Enigma Cipher

With Enigma Cipher, Boom! Studios adds another exciting movie-style thriller to its library.

Enigma Cipher cover
Enigma Cipher
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Writers Andrew Cosby and Michael Alan Nelson tell the story of Casey, a grad student on the run. Her professor claims to have discovered a previously unknown message encrypted by Enigma, the World War II Nazi code machine. He asks the team to come up with a method to break the cipher, which seals their fate. Soon, everyone but Casey is dead, and she’s being chased by mysterious assassins as well as the police.

I was disappointed that so many of the other students were knocked off so soon. (I’m not spoiling anything; this all happens in the first eight pages.) There were some interesting personalities and interactions hinted at. That’s how accomplished the writers are with dialogue, quickly developing their characters so they’re a little more than pure cannon fodder.

Although set at a university, this is not an intellectual story. Early on, there’s a narrow escape in which one shooter asks another, “How the hell did you miss that shot?” The response, “Just shut up and get her!” sums up the chase scene mentality. Just hang on for the ride, and forgive the writers their machinations. You’re rooting for Casey’s survival as she finds herself in an unimagined, impossible situation. There’s a lot of reader involvement, wondering “what would I do in a case like this?” Realism isn’t the point — the rushed double-double-cross ending makes that clear — energy is.

Greg Scott illustrates in a modern noirish mode with elongated faces, as though watching big-screen images projected down to the smaller size of this book. Everything’s slightly gauzy, with the feel of viewing through a voyeur’s lens. The fast-paced action is the final movie element; it’s all quite an adventure. And a quick read, with almost the speed of an American manga, where adrenaline drives the reader onward just to find out what happens next. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)


4 Responses to “Enigma Cipher”

  1. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says: “…Her professor claims to have discovered a previously unknown message encrypted by Enigma, the World War II Nazi code machine. He asks the team to come up with a method to break the cipher, which seals their fate…”

    Lemme guess, the class is in the history department and the professor got creative with the syllabus instead of only assigning essays and giving exams? Cool. :)

    Claire Ellis, in “Exploring the Enigma,” plus, March 2005, Says:

    “…The work at Bletchley Park

    “Fortunately for the British codebreakers, in the years running up to the war Poland had worked on various techniques for cracking Enigma. Shortly before the German invasion of Poland, they shared their work with their British allies. Poland’s government was the first to employ mathematicians as code-breakers, and the mathematicians’ logical minds proved to be just what was needed to tackle Enigma.

    “This vital headstart from the Polish, coupled with the unique problem-solving and intuitive thinking skills of Bletchley’s recruits, meant that Enigma was cracked in early 1940 a reliable technique for cracking Enigma was established. The British code breakers worked in shifts around the clock for the whole of the war, using paper and pencil as well as newly invented mechanical techniques to work out the particular Enigma machine settings for each and every single day.

    “Unwittingly, the Germans themselves helped the British to decipher the Enigma. For example:
    * Messages often began with the same opening text – many began with the word Spruchnummer (Message Number), and many Air Force messages began with the phrase An die Gruppe (To the Group).
    * Messages often enciphered routine information such as weather reports and phrases such as Keinebesondere Ereignisse (Nothing to report).
    * Messages often ended with Heil Hitler!
    * The Germans often transmitted the same message more than once, with each version enciphered differently.

    “These lapses provided the codebreakers with clues, called cribs, about how the Enigma machines had been set up on that day. These cribs were essential for breaking the ciphers. For example, without a crib it would still take several months today to decipher an A4 page of ciphertext using a modern PC with trial and error methods.

    “However, the cribs alone were not enough. The codebreakers at Bletchley Park developed new procedures and algorithms for determining the set-up of the Enigma and also had to develop electronic computing devices to implement these methods.

    “Today, historians believe that the work of the code breakers at Bletchley Park shortened the war by two years…”

  2. Johanna Says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing all that!

  3. Hsifeng Says:

    You’re welcome! :) When I read the review, it reminded me of history class and I thought “wait a minute, wasn’t Enigma cracked during the war?” then double-checked. My teachers didn’t give us any reenact-Bletchley-Park assignments, though. :/

  4. Hsifeng Says:

    BTW, I thought you might like this article:

    Bletchley Park WWII archive to go online” by Dhruti Shah, BBC News, 2:57 GMT, Saturday, 5 June 2010 3:57 UK.

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