Perhaps I ought to have paid more attention to "The Da Vinci Code". It was such an irresistibly delightful lark that I didn't look very closely at the language. Certainly, nothing dreadful jumped out and whacked you in the face. This isn't true, however, of "Deception Point" or "Digital Fortress". Like "Da Vinci Code", they're silly and slight, the kind of thing you carry on a long plane journey, but at least "The Da Vinci Code" was clever, even though it's theories are nothing but a well-known con, as an excellent article in the New York Times shows.
These two books by Dan Brown don't have the élan of "The Da Vinci Code". They are just contrived and affected. Worse, the writing is truly terrible. In "Deception Point", we get phrases like "wrought with failure". Shouldn't that be fraught or plagued or beset or dogged? But wrought? What hath Brown wrought?
The real beauty, though, is this:
"Despite having ascended to the most powerful political office in the world, President Zachary Herney was average in height, with a slender build and narrow shoulders."
I didn't realize that becoming a President gave you wall-to-wall muscles. Or that you needed to be a block of walking concrete to get the Presidency. I thought Arnie was an aberration. How very perspicacious of Brown to note, years ahead, that pumping iron is the siné-qua-non of presidential or gubernatorial aspirations.
But what I really disliked about both books is their deliberate dumbing-down of their protagonists. This isn't a concession to the reader at all; it's talking down to the reader, and it's humiliating. In "Digital Fortress", for instance, Susan Fletcher is supposed to be a very highly educated, blindingly intelligent mathematician working in code-breaking. She's not just a pretty face. She is a Brainy Person. So how is it that she has no Latin at all?
Hale nodded thoughtfully. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Susan looked puzzled.
"It's Latin," Hale said. "From Satires of Juvenal. It means 'Who will guard the guards?'"
"I don't get it," Susan said. "'Who will guard the guards?'"
Oh, come on, Mr Brown. We realize you were bothered that many of your readers wouldn't know the prhase, but did you have to turn your mathematician into a dimwit to explain it? Surely she would know, with her fancy degree and all? And the dilemma that confronts Susan Fletcher is, in the world of computers and even more acutely in the world of the Internet, as old as the hills. Anyone working in code-breaking and snooping knows that policing the police is a fundamental conflict in information technology regulation. It can't be a first for any code-breaker working for a top-secret US agency.