** Decoded by Mai Jia


Decoded is the story of a man, a math genius who is recruited as a cryptographer by a Chinese spy agency, but also and perhaps especially the story of the agency itself. He never knew his father, his mother died young, and he is brought up by an uncle and eventually a mysterious foreigner who will end up in the camp opposite his own.

I found the story quite lovely in parts, especially when it describes the complicated relationships within the hero’s family and between him and his patron. The paranoiac methods of the spy agency are also very well rendered in their incoherent sternness. But the hero is a bit of a caricature, too intelligent, too autistic — and the math just does not play well. I suppose it is difficult to make cryptography accessible to the masses!

 

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