Dan Brown’s versatility in Digital Fortress


This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series Reviews season two

Last Updated on June 2, 2018 by Memorila

In Digital Fortress, Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy notes that Dan Brown showed that he is not only adept at building stories out of art relics and poetry but also proved his prowess by dabbling into the murky world of technology and computers.

Dan Brown is a writer I have come to respect and love so much among American thriller writers. His novels are just too fascinating to be kept aside once you begin turning the pages. You would have to agree with me that the guy is a smart and intelligent writer; you come out of every of his stories feeling a lot wiser and knowledgeable than you were before encountering them; and that is one thing I love about the man, he gives the thrills yet educates his readers.

The first time I met him, he took me to a museum in Paris (The Da Vinci Code), then we met again and it was a journey to Rome (Angels and Demons) and here I am again just returned from Spain where we went seeking a code designed by Ensei Takando (Digital Fortress). Yes with Brown, it is always about a secret code hidden somewhere which you have to get or else… And unfortunately, the only person who could easily provide this key or code died mysteriously.

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It is fascinating to see how Dan Brown goes into the world of the academia and makes a hero out of a professor (queer huh? Yeah, that is how he rolls) and he succeeds in making his professors likeable characters too. He picks them from the dull and monotonous world of the classroom and throws them in the midst of the whole action. His style is to get a university don involved in a mysterious murder and who will somehow come to discover that there is more to the murder than meets the eye–there is always a code or key to retrieve from somewhere and before you could say Micheal Jackson, the professor finds himself deeply engulfed in the whole imbroglio. Let us not forget also that Brown usually gets his professor attached to beautiful and extremely irresistible women also (winks).

So if the storytelling style exhibits very little difference, where is the versatility I speak of? Let me explain. With Brown you always go back in time to discover what you might have probably missed while historical bricks were being laid. For instance, I can no more see Da Vinci’s works and examine it with the same innocence and pleasurable disposition with which I have always attended to a work of art before now, I would always seek symbolic meanings in them and to think that the Catholic church and its friars might not all be saints leaves me in openmouthed wonder.

So after reading The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I began thinking this man called Brown no doubt knows a lot of history and about works of art, yet he was to surprise me by telling me that he knew more than just history. In Digital Fortress, Dan Brown crossed centuries and disciplines leaving the world of art and moving into that of technology, the world of computers. Dan Brown told me of a world I know too well in Digital Fortress, yet I was surprised at how little of that world I knew myself!

So, the NSA has built a machine named TRANSLTR to intercept internet messages, especially emails, and take a peek at them without the receiver knowing anything had gone wrong with their mails. Think of the US government invading everyone’s privacy, running through your mails without permission and spying on you! Yes, that is just how bad it is.

Ensei Takando, a Japanese computer guru crippled by the effect of the Hiroshima cum Nagasaki atomic bomb radiation and also a software designer who works with the NSA, felt it is wrong for a country to be so empowered. It means the USA could spy on everybody but who is to spy on the United States of America? He went to the press with the news but no one believed him, he lost his job and reputation in the software development market for trying to blackmail the USA. His revenge is to build a virus which he manipulates the NSA’s deputy director to sneak into TRANSLTR and destroy its data by lying that the virus is actually an unbreakable code he had written and named DIGITAL FORTRESS. To stop the virus from destroying the security walls and leave all of the United States classified documents vulnerable to hackers, all Ensei Takando wants is for the NSA to come up with the truth that they have a machine used to spy on people’s mail and he would give them the code to undo the damage done by the virus. But even if the NSA chooses to tell the world the truth, it would still have been too late, Ensei Takando is himself late; he died mysteriously!

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Professor David Becker, a language specialist and an academic celebrity has the task of locating Takando’s corpse and retrieving the code. Simple job, so he thought, and he is to be rewarded handsomely for it too. But he would soon realise the job is everything except simple. His search for the code would lead him to many people and extremes including being tailed by a professional assassin (kinda remind me of the Nigerian movie known as Diamond Ring, that one with Teju Babyface, remember?). As the story develops, you would find out that it has amazing twists and turns so that you keep experiencing the unexpected and come to realise that people are not often what they pretend to be (Stratmore’s obsession with Susan).

The novel has well developed characters and storyline; maybe the idea of having a deaf assassin does not appeal to me because at some point, the deaf assassin asked a question and got a reply which he heard, that was when he killed Eduardo’s (Megan’s boyfriend) friend after asking him which way David went and he was told David went towards the airport. Again, while pursuing David Becker at the church in Spain, David jumps back into the building and Hulohot (the assassin) felt his thud on the ground, now how is that possible for someone who is deaf? How a deaf man begins to hear suddenly and returns to being deaf amuses me, maybe he received some miraculous healing haha. That part where Susan suspected Hale of being NDakota and could not just blurt it out really got me washed out, why the hell must she wait that long to reveal what she knew to Strathmore at a private moment?

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The novel does not rev up much complexities as the others where characters have to solve multiple word puzzles to reach their aim, the movement in Digital Fortress is smooth, although with too many coincidences for just one day–David’s luck of being at the right spot at the right time–which leaves the story’s verisimilitude in doubt. In this novel, we are no longer dealing with art works or poetry as codes; we are dealing with numbers as codes! Funny enough, Brown still walked us down the classical era to learn of Julius Caesar’s codification style.

In Achebe’s parlance, he who wishes to see a mask dancing does not stand at a spot. Dan Brown has proven that his art is not all about building stories out of art relics and poetry, he has shown to us that he can also dabble into the modern world and come out unscathed, hence this techno thriller and it is this that we mean by Dan Brown’s VERSATILITY.

Forsooth, my love for the novel is ‘without wax!’

© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy

Series Navigation<< Journey to the Niger Delta with Helon Habila’s paper boat, Oil on WaterOne day in the life of one man: A review of E. C. Michaels’ Dawn to Dusk >>


Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy

Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy holds a degree in English language and literary studies. He is a short story writer, copy editor, book reviewer, literary critic, poet, and essayist. He teaches English as a Foreign Language in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

2 thoughts on “Dan Brown’s versatility in Digital Fortress

  • April 16, 2018 at 6:44 am
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    Gripping reveal of Dan Brown’s digital fortress , left me with a curiosity rush as I strolled down the word path.

    Reply
    • April 16, 2018 at 3:52 pm
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      Then it is high time you grab a copy of the Digital Fortress. After you are done reading, come and share your opinion with us here. We will be glad to read your views. Who knows, one day you could also be penning your writeups for Memorila…

      Reply

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