Book - 2014
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Decoded tells the story of Rong Jinzhwen, one of the great code-breakers in the world.

A semi-autistic mathematical genius, Jinzhen is recruited to the cryptography department of China's secret services, Unit 701, where he is assigned the task of breaking the elusive 'Code Purple'. Jinzhen rises through the ranks to eventually become China's greatest and most celebrated code-breaker; until he makes a mistake. Then begins his descent through the unfathomable darkness of the world of cryptology into madness.

Decoded was an immediate success when it was published in 2002 in China and has become an international bestseller. With the pacing of a literary crime thriller, Mai Jia's masterpiece also combines elements of historical fiction and state espionage. Taking place in the shadowy world of Chinese secret security, where Mai Jia worked for decades, it introduces us to a place that is unfamiliar, intriguing and authentic. And with Rong Jinzhen, it introduces us to a character who is deeply flawed and fragile, yet possessing exceptional intelligence. Decoded is an unforgettable and gripping story of genius, brilliance, insanity and human frailty.

'An absolute joy to read.' The Economist

'Subtle and psychologically focused...... the central story is a gripping leaves you eager to read more of his work.' Alexander Larman, The Observer

'A mixture of Kafka and Agatha Christie...... This book is more about Jiang 'decoding' himself than breaking enemy encryption. It is an autobiography operating under the cover of spy fiction - and an utterly fascinating read...... Olivia Milburn's translation is superb.' Edward Wilson, The Independent

'The novel shines in its consideration of the ambiguous difficulties of living with such brilliance...... Decoded is compelling for its tightly wrought aphorisms, elegantly turned in Olivia Milburn's translation. ...... Decoded is an engaging and highly unusual read...... ' Sunday Independent

'The book's subtle ambiguity is extended to its own conclusion, the decoding of which the reader is compelled to take part in. As for the shrewd, poetic, baffled figure at the heart of this maze, Rong Jinzhen comes to perceive the yin and yang of a cosmic order offering not much consolation.' Wall Street Journal

'Strongly recalls One Hundred Years of Solitude , only this time with the tapestry stitched in silk...... ' Sunday Business Post Magazine

'Decoded is a subtle and complex exploration of cryptography, politics, dreams and their significance...... There is much of interest in this book, from the strange, superstitious beginning to the gradual decline of the Rong family as the twentieth century progresses...... But in the end, it's the complexity of the characters that is Decoded 's enduring pleasure.' LRB

Publisher: London : Allen Lane, 2014.
ISBN: 9780141391472
Characteristics: 315 p.
Additional Contributors: Milburn, Olivia


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Sep 18, 2015

Interesting in that it deals w/ horrific conditions that exist in North Korea.

Apr 08, 2014

This book is worth a read for multiple reasons: Chinese history, language as it reflects a culture, and a good story.
This is the first book I have read that is a translation from Chinese. I assume that the translator has tried to maintain how something is expressed in Chinese when rendering it into English as I found the phrasing, name epithets, and repetition of ideas interesting and quite different from, say, English translations from European languages. Chinese history and culture form a subtext that drives characters' behaviours and the plot. For example, the multi-generational history of the protagonist's family takes up at least a quarter of the book before he is even introduced as it is important to understand where he comes from. The story is interesting. It unfolds slowly at its own pace, but is never dull. An appreciation of mathematics will add to one's enjoyment of the book, but is not necessary.

aemacleod Apr 02, 2014

Enjoyable, accessible story. It reads cinematically, almost like a screenplay, and I couldn't help but think of films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero" as I read, especially towards the end. The book is philosophically heavy handed at times, and it's obviously written for a nationalist audience, but the story is strong and the picture the author paints of recent Chinese culture kept me turning the pages.

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