Digital Fortress


by Dan Brown

published 1998

First off, I just want to take a moment to say you all of you beautiful WordPress people – I love you.  All of you are so friendly and encouraging, and even when we disagree we have such good conversations.  You all make me love book blogging.  I post all of these same posts over on my old book blog on tumblr, and yesterday’s Harry Potter post caused another tumblrer to go a bit ballistic on me – they created a counter-post explaining how everything I said was wrong, and they did it all while calling me names and using clever gifs to point out how stupid I am, and how I’ve obviously never actually read the Harry Potter books (because I have so much spare time to make posts about books I haven’t read!).  And, you know, it’s the internet so that was their prerogative, but still.  It just felt like we could have had a really engaging conversation about our two differing opinions, but instead the other poster started out by telling me that I’m a “f*ing idiot” who has never read the books and who is stupid and couldn’t understand the books even if I did read them.  When I created a post (because actually this wasn’t the only person to respond, they were just the most virulent) simply saying that it’s my blog and I can have my opinion, and others are welcome to disagree but shouldn’t expect me to engage with them if they start out by name-calling, they reposted it and said that I was just a whiny whiner who expects people to kiss my ass and only listen to opinions the same as mine.  All of this has made me feel very sad about book blogging today.

So anyway, the point is, I love hearing from all of you, and love hearing what you think, even when you disagree.  And I especially love the way that we can have great conversations without calling each other stupid idiots.  Thanks for listening to me whine.  You guys are great.

Okay!  Digital Fortress!  This book was actually reviewed by my blogging friend Sophie a while back.  Here’s the ironic thing – I wrote it down when she reviewed it, but I can’t remember anything she said about – I can’t even remember whether or not she liked it!  So I’m going to write my review, and then read hers before closing to see if there is anything awesome I missed!

I’ve never read a book by Dan Brown, and it was actually mildly funny to me that I got this book and it says that it’s the author of The Da Vinci Code, which I’ve never gotten around to reading (whoops).  So I came into this book without any real preconceived ideas of what to expect, especially since I couldn’t remember what it was in Sophie’s review that made me want to read it in the first place!

The book, set in its current time (so late 90’s), is actually about a top-secret and little-known branch of the American government…  the NSA.  (It was actually quite intriguing to read a story from before 9/11, before Snowden, before anyone really know what the NSA was all about.)  Susan is a cryptographer, and she works in a secret-secret department with a huge computer that reads every email, deciphering codes as it goes.  Our story begins because someone has created an unbreakable code, which could destroy the NSA’s ability to uncover secret information before it happens.

There was a lot going on in this book.  The story was gripping and fast-paced.  Such a delight to read a third-person narrative!  Susan is a fantastic protagonist.  She’s incredibly intelligent, brilliant at her job, and a complex individual. She’s also deeply in love with her fiancee, David, who spends most of the book overseas trying to find another piece to the unbreakable code.

Cons for me –

  • lot of killing.  Nothing dreadfully gruesome, but, let’s face it, lots of people die.  Almost everyone, really.  I’m not really a big fan of bloodbaths, and some of the people were killed for fairly minor reasons.  It was hard to get emotionally attached to anyone when I was afraid they would be dead in the next chapter.
  • While I loved the third-person narrative, Brown tends to jump perspectives a lot, and without really any warning.  So at one point we could be following one person’s thoughts, and then we switch to another person in the next sentence.  At times, it made the narrative a bit disjointed because of that little jolt that comes when you find yourself thinking, “Wait, who is ‘he’ exactly??”
  • Language/a bit of sex – nothing crazy, and nothing that really detracted from the reading for me, but I’m throwing it out there.  One scene in particular with a prostitute getting it on with her customer…  all just a set-up so we could kill them in the next scene…  it felt weird.  Definitely not a G-rated book.

Pros –

  • Short chapters.  I have a serious love/hate relationship with short chapters, because I can’t resist them.  Some of Brown’s chapters were only a paragraph or two long.  It’s like candy.  I couldn’t stop.
  • Susan.  I just really liked her.  I liked how she was strong, independent, and intelligent, but still very womanly.
  • PLOT TWISTS oh my gosh this was a great book for suddenly flipping everything upside-down.  Loved it.

All in all, this was a great read.  It was fast, exciting, and engaging.  It was the first book in a long time that I stayed up past midnight, elbowing my husband to make him stop snoring, just to finish it.  I literally could not go to sleep until I found out what happened.  An easy 4/5, and I’ll be looking for some more works by Dan Brown soon.

And hey – I just reread Sophie’s review (so much more coherent than mine lol) – and she liked it, too. So that’s two opinions – you definitely should give it a whirl.  ;-)