Dakota Cipher: An Ethan Gage Adventure

The Dakota Cipher: An Ethan Gage Adventure

by William Dietrich

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Dakota Cipher by William Dietrich.

Well, I would have passed right this one right on by — it’s a Man Book, shiny round Thingy Of Doom on the cover and all, and it’s part of a continuing series — but happily it had the correctly alluring mix of history and mythology, plus the hero sounded like he tipped the scales towards caddish and dorky and away from brooding superagent with a dark secret. This guy sounded like he even had a sense of humor.

So I went along for the ride as our hero Ethan alternately brags about his conquests and them sheepishly admits he was set on fire, chased out of town or otherwise humiliated in his eternal pursuit of leisure and women. This story is set in the 17th century, so he’s fired upon by angry husbandsÊ with muskets and escapes by way of coach — it’s a nice change from sportscars and cell phones.

But there’s a plot! It’s all to do with getting Ethan out of the bedrooms and gambling halls of Europe and onto the American frontier. His visit to the new city of Washington is pretty hilarious (it’s a big work zone, not like now AT ALL), and so is his interview with President Jefferson, who was apparently obsessed with mammoths.

Eventually, Ethan and his new BFF, the one-eyed Viking Magnus Bloodhammer — and if I ever should have a child, he or she will proudly bear that name — set off across country in search of a sort of runestone, among other things. The scenes set on the vast and empty plains of the American West were oddly poignant — even smart ass Ethan cannot help but see himself with new eyes, and his interactions with the already downward-spiraling Native people were as tragic as they certainly must have been. I found the balance between genuine emotion and silly bravado lifted Dietrich’s writing, and turned Ethan into a genuine hero, despite himself.


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