A few days ago, I finished reading the book The da Vinci Code. I'm an atheist and I can see why the Catholic church is angry about it. Sure, it's a fictional work, but the way it links events throughout history together, it sounds very real. As a thriller, it's top-notch. I stayed up an extra hour a few nights to try to read just one more chapter, steal a moment here and then on the subway, etc. to try to finish it. Lots of surprises and twists, not to mention some brain-challenging riddles.
As much as I like The da Vinci Code, I hate those techno-thrillers from Tom Clancy. Years ago a colleague told me how much he enjoyed Clancy so I decided to give it a try. I read Rainbox Six, The Bear and the Dragon, and maybe one more. They are pretty boring. You have a little suspense in the beginning but after some point in the middle everything works out as expected, thanks to all the gadgets. No accidents ever happen. Just as in kung-fu movies any chaps on the street may turn out to be a martial arts expert, in Clancy novels almost everyone has some military background. I give myself a chuckle or two by imagining the following scenario if Tom Clancy had collaborated with Dan Brown on The da Vinci Code: As soon as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu start on their quest to solve the first riddle, they whipped out tiny uber-PDAs, tap into all the online libraries, cross-reference all the phrases, send robots all around the Louvre to shine black lights on some exact location, and download the exact location of the Holy Grail with the help of Google Maps 4000. Half of the book would be devoted to describing the PDA's OS, the T1 uplink, Internet 3, Web 4, the tiny but fast portable hard drives, maybe even the satellite dishes themselves. Yup, Clancy would have "The butler did it" right on page 10 and everything is solved by page 20.