22 July, 2011

Cryptographically questionable ~ exciting plot, though.

Digital Fortress

Dan Brown

We found all of Dan Brown’s books in the library when The Da Vinci Code first came out and caused a furore, and borrowed and read them, so i have read this previously; nevertheless, it was fun to go back and take another look at it, seeing what i remembered from before, and what i could work out as i was going along. Result? Brown provides an exciting read, as he can certainly plot with the best of them ~ so long as plausibility is not essential, and it’s not always, to be fair ~ though he does tend to use and reuse substantial elements of the one plot in each book.

The point i found most frustrating about Digital Fortress was the way that Brown chose to explain his background; an author does have a problem when something outside the experience of the majority of his projected readers is essential to the point of the story and, the more so as, in this case, it subsequently enters that experience. Brown’s plot focusses on computer codes and privacy and the ability of the NSA to break the latter by means of their expertise with the former. What Brown does is use his main character to help the reader understand codes: She realises and suddenly understands and so on things which she would have had no puzzlement about at all if she were really the cypher and code expert, but Brown has to explain to the reader about code keys and viruses and so forth; i think, though, he chose the wrong way to make his explanations, as i found myself irritated each time Susan needed something explaining she should have known ~ like a biologist needing to be reminded about sex when wondering why animals are in pairs. Trivial point, perhaps, but it did affect my reading experience.

All in all, as with each of Brown’s books, i found that the plotting is excellent, if extreme or a tad unbelievable, the characters are acceptable, though not of the same level, and the writing itself is very average, with much that does not recommend it. A shame.

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