Digital Fortress + Bodyline

I’m going to compress two book reviews into one post since I only half read both of these books.

First, Bodyline Autopsy by David Frith. This book is pretty bad, and if you’re American, it’s really bad. The subject matter is interesting: England came up with a tricky way (bodyline bowling) of defeating a supposedly dominant Australian cricket team in 1932 and 33, and though they obviously bent the rules, its a matter of dispute whether they actually broke them. The problem is twofold. First, the book is just badly organized and the narrative structure of it doesn’t help keep things straight. Also, there really is just the recitation of the facts, except, as I just said, not even in a structured way. There’s no analysis or an attempt to learn anything from this event. The second problem is just that this guy is British and his writing is British. Almost every word choice will infuriate you (see here), even if you have a rough grasp on what certain British words are supposed to mean in American english. It makes reading this book a real chore. Then again, I really can’t think of why any American author would want to cover cricket. The book however does do a great job of showing how this sport originated so perfectly out of colonialism and imperial delusions about sportsmanship and power. I only made it halfway through this book.

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons) is pretty good. It’s engrossing and given a small block of free time, one would probably just read right through it. The book is a novel about the NSA and its codebreaking unit. One day they stumble upon a super code that cannot be broken and all hell breaks loose. I have to say, the twists come fast in this book, and they are usually pretty good. Anything else beyond that is just a little silly. For example, there is supposedly a thread of narrative discussing whether government spying is good or bad, and it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The other interesting thing is that this book (one of Brown’s earliest) lays out his style so obviously. There’s an assassin chasing someone who knows stuff (an academic usually) and this helpless expert runs around (usually into churchs) to escape and eventually finds himself really high up and must either jump or do something else to escape. If you’ve read other Dan Brown books, you’ll be shocked at how obviously the themes he’s interested in appear in this book.


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