Why I read this book: It was 10 cents at the used book store, and I was curious about the books that famous authors wrote before they became truly famous.
Did I enjoy this book: “No”? Maybe. I dunno. It was fine, I guess, but it didn’t do much for me emotionally. I finished it, so I didn’t hate it.
What I learned from this book: The author did an interesting job of making each scene its own chapter, even when those scenes followed one another directly (rather than bouncing between characters). This could often result in chapters that were only a page long. This is a style that might work better for me (I hate my transitions between scenes), but I’m curious if we can still get away with it.
I also learned I want to really watch out for cliches and stereotypes… I hadn’t read a book with a really painful one in a long time, and this one had several. Definitely don’t want my readers to go through that.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Digital Fortress came out in 1998, back when the “NSA” wasn’t as widely known as it is now. The book follows parallel stories: First, that of an NSA codebreaker trying to crack an unbreakable code that is counting down to undermining a significant portion of the NSA intelligence network, and Second, the story of a “regular guy” university professor trying to track down a vital piece of evidence that may hold the secret to the terrible code that threatens them.
The primary characters are Susan Fletcher (the codebreaker) and David Becker (the professor). Susan is a best-of-everything super-smart beauty and David is a laid-back super linguist that are coincidentally (or is it?) bound into working towards this same goal. David’s journey is interesting as he constantly facing challenges hunting down his quarry that each happens to tap into a different language, making him a great fit for the job despite his utter lack of military/secret agent training. Despite the “neatness” of this, it’s a fun journey watching how he gets himself in over his head and struggles to figure out what to do next.
Unfortunately, Susan’s story is less interesting as she is beset with cliche and stereotype co-workers. Her plot gives us some technical views into the “high-tech computer world” but the reality is that the entire situation feels out of her control as one event after another catapults her helplessly to the next stage with little or no influence on those events.
Despite this, the story is a quick and easy read, and you can definitely see how this experience sets the author to write his far more successful Davinci Code. There are a few fun plot twists, some of which are painfully obvious; others may catch the unwary by surprise. I don’t regret reading this book, and didn’t struggle to finish it… But I’d probably never crack it open again.