Book: Deception Point by Dan Brown

Excellent thriller but rather unlike some of his others

Dan Brown
Deception Point
Simon and Schuster, 2001
ISBN: 0-671-02738-7
558 pages

Like Dan Brown's books The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, Deception Point is a thriller. But while The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons have much in common (including the hero), Deception Point is rather different. In Deception Point, instead of ancient secrets and smallish weapons, we have sneaky politicians, a special-forces team, and military helicopters. Indeed, Deception Point is rather reminiscent of a Tom Clancy novel. (At least a reasonably early Tom Clancy novel; I don't know about the later ones because I stopped reading them when they got hard to lift.)

In the book, Rachel Sexton works at America's very-secret National Reconnaissance Office where she prepares intelligence summaries for the president and his close aides. The president is up for re-election and, as it happens, Rachel is the daughter of the senator who's running against him, though it seems that she's not on very good terms with her father. One day, on her way to work, she is paged and told to report immediately to the director of the NRO. She's then sent to meet President Herney. The president tells her that NASA has made a remarkable discovery and he sends her off to see NASA's head, Administrator Extrom, presumably to do some kind of intelligence analysis. It turns out that he's up at the North Pole, or as near as makes no difference, on the Milne Ice Shelf. There, under a large temporary dome structure are various people from NASA, some scientists from outside the government, and a remarkable meteorite. But why is there a US military special-forces team hiding out, outside the dome?

That summary takes us up to around page 100 in the book. And if there's a flaw in the plotting, it's that not much happens for a while after that. If you're reading a thriller and there's an astonishing discovery at the north pole early on, it's a good bet that someone's going to get caught outside in the cold and that some important part of the plot is going to turn on the discovery. But that's left hanging fire for rather a while and I got a trifle impatient.

In addition, the good guys believe that, "The veto power of the office of the President is he only remaining barrier against privatization ... against complete anarchy in space" [ellipsis in original] (p. 186). I happen to think that private space exploration is an excellent idea. Still, I was quite willing to suspend disbelief on that point while reading.

And once the thriller-ish aspects of the book got going, the plot carried me along. Indeed, a little patience was rewarded with a cracking good story.

The book has a number of minor technical and editing flaws. In an "author's note" at the beginning of the novel, Mr Brown says that all technologies described in the novel exist. I'd be extremely surprised to find that battery technology sufficient to power a flying "surveillance robot the size of a mosquito" (p. 10) currently exists. Mr Brown has "rayodomes" where he means "radomes" (p. 11) and I'd be rather surprised if there were any radars located on the grounds of the headquarters of the NRO. There is "I suggest you are neither" (p. 18) where Mr Brown wants "I suggest you be neither". I doubt very much that there's a radio that the pilot can "hang up" (p. 54) in an F-14 fighter plane. In an airplane at an altitude of 45,000 feet, there's little sense of motion; a person wouldn't say "the sky tore by with blinding speed" (p. 55). And when Mr Brown says that a worldwide network of hydrophones on the oceans' floors cost $12m, I expect that he has misplaced a few zeros.

Posted: Mon - October 4, 2004 at 09:27   Main   Category: