Rating: 3.5/5

Genre: Non-Fiction

No. Pages: 350

ISBN: 9781857028898

Humans have been using codes for thousands of years to send each other secret messages. But with code-makers come code-breakers intent on deciphering and stealing information. Simon Singh provides a brief history of how codes have developed into the modern day.

Whilst cryptography is a sector that mathematicians are heavily involved in, The Code Book definitely does not include any explicit or difficult maths. Singh details how various codes from a simple Caesar cipher to RSA cryptography are created and how they were broken (that is, if they can be broken). Everything is very simply explained and Singh also uses clear diagrams to accompany his explanations as well as easy-to-follow examples.

This is combined with a very detailed historical context detailing the evolution of code-making and code-breaking. I would say that this book is more history than cryptography which I found to be more appealing because it told a story.

My favourite section is the part which details how the Nazi’s enigma code was broken during World War Two. Military cryptography fascinates me because being able to read enemy messages and being able to send secret ones was literally a matter of life and death. The history of this is really interesting particularly before computers were used to encrypt everything because there was a bigger element of risk whereas it is thought that some computer encryptions used now are unbreakable.

In addition to this, Singh offers some speculation on the future of cryptography and whether it is better to protect the average person’s freedom via encryption or to help tackle crime by being able to decryp communications. Singh provides both sides of the argument allowing you to form your own opinion and talking about points you may not have thought about before. I like a book that makes you think (but not too much) and this does that.