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Decoded: A Novel | [Mai Jia, Olivia Milburn (translator), Christopher Payne (translator)]

Decoded: A Novel

In his gripping debut novel, Mai Jia reveals the mysterious world of Unit 701, a top-secret Chinese intelligence agency whose sole purpose is counterespionage and code breaking. Rong Jinzhen, an autistic math genius with a past shrouded in myth, is forced to abandon his academic pursuits when he is recruited into Unit 701. As China's greatest cryptographer, Rong discovers that the mastermind behind the maddeningly difficult Purple Code is his former teacher and best friend, who is now working for China's enemy - but this is only the first of many betrayals.
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Publisher's Summary

One of China's best-selling novels, an unusual literary thriller that takes us deep into the world of code breaking

In his gripping debut novel, Mai Jia reveals the mysterious world of Unit 701, a top-secret Chinese intelligence agency whose sole purpose is counterespionage and code breaking.

Rong Jinzhen, an autistic math genius with a past shrouded in myth, is forced to abandon his academic pursuits when he is recruited into Unit 701. As China's greatest cryptographer, Rong discovers that the mastermind behind the maddeningly difficult Purple Code is his former teacher and best friend, who is now working for China's enemy - but this is only the first of many betrayals.

Brilliantly combining the mystery and tension of a spy thriller with the psychological nuance of an intimate character study and the magical qualities of a Chinese fable, Decoded discovers in cryptography the key to the human heart. Both a riveting mystery and a metaphysical examination of the mind of an inspired genius, it is the first novel to be published in English by one of China's greatest and most popular contemporary writers.

©2002 Mai Jia; translation copyright 2014, Olivia Milburn and Christopher Payne (P)2014 Random House Audio

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  •  
    alan north wales, PA, United States 06-25-14
    alan north wales, PA, United States 06-25-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "racist and offensive narration"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    End the book 60% of the way through. I wish I did.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    The biographical first third of the book is an enjoyable multigenerational family story. The second third narrows down to our protagonist, bringing him up to his present crisis. The last third is interminable repeated lamentations; they don't seem to progress. It's not often I abandon a book after reading 80%, but this time I had suffered enough, and decided to spare myself further pain.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Recites English in a childish sing-song mockery of Chinese-American diction. As the action flags, the narrator increasingly ends every sentence with an exclamation point, expressing ceaseless, infantile, patronising wide-eyed wonder in a futile effort to keep the listener awake and keep the story alive.


    Any additional comments?

    its the job of the editor to squelch narrators who go over the top

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fran Pearson 05-21-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    589
    32
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Histrionic Hogwash"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    This is a totally unrealistic interpretation of code breaking and math. There are irritating repetitive passages.


    Has Decoded turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    Would you be willing to try another one of Ryan Gesell’s performances?

    No


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Decoded?

    Most of it


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Boulder, CO, United States 03-30-14
    Thomas Boulder, CO, United States 03-30-14 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    54
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    200
    15
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    "Don't expect characters or plot"

    I plowed through nearly four hours of this book before giving up. The main character, or characters if you count his grandmother, are autistic math geniuses. But there's nothing in their characters except lists of their mathematical accomplishments. They live through terrible times without being affected. If you're looking for character, plot, or inspired writing, look elsewhere.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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