Dan Brown starts off his novel like any regular book or movie. It starts off with the NSA (National Security Agency) of the US, of course, encountering a serious code problem. The code was called Digital Fortress and it couldn’t be decoded by the NSA’s code breaking machine. Eventually they had to call on their top analysts to help. Commander Strathmore, the head of the NSA’s code breaking unit, calls on Susan Fletcher, one of their to analysts, who was the fiancée of David Becker, a professor who also had a knack for breaking codes. Susan later found out the maker of the code, Ensei Tankado, who was a former NSA employee. His reason was simple; vengeance for mistreatment. Ensei threatens to release the code to his partner, code named “North Dakota”, who would then release the code worldwide if Ensei should die. The NSA sees this as a threat to national security and tries to neutralize it.
Ensei dies of a heart attack. Strathmore sends David Becker to recover a special ring that Ensei had when he died, and in it was the code to unlock Digital Fortress. David finds out the Ensei gave the ring away and soon goes off in search of it. His trail of people though, is one by one being murdered by a mysterious assassin called Hulohot. Telephone calls are found between North Dakota and Numataka, as David searches. The calls reveal that North Dakota hired Hulohot to kill Ensei in order to get the ring and release the code sooner.
At the NSA, Fletcher’s investigation leads her to believe that a fellow NSA employee named Greg Hale is North Dakota. After a while, her traces lead her to see that North Dakota really is Ensei one and the same. Seeing her mistake, she looks back (figuratively) and finds out that Strathmore killed Hale, and made it appear like a suicide. She also finds out that Strathmore was the real antagonist who hired Hulohot through his pager. On the other side, Becker ends up killing Hulohot in a violent battle.
The plot thickens as we see that Strathmore was the man with the plan. Strathmore hires Hulohot to kill Ensei. Then he has Becker go after the ring while he tries to regain his lost honour by attempting to get into a relationship with Fletcher. He would then break the code and look like a hero to everybody. We also find out that North Dakota is not Ensei, but is really Strathmore, who calls Numataka, to release a chip with Digital Fortress to the public giving it a backdoor Trojan to be able to spy on any computer in the world that has the chip. Strathmore fails at seducing Fletcher, but succeeds in unlocking the code. Though little did he know that Digital Fortress was actually a computer worm that would release all the NSA’s information onto the World Wide Web. Strathmore commits suicide by letting the machine explode in his presence. The NSA disables the worm. David returns to the US, and is reunited with Fletcher.
The sad, ironic twist in the end was that Numataka was actually Ensei’s father who abandoned Ensei as a child due to his deformed face.
I personally found the book a little boring. Comparing to the other works of Mr. Brown, like the Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons, this one, I found a little uninteresting. I’ve watched enough spy movies, and read enough books with the same type of storyline to say that this is one of the plain and simple ones. This book will go definitely to my top 15 or so, but it’s not the best. It was a semi-predictable storyline, which is good and bad, but it still is predictable. Like the happy ending, it’s just another predictable addition to the storyline.
To tell you why I found this book uninteresting would be that the basic plot and introduction of scenes are that of a movie. The plain in-your-face type of introduction. You have the characters and the problem. Another reason would be the slight irrationality of it all. Think about it, the NSA hiring civilians to do their work? Not likely. All the more since the work was just a one time job that they’d call you to do every now and then for big bundles of money. It seems fishy. If the NSA were to do that, that would already be jeopardizing the country’s national security. For whatever you know, the man who is cracking the codes in the NSA’s office just might be paid higher by terrorists to plant a virus or a bomb there. Another reason why I found it uninteresting is the mesh of code-breaking, and love is not really my thing.
So far though, if considered fiction, which it is, it would have a good plot. Unlike many of the fiction stories out there, this one makes sense. A few loopholes here and there, but still, a good story is a good story. It is able to stand alone. Many novels I have read, I cannot relate to because the comparison or the descriptions are of another generation other than mine. For example, an author would put there that “the blast was as loud as a KISS concert”. Those who haven’t seen a KISS concert, like me, would not be able to relate very well and therefore it would defeat the purpose. This novel, I can relate to, there’s not too much senseless, time -based description. I do like the way Dan Brown had created the code, quite a unique way; very tricky to decipher, but not too tricky as to not lose its credible sense. Dan Brown has an amazing gift when it comes to coding, and cryptic mysteries, but this book will not really suffice.
It was overall an okay book. A 7.5 out of 10. It had some good twists. It also had some odd ones which make it unique. The storyline was a bit thrown off, but it was basically good. A good mental war story. It was able to make this reader’s mind twist around.
“Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies.”
-W. L. George
* This was made as a school paper so I wasn’t able to sarcastically comment the way I should.
** This was made roughly 3 years ago. But please, enjoy.
(c) Anachronic Works 2011