Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Digital Fortress - Dan Brown's phallic imagery continues to, um, grow

We're making a temporary pit-stop in book reviews today....(I haven't had a chance to see any movies lately--been too busy reading.) So, yeah, just finished Digital Fortress by Dan Brown, #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. I enjoyed it. The end.

Kidding. Not about enjoying it. I really did like it. The man can write. The man can imagine. The man is a great researcher, and very adept at grasping abstract scientific and mathematical concepts like cryptography, then translating them into a story that works for the average reader. I had a few issues with his French Canadian character. I'm not French Canadian, but I'm married to one. And I live in Quebec. And I speak Canadian French. There are a few glitches with the vernacular. For example, I somehow doubt that anyone from Montreal would say 'merde alors.' Generally, Canadian French curses are sacrees...i.e. they use church terms (Sacrifice, Tabernacle) that will send their ever-living souls straight to l'enfers, whereas the French (France) use scatology (merde = s--t). Generally speaking, French speakers don't use scatalogical swearing that much in Canada.

Wasn't that FASCINATING? Isn't this the absolute BEST book review you've ever read?! I will now review the actual book.

Actual review of book

It's hard to review any Dan Brown book without including spoilers, I'm finding. Pretty much every chapter (each is only about a page and a half long) moves the plot forward. So I'll just comment on a couple of things. This was his first big novel (or maybe his first novel period). It's about a secret government code-cracking agency that is always looking for clandestine ways to sniff Americans' daily communications. They are confronted with the ultimate code--"It's powerful, dangerous--and unbreakable..." as the book cover says--and globe-spanning intrigue ensues.

As I mentioned, I really like the man's books. He may occasionally be accused of writing pulp fiction, or fiction for the ignorant masses, but he is a good writer and he's obviously intelligent. But I've gotta say, his books can be a little sexist.

Booo For Boobies!
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not militant here. But there's a distinctive pattern in his writing, people. It's the same pattern a lot of male blockbuster writers share (Robert J. Sawyer is a good example from the sci fi realm). It's the pattern where the female lead characters must always be built like exotic, impossibly attractive barbie dolls. And pains are taken to describe their (and here I quote directly from all of these two mens' novels at once) "high, firm breasts," "absolutely flat stomach," "sexy, arresting eyes," "teasing smiles," "luscious lips," and "long, shapely legs". Oh for God's sake, is that really necessary? Here's the accompanying description of the lead males: "He was an average-looking man with brown hair and dark eyes." What, no comment on their extraordinary six packs or big...thingies?

I don't know, am I the only one who cares? I'm reading along, enjoying the book for its cool ideas and great plot development, not expecting my mind to be blown or my world to be profoundly changed or anything, just enjoying a nice escape. And then there they are, the heroine's big boobs. I don't care if her stomach's flat. I don't care about her warm brown thighs. It has no material effect on the plot or character development. Why are those boobies even there?

The End of the World Approacheth

You may think I'm dwelling on something insignificant, but did you know that Mr. Brown was recently voted one of the world's 100 most INFLUENTIAL people by TIME magazine? Zowks! Gawp! Yeez! The boobies matter, my friends. So Dan, please, keep up the great writing, but less of the bazongas.

Stickin' It to the Spies
And while we're at it, Mr. Brown, I'm handing you a caution for over-use of phallic imagery. The TRANSLTR machine, for example. Like a giant, number-crunching penis lurching from the bowels of the Earth...You're getting dangerously close to Descent territory here (see review below).

Lame End to Forgettable Review
Other than that, it was a good read. The plot moves along well. There are some good twists, although Brown's adeptness with this part of storywriting gets much better in his latter novels. There is definitely a formula to his work, but it's a good formula and it's nice to have a quick and easy read once in a while. I'm currently reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and enjoying it, but it's a little more literary therefore in a whole different category of fiction. Anyhow, Brown ends the novel with a nice little bit of metafiction--a code for the reader to break. I still haven't broken it. But I will.


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