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Digital Fortress - Dan Brown
Member Name: UK1981_female
Digital Fortress - Dan Brown
Advantages: Unique storyline, fast-paced, good ending
Disadvantages: A bit messy at times
I had started reading 'Digital Fortress' by Dan Brown about a year ago, but never got round to finishing it. Then I lent it to someone else, but regretted doing so, because what I had read so far (about 70 or so pages in) had been brilliant. But life was too busy at that time and thus I ended up lending it to someone else, not knowing when I might get it back!
Therefore as I started reading it again about a week ago (and I did re-read the beginning) I was expecting to be in for a real treat, as I remembered how good it had been the first time round. However what I found was a book that was moderately enthralling only, and that the beginning was probably where the strengths of this book lay.
The 'Digital Fortress' is about Susan Fletcher, who works for the top secret National Security Agency (NSA) of the US. When the mighty code-breaking machine of the NSA fails to work one day, Susan Fletcher is called out of bed in the early hours of the morning by her boss and the Deputy Director of Operations of the NSA, in order to find out what has gone wrong, and how to protect the nation from what may be a national threat.
What Susan finds out is that US intelligence is in fact under threat and to add to the complications she discovers that the man she loves has become entangled in the mess. It is up to Susan and a select few members of the NSA to untangle the code in order to save the country, but slowly it becomes apparent that all is not what it seems...
The book had a brilliant opening. It was exciting, mysterious and a real page-turner. I instantly liked Susan - she was clearly super intelligent, sexy, logical and yet also seemed like a good, likeable person. Her being called to the NSA for what seemed like an emergency right in the first couple of chapters made the story open at an exciting and fast pace. There was also a big air of mystery surrounding the NSA - we are told that not everyone even knows about the NSA and what they do, all because the less people that do know, the more protected national intelligence is.
As Susan gets herself out of bed following her phone call with her boss, and makes her way to work, the narrator (third person) explains the importance of the NSA and how transmissions including phone calls, emails, texts and all other forms of communication can be intercepted in order to protect the country. Emails in particular are valuable sources of information that can lead to stopping terrorists or any other underhand activity. However, due to the creation of encryption keys, emails can only be intercepted by breaking the key specific to the email. i.e breaking the code. The use of a mighty machine by the NSA, the TRANSLTR, is the code busting piece of kit the government relies on. It is when the TRANSLTR comes under threat that Susan's help is needed, and also unseemingly, Susan's boyfriend.
You can see from the storyline that this is a very unique and exciting plot for a book (or even a movie!). I found all the details very well connected and I just wanted to know what would happen, how would Susan stop what seemed to be corruption of the TRANSLTR, why was her boyfriend involved, and who and why was behind all this? I was also intrigued by the concept of the NSA, and how they might be watching over all forms of communication. In fact, an interesting argument is presented quite a few times in the book about the ethics of such interception by the government.
Whilst there was a massive amount of potential for this story, the middle of the book, and in fact the bulk of it, ruined it for me a little. It just got a little too 'busy' and thus messy for me. I could just about understand what was happening at times. I am not sure if this is a failure of the narration or if this just didn't go down well when written on paper. The bits I am referring to seemed as though they may have looked a lot better on screen for example, with enough happening visually to explain clearly to the audience the message being conveyed. It's just that on paper, as words, there seemed to be too much happening and I found myself getting tired and feeling like I was putting in too much effort to understand. It's a shame, because the book had opened so well.
However, it definitely got better and the end exceeded my now flailing expectations. There are enough twists and turns towards the end to keep anyone guessing as to what's going on and therefore it is the beginning and the end of this book I enjoyed the most.
The structure of the book was well suited to the story. Each chapter was short, and therefore the book had over 100 chapters in total! This sounds like a lot but it worked well, as there was so much going on all the time and splitting it up into readable and understandable chapters made it a bit easier to visualise everything.
The length of the book came to just over 500 pages. Whilst I enjoyed the majority of these, I do feel it could have been a little shorter, as like I said, it did seem to get a bit messy at times in the middle and I wonder if simplifying things and thus shortening it a bit could have helped?
To summarise, I am glad I read this book and I would recommend to anyone that likes a thriller every now and again!
You can buy 'Digital Fortress' for £4.99 (new) or £0.01 (used) (plus p+p) from Amazon.
Thanks for reading!
Summary: A good read overall