Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Review: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
Dan Brown's books are great if you're looking for a page-turning read. They are provocative, move along rapidly and often give readers the illusion that they are actually learning something (which is exactly what it is, an illusion). However, make sure you take breaks between Brown's books - his writing stile tends to get repetitive and you can almost identify the twists and turns as soon as you read the first pages.
Digital Fortress tells the story of a sexy, young cryptographer Susan Fletcher. Susan works for the National Security Agency, an organization that deals with preventing acts of terrorism and crime by decoding digital information. One day, she is stunned to find out about the latest code, nicknamed Digital Fortress, which seems unbreakable. The code presents a threat to worldwide peace, and it is up to Susan and a number of Brown's other characters to stop it from leaking.
This is an exciting thriller, of course. The titillating dilemma it introduces is whether affairs of the state are more important than people's privacy (this is a real-world issue, read more about it here). However, Brown doesn't linger too much on these philosophical issues. Rather, he is more interested in writing a complex story, where everyone may be a hypocrite and where betrayal lurks around every corner.
I wish the author paid more attention to his characters, as well as his moral contemplations. This way, everything plays out exactly the way you expect it to (and even if you don't, it is still far from shocking) and although all the loose ends are pretty much tied up in the finale, the book leaves you a bit hollow. The motivations of certain characters are forgotten halfway through the novel and the plot seems really too convoluted at times. This is especially evident in the epilogue, which may make some readers cringe.
All in all, Brown is great if you want to read about a potentially-devastating conspiracy, but he is all too eager to jump in on the action. However, he should receive credit for writing a book on algorithms, binary codes and all other sorts of techie stuff and still make it accessible to the general public.