Deception Point

Reviewed: November 28, 2003
By: Dan Brown
Publisher: Pocket Books
558 pages, $11.99

The last thing Rachel Sexton wants is to be connected to politics in any way whatsoever. She enjoys her work as an analyst with the National Reconnaissance Office, picking apart the information received there to see if it stands close scrutiny. She doesnít enjoy whatís left of the relationship she has with her father, the self-serving Senator Sedgewick Sexton, currently a candidate to the office of President.

Rachel doesnít have strong political opinions, but she knows that President Zachary Herney is a better man than her father. Nevertheless, she had no intention of being a pawn in the struggle between them, not until it happened quite naturally as part of her job. When Herney calls on her it is because of her ability to take complex scientific concepts and put them into everyday language.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had found something rather special in the Arctic a few weeks earlier. In her capacity as an analyst, Rachel was asked to look at the data and evaluate the interpretation it had received from a team of independent, non-government scientists. Then she was to boil it down and explain it to the Whitehouse staff.

It was great news for the Whitehouse, and bad news for the Senator, who had made NASA his primary whipping boy in his campaign against ineffective and wasteful government programs. Rachel doesnít particularly mind providing confirmation of news that would give her father a black eye. The thought of him in the Oval Office is a nightmare to her.

The trip to the Arctic is exciting. The artifact is convincing. The scientists are convinced. A meteorite with actual evidence of extraterrestrial life, the Holy Grail of space exploration, is more than anyone had ever believed possible. Their elation lasts until the rock is actually pulled from the glacier - and then things start to go terribly wrong. Soon one scientist is dead, apparently by accident.

Not long after, others on the team are killed while checking out an apparent anomaly in the data, and Rachel finds herself on the run with Michael Tolland, a charismatic scholar and television personality, striving to unravel the threads that lead to the perpetrator of this fraud before she and the rest of the scientists with her are killed.

Dan Brown likes strong female characters. In this book he almost prefers them to the men. While we spend some time with the Senator, most of the action from the other side of the story comes to us through the eyes of Gabrielle Ashe, an ambitious young senatorial aid. She has been working with Senator Sexton, priming him for his presidential bid, feeding him the information he needed to score good sound bites from the media. She had not known that her source was setting both of them up for a fall. She had not, indeed, known that her bossís true interest in dismantling NASA came from the deal he was striking with private financial backers with an interest in space based industry.

As the story progresses Gabrielle has to deal with her own share of triumphs and disasters, has to struggle with her conscience, evaluate her own ambition, and decide if sheís on the right team after all.

Now - I liked this book. It was exciting, and I was quite engrossed by the logic that was used to unravel the deception. Both Rachelís and Gabrielleís stories were compelling and the seesawing of cliffhangers between them kept me turning the pages. But - and you could see this coming from the beginning of this paragraph - it did have a major weakness.

It might not have bothered me if I hadnít already read Digital Fortress, but the pattern of this bookís plot is a little too like that of his first thriller. I had figured out who was behind the meteorite plot before I was halfway through the possible clues. He handled the deception too much like he did in the other book. Itís a minor point, and if you havenít Digital Fortress it wonít bother you at all, but it is there, and Iím hoping he overcame it in his next book.

Deception Point would make quite an exciting movie. Itís got the Whitehouse, a shootout on a glacier, a submarine, a frantic aircraft ride or two, a climax on a sinking boat, and a nice twist at a press conference to hold everyoneís interest.