This week we’re inviting you to enter our cipher challenge for a chance to win an official Soho Press “thrundle” (see picture right). Crafted by author James Lilliefors, each cipher is inspired by his new bio-weapon thriller Viral. You needn’t have read the books to solve, but we certainly encourage you to check it out! Please send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Viral” and we’ll announce winners soon!
A four-word phrase that Charles Mallory uses in Viral is a play on a common cliché. What is that phrase (hint: one of the words is “numbers”)?
(Four words, Rail Fence Cipher)
One of the guiding ideas behind the group that is driving the conspiracy in Viral is described in two words toward the end of the book. These are revealed in a conversation between Charles Mallory and his CIA liaison. What are those two words (hint: another way of saying it might be “defectless duplicity”?)
(Two words, Rail Fence Cipher)
A note from author James Lilliefors on ciphers:
Codes and ciphers have played an important role in world history since ancient times–from Julius Caesar’s “displacement” cipher to Nazi Germany’s notorious Enigma code to the seemingly unbreakable quantum encryption that is currently being developed. Interestingly, as ciphers have become increasingly sophisticated, simpler means of stealth communication–such as that employed by al Qaeda before 9/11–have been used to bypass multi-billion-dollar signals interception systems. I’ve been interested in codes and ciphers since I was a kid, when I used to trade coded messages with friends.
In Viral, ciphers become the means through which Charles and Jon Mallory are able to communicate without being detected. Although the ciphers Charles sends to Jon are not inherently complex, he uses keys that are known only by the two of them–based on childhood experiences, for instance–making their communiqués much more difficult to break. The ciphers become something of a metaphor for the complicated and distant relationship between the two brothers.