‘Deception Point’ by Dan Brown (2001)

10Feb09

I admit it: I read The Da Vinci Code. However, I did not enjoy The Da Vinci Code. As he does with Deception Point as well, Dan Brown proves himself to be an author of detailed research. While I found the subject of his research in The Da Vinci Code more fascinating, its presentation frustrated me. Sir Teabing just talks and talks for pages on end. Too much set-up has to be delivered in one big chunk, which effectively, for lack of a better word, really constipates the plot. In the case of Deception Point, Brown is able to dole out facts more evenly throughout the novel, though it’s still a bit of an overload for me. Deception Point by Dan BrownI’d rather have the information on a need to know basis. I don’t really care about an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter’s infrared thermal imaging or multitarget tracking abilities unless I really need to know about them for some part of the plot.

A lot of people die in this novel, so I have to talk about the body count, which isn’t pretty. In chronological order, the deaths go: Charles Brophy, Wailee Ming, Norah Mangor, Marjorie Tench, Xavia, the Coast Guard pilot, Delta Three, Delta Two, Delta One, and William Pickering. Of course, the bad guys have to die, which leaves three women, one person of color, and two plot points, both of whom are male. While Brown doesn’t seem to have a problem with smart women (Rachel and Gabrielle survive), he seems to let only the conventionally attractive ones live. Marjorie Tench is described several times as one of the ugliest women ever, and Brown describes Xavia as overweight and dark-skinned, so she also may be a woman of color, which only seems to make her doubly damned. Though Norah Mangor escapes being dealt the ugly card, no one ever considers her beautiful (she has a “pleasant, impish face”) and the presence of gray in her hair suggests that she is older, something she and Marjorie Tench have in common. What connects all three female murder victims is their lack of a pleasing demeanor. All of these women are, at best, surly, with Norah nearly verbally emasculating most of the men who cross her path. Basically, Brown makes the female characters that die unattractive to men in one way or another. To look at the situation from a different perspective, the main female characters who live (Rachel and Gabrielle) are the only women whom men, at some point during the novel, find attractive. Not a main character though certainly no less important than Xavia, Yolanda Cole also lives, but Brown releases her from the obligation to titillate men by giving her maternal characteristics and even the moniker of “Mother.” As for Wailee Ming, while he is not the only person of color in this novel, he certainly has the most, indeed the only, ethnic name. I have to wonder if Gabrielle were named LaTanya would she have lived?

As far as themes, Deception Point features many images of ghosts of the past haunting the present. Along with the high body count, many characters in Deception Point have a person whose death has greatly influenced them in some way. Tolland’s wife died of cancer, Sexton’s wife and Rachel’s mother died in a car accident, and Pickering’s daughter was killed in combat. The influence of long-dead former presidents also echoes throughout the halls of The White House. But the novel’s main theme, as the title reveals, centers on the idea of truth: how we determine the truth, how truth catches up with everyone, and the importance of telling the truth, of course.

Deception Point is a fun, fast read full of information about glaciers, meteorites, phosphorescent plankton, and megaplumes if you’re into that sort of thing. But I might do some fact-checking before I started sharing the information Brown includes. From what I can find, it seems that the Kiowa helicopter I mentioned earlier is a two-seater and Brown crams four people into that thing at one point. I still can’t stand Brown’s myriad short chapters, but Deception Point has a pleasing mix of science geekery and political intrigue to keep me entertained.

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