Okay, okay, I know that you can't expect too much from fiction. Just a little break from the routine of life as you flip through some pages. I mean, heck, it's impossible for someone whose profession is a full-time writer to be an expert in everything under the sun. Or even everything that he chooses to write about.
While they're not great works of literature, the Sanchon Hunjang has already admitted to enjoying a few hours turning through the pages of The DaVinci Code
and Angels and Demons
. So I was looking forward to sitting down with the first of Dan Brown's thriller novels, Digital Fortress
. I don't think that my expectations were set too high: just a few hours of light entertainment. So I was excited when the brother-in-law gave me the copy he'd just finished as he departed for home this week.
The author is undeniably good at creating and sustaining a page-turning feeling of suspense in the story. Plus, already on page 1o out of 43o in Digial Fortress
, things are really looking up for the story. That's because good ol' Mr. 밤색 is hitting topics close to the heart of the Sanchon Hunjang:
For two hours Becker interpreted an endless stream of Mandarin symbols. But each time he gave them a translation, the cryptographers shook their heads in despair. Apparently the code was not making sense. Eager to help, Becker pointed out that all the characters they'd shown him had a common trait--they were also part of the Kanji language. [...] "You mean these symbols have multiple meanings?" Becker nodded. He explained that Kanji was a Japanese writing system based on modified Chinese characters. He'd been giving Mandarin translations because that's what they'd asked for. [...] "Let's try the Kanji." Like magic, everything fell into place. The cryptographers were duly impressed, but nonetheless, they still made Becker work on the characters out of sequence. "It's for your own safety, [...] this way you won't know what you're translating. [...] When the code finally broke, Becker had no idea what dark secrets he'd helped reveal, but one thing was for certain--the NSA took code-breaking seriously.
So, let me get this straight: (1) there are some symbols out there used to write Mandarin, (2) these symbols can be translated into English, (3) at least some of those symbols used to write Mandarin are also used to write Japanese Kanji, (4) Kanji is a language, (5) it belongs to Japanese (6) the Kanji symbols are based on Chinese symbols, (7) there is a way to read the meaning of symbols in Japanese that gives very different meanings from what those same symbols mean in Mandarin, (8) at least some Japanese texts can make sense with no non-kanji symbols, (9) it's very impressive when someone who has been hired for his ability to read fluent Mandarin can also pick out the meanings of Kanji Japanese symbols, (1o) the NSA doesn't have their own people on staff who can translate Mandarin/Chinese/Kanji symbols, (11) one can translate Mandarin/Chinese/Kanji symbols in a coherent manner even when those symbols have been given to you out of order and without context, (12) it is possible to translate "endless streams" of characters, all provided out of order, and yet gain no idea of the meaning that one has translated upon finishing the task.
Dan, friend, the Sanchon Hunjang was with you up to #3, but things rapidly unravel from there. Perhaps it's too much to expect in-depth knowledge of the finer points of Asian scripts and their inter-relations from an author of bestselling fiction, but #1o, 11 and 12 just fly in the face of common sense!! And it's very difficult to enjoy a book when you are haunted by nagging doubts about the writer's knowledge of his subject from page 1o. I've got a sneaking suspicion that the computer science/security and cryptology that make up the core of the story are at least as far off the mark.
So, for me at least, Digital Fortress
was a different experience from his other two thrillers. Maybe they were more enjoyable because the Sanchon Hunjang knows zip about DaVinci, art, cathedrals, Catholicism, etc., etc. So I could enjoy the ride without worrying about "facts" that don't make sense... The upshot is this: anyone want a complementary copy of Digital Fortress
? I'd be happy to send my inherited copy to the first interested individual to request it. The cover promises, "THE ULTIMATE CODE. IT'S POWERFUL, DANGEROUS--AND UNBREAKABLE," AND IS BEYOND THE REALM OF BELIEVABILITY BECAUSE OF SILLY TECHNICAL MISTAKES BY THE AUTHOR. I think the original draft probably said all of that but the last part got cut for being too verbose. ^^