A few days ago I decided to write my reactions to Dan Brown’s latest novel while I read the book. Those more detailed notes deal with my reactions to certain philosophies and plot points as I encountered them. It was my version of yelling back at the tv.
This much shorter review is my take on the book as a whole.
If you enjoy ‘Lost’ or fast-paced thrillers a la Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler, chances are this book may be a nice way to kill an afternoon at the beach or a long layover in Cleveland. It’s got quite a few gotchas that move you through the story.
Once the story gets underway, that is.
Dan Brown’s books come in two parts. There’s the thriller element that puts an unlikely hero in a series of unlikelier breakneck situations, propelled from behind by powerful forces. Then there’s the Pop Philosophy 101 element drawing the hero and reader alike to progress through the esoteric symbology through to greater understanding. The book is at it’s best when it combines both elements in equal part. Unfortunately it is often unbearably uneven. Tedious explanations about Masonic ritual and lore weigh down the first quarter of the story. Later on the narrative suffers from overlong chase scenes which suffer from a lack of framing. (I call it the X-files Problem. If your audience has no idea how the building or ship or city is laid out, they can’t visualize or contextualise the progress of the heroes and villains.)
But there are plenty of pages to suck you into this world where intellect fuels the engine of desire. Those parts salvage the book. I recommend it to anyone who wants to relive the Dan Brown Experience.
Sadly the most striking lesson to take away from The Lost Symbol is that marketing is the current ruler in the publishing universe. I’ve read scores of books along the same speculative lines as Brown. They’re better-written and more fun to read. The only thing they lack is a multimillion dollar ad campaign.
So while I think this average book may be a fun way to pass the time I recommend you also try Umberto Eco, Charles Palliser, the non-sigma James Rollins, Neal Stephenson and Michael Gruber for starters.