Digital Fortress – Dan Brown

I have Jeff Lindsay and Dan Brown to blame for reading this book.  With the release of Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol so near, his other novels are in the forefront of everyone’s thoughts again.  What better to wet the palate with than one of his other novels.  I’ve read Deception Point, Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons already so there wasn’t much left to read.  Even so, I would not have opened this book had it not been for the release of Dexter by Design, Jeff Lindsay’s latest book.


On a warm September day – last Wednesday to be precise – I walked into Chapters to buy the latest tale of Dexter’s dastardly doings.  After acquiring said book I proceeded to the counter to pay for it, stopping to browse some of the other books.  Nothing much appealed to me until I was standing at the table that forms the serpentine queue for the cashiers.  There, to my complete unsurprise was a display of Mr. Brown’s other novels in paperback form.  As I have the other three novels already, there was only one left to read, and thus it wound up as part of my purchase.  Now I have read that book, but Dexter is sitting abandoned on my bookshelf, trapped until I’ve read through other books written by authors whose names hold a more advanced place in the alphabet.


Every time I read Brown’s books I’m reminded of how enjoyable they are, but of how little literary value they have.  Yes, he writes about things that do require some brains to comprehend (i.e. art history, religion, cryptography, science) but it isn’t like he’s writing to be technically accurate.  I think he’s accurate inasmuch as it suits his story and then he branches off on his own.  I don’t have a problem with this given the fact that its fiction, but I do have a problem with Mr. Brown going about saying that things are accurate when they certainly are not!


But that discussion is for another book.


Digital Fortress tells the tale of NSA cryptographer Susan Fletcher and her fiance who get dragged into a high-adrenaline security scam that comes very close to revealing all of America’s intelligence to the world.  Such atrocity is averted in the end by some fortuitous observation.  All I have to say is it is a good thing that the NSA has spies everywhere.


I’ve only read each of Brown’s books once so I can’t speak of them with as much authority as I can of my Harry Potter books., but one thing I find extremely aggravating is the good luck all of his characters have.  If they get shot it is only a flesh wound; if they need to find someone seemingly impossible to find that person just happens to cross their path (or someone who knows that person does).  I will be the first to say that I’m all for good fortune, but this seems more contrived than usual for a fiction novel.


One of the enjoyable things in Brown’s books is how well he’s able to incite potential controversy with the merest whisper of accuracy.   People were up in arms over the idea that Jesus might have married and had a child!  Deception Point focused on the ineptitudes of NASA, and brought up the oft questioned expense of the space agency.  These are intriguing conundrums, certainly, but but I think that they are far too often used as a ploy to sell books and then used arbitrarily to insight public outcry.  Why, I ask any readers out there, is it that Brown gets slandered for the mere idea that Jesus had a child while Philip Pullman can kill God in his His Dark Materials trilogy and receives little or no comment.  That sounds like marketing to me, rather than piety.


In essence, Dan Brown’s books are well-written for general enjoyment but forever have the taint of contrived controversy surrounding them.  That said, will I continue to read Dan Brown?


Of course!


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