Review: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Digital Fortress

Digital Fortress was one of my first Dan Brown books, and I’m glad to find it just as exciting as every other time I’ve reread it throughout the years. Through what I now dub the Classic Dan Brown Style – characterized by dramatic plot twists and a well-developed backstory – Brown has written a story that is cleverly spun and incredibly engrossing.

Title: Digital Fortress
Author: Dan Brown
Publication Date: February 1, 1998
Category: (Adult Fiction) Suspense / Mystery / Thriller


The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) invested millions of dollars into TRANSLTR, a supercomputer that can break any code – until now. TRANSLTR has been processing Digital Fortress, an outside code, for over twelve hours, when it usually takes a few minutes to break a code. Alarmed by this anomaly, NSA Deputy Director Trevor Strathmore calls in head cryptographer Susan Fletcher to investigate, while sending Susan’s fiancé, modern languages professor David Becker, to Spain to track down a possible key to Digital Fortress. But there is more to Digital Fortress than it seems, and the truth will reveal shocking betrayals and conspiracies.


The main characters in Digital Fortress are described as outstanding and brilliant, the cream of the crop; Susan, in particular is made into some sort of goddess with beauty and brains (gasp!) and every guy in the book basically ogles at her. She’s likable despite her potential bitchiness (she doesn’t have competition, so I can’t tell), and I’d say that her only flaw is that she’s too dependent on David. With that said, all the characters are likable, even the antagonists, because Brown allows the story to be told from each character’s perspective at some point.

Classic Dan Brown Style point one: the plot twists are unexpected and thrilling, and the action scenes add to the tension and excitement. Both Susan and David have their own problems to deal with, and the adventures on both ends are action-packed and full of close calls. Brown had me thinking “what’s next?” constantly throughout the book, and it made Digital Fortress a thrilling read.

Classic Dan Brown Style point two: the backstory is AWESOME. I really like how Brown spends so much time on the history of NSA and the key characters, and the thoroughness of the backstory adds depth and richness to the story as a whole. I think I might like Brown’s backstories more than his plots! It also allowed me to spread my roots into the story and grow more attached to the characters and the plot over time, and I think without the backstory, Digital Fortress wouldn’t have the same pull.


Digital Fortress is the equivalent of a Harlequin romance for mystery thriller readers: it’s satisfying, it gets your heart pumping, and it’s going to be a quick read because you’ll probably end up reading it in one sitting. It also has a lot of beginner-friendly codes as well as a code on the last page for readers to crack, so it’s a fun book overall.



3 thoughts on “Review: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

  1. I loved this the first time I read, but I reread it recently and I just hated how Susan was portrayed. All we hear about is how smart she is, but it’s always David who does everything, even cracking the codes, despite the fact that codes are Susan’s job!. It was definitely a fun, action packed book though and I did enjoy reading it 🙂

    • I actually read your review on Goodreads after I finished reading this and realized how much I missed! Now that I think about it, I feel like a lot of Dan Brown’s female protagonists fall into the smart-and-sexy-but-just-sits-there category. If there was such a thing as “trashy mystery” (much like trashy romance?), then this would be it. 😛

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