything on computer networks secure.” What would happen if you made a stock transfer, wire transfer, bought airline tickets, and other transactions and learned that what you did was not secure? What about our water systems, nuclear power plants and the stock market? Was Ben right when he told Smiles that the government would consider it an instrument of war?
At the Cyyptcon conference Smiles falls prey to the wiles of a young girl named Erin. Not focusing on the matter at hand he lets his guard down and reveals too much information. Added in his old girlfriend Melanie who does some research and investigating on her own as she learns something about the identity of the man who killed himself, why and the truth behind what appears to be someone who betrayed America and sold documents to the Russians. A sting that you won’t see coming and a twist that you will never get as Smiles learns the truth behind why his mother left him, the hard cold facts from a professor named Worth, the confrontation with Melanie’s dad and the secrets that no one wanted revealed.
Smiles thinks he has it all figured out when two men claiming to be government agents kidnap Ben and hold him for a 7 million dollar ransom. Not thinking about his trust he finds a way to deliver what might be his biggest mistake ever. A notebook that tells it all. Where is it and what will be revealed as he and Erin, the girl he meets at the conference race the clock to save Ben.
As Melanie learns who the players really are and Smiles’ dad passes away decisions have to be made, the company is now his and lives will never be the same. Just how easy is it for your private information to become public? What about the IPO? Will they go ahead with it? What happens when Smiles learns the hidden truths about his father’s company? Who was the genius who invented the encryption code used to secure every website in the world?
The descriptions and explanations about public-key cryptography are explained in detail and what really keeps this reviewer glued to the printed page. The pacing of the novel is fast, quick with each character carrying his or her own weight, vividly depicted and each personality unique to that character. Smiles is determined, smart, kind, confidant and definitely someone you want for a friend. What happens when he learns the truth about Alyce Systems from someone you would never expect? What happens when his ex-girlfriend learns a harsh truth about her own father? Trust, loyalties, family values, insecurities, revenge, love and determination are just some of what is brought to light within this novel.
A cipher: A secret or disguised way of writing a code. What is the key to this code? What is the real reason that Andrei Tarasov killed himself? Was he really a traitor to our country? Did he really betray Robert Smiles Sr.? What is the truth behind the discovery? What really happened when Smiles was on the phone with the two NSA agents? What really happened? When the truth is revealed and a note is delivered to Smiles will he follow his heart or will he use his instincts to see the truth? Who will run Alyce? What is next for Smiles? Who wins? Who loses? Only author John C. Ford knows as we all hope he is going to write the next chapter for Smiles. For anyone that wants to learn more about encryption, the latest in technology this book is a great resource and motivator for young adults and teens. Just how safe is your information?
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
Let’s give this novel: Five Golden Public Keys