Reading order of his novels: Digital Fortress, Angels and Demons, Deception Point, and The Da Vinci Code
Last night, I completed Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress, the fourth Dan Brown’s book in my reading order. His thrillers are characterized by a day or so time span during which his main storyline unfolds. Generally, his heroes and heroines have to wait almost the whole book before they can go to bed again (sometimes on different ones) after they get up close to midnight or in the early morning. One of his heroes Robert Langdon, in two thrillers, all starts with a rude wakening by phone rings at ugly hours and then checks his clocks, “groaning and dazed”, before reluctantly getting up.
As I read it, among the four thrillers (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, Deception Point, and Digital Fortress, in my reading order), his earliest one, Digital Fortress, the last one in my reading order, is the most stupidly written.
I doubt that Dan Brown himself was convinced by the ridiculous behaviors of his brainchildren. The story begins with the hero David being sent in an early morning to Spain in search of a mysterious ring, which spoils a planned romantic stay with his girlfriend, the heroine Susan, in a mountain resort that day.
Susan works for National Security Agency, a secretive U.S. code-breaking unit that intercepts communications around the world and stores top-class U.S. intelligence and all the U.S. engineering blueprints, atomic bomb designs, trade secrets, and everything in the world’s bestest database consisting of an enormous army of servers. Fontaine, the first-in-command of NSA is foolish enough to let Strathmore, the second-in-command, carry out a fishy yet seemingly well-intended scheme to publish a tampered algorithm (Digital Fortress) with a backdoor built in for the use of the unsuspecting world code-writing community.
Sadly, it turns out that Strathmore is just trying to get rid of David, the boyfriend of Susan, so that he can develop a love relationship with her and that the Digital Fortress Dan Brown has tried so hard to sell to his readers is in fact a clever, ruthless computer virus. Things go awry when the eager, deaf assassin Strathmore hires fails to kill David and Strathmore unknowingly and pig-headedly (so stupid for his position in one of the world’s most intelligent organizations) feeds the virus into the array of servers that store everything that makes the U.S. what it is.
Apart from the storyline, his descriptions of code-breaking, digital attacks and defenses, email tracing, computing languages and so on are simply unconvincing. Reading the novel is a little like watching a purportedly top-grade computer hacker who has to routinely check his keyboard when typing or uses an Internet Explorer with a local link in the address bar to supposedly browse an Internet site.
The best thriller in the box set is, of course, The Da Vince Code, which made Dan Brown. But my favorite is Deception Point. It’s clear that Dan Brown has did enough homework before writing this one. He presents a convincing, brainy, and exciting venture at a faster pace than that of The Da Vinci Code, whose characters often sit, talking, reading, reading, thinking, thinking, talking. Angels and Demons starts as the revenges of an old cult resurrected, which turns out to be a stupid blunder of a high-rank Catholic official.
Bad or good with his stories, Dan Brown gives everyday and intelligent language in his books that can serve as good materials for me to hone my translation skills.