Monday, September 28, 2009

The Lost Symbol

The title: The Lost Symbol
The author: Dan Brown
Publication: Random House, 2009
Got it from: Library

Oddly enough, today I will be reviewing two very different books with a heroine named C/Katherine, which is of course my own name. Actually, now that I think about it, these two books may have something in common. If Catherine Morland were living today, she would no doubt read Dan Brown and let her imagination run wild with conspiracy theories.

I must preface this by saying that I'm not in the Dan Brown hateration camp. No, he's not Shakespeare, but his books are fun so I don't complain. His style of writing doesn't annoy me and that's all I care about. I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code for those interesting historical tidbits that made me think differently about certain pieces of art. Are some/any of the ideas put forth in the book true? Possibly. Do I care? No.

I read The Lost Symbol with a mixture of feelings. The book was a definite page-turner. The formula was very similar to Da Vinci Code: short chapters, lots of cliffhangers, back-and-forth action that built up suspense. The hero, Robert Langdon, is summoned to Washington, supposedly to deliver a speech but really to play puppet to the whims of a psychotic, tattooed baddie natmed Mal'akh. Langdon arrives at the Capitol building only to discover he severed hand of his friend Peter Solomon (a powerful Mason) bearing cryptic tattoos. The CIA show up insisting that Langdon is the only person who can solve this. A Masonic friend of Peter's shows up, as well as Peter's sister Katherine and the three Scooby gang members must outrun the CIA while solving mysteries from their van running around Washington deciphering clues.

Mal'akh, the resident baddie, is very similar to Silas the albino monk from The Da Vinci Code. The problem is you can figure out his identity a hundred pages in and it's supposed to be a big reveal at the end. He kills indiscriminately, natch, but of course it ends up mostly being women. I'm still pissed at the death of Katherine's lab assistant, Trish, because Brown keeps referring to her as "overweight" and gives her a particularly gruesome death which nobody seems to care about. There's a genuinely scary scene where Mal'akh chases Katherine around a blacked-out room the size of a football field, but the thrills pretty much end here.

The rest of the book is overly long and stuffed with needless exposition. The ending falls completely flat and no real secrets are revealed. There's a lot of talk about science and mysticism that seems like it's lifted straight out of The Secret (are Dan Brown and Rhonda Byrne related?) I was really looking forward to learning interesting secrets about the founding fathers and Washington's history, but I was sorely disappointed here. Besides a passing mention, Washington, Franklin and the boys are barely here at all. Not knowing Washington very well, I could have used a map of the key locations too.

My other major beef with this book are the characters. Mal'akh is so purely evil, he seems more like a graduate of the Jack the Ripper Academy of Insanity than a real person. Katherine Solomon's personality is never revealed except for her love of her work and her brother. Robert Langdon remains as boring as yesterday's dried toast. Does this guy do anything besides swim, make coffee and study symbology? The only character that inspired a glimmer of interest in me was Peter Solomon, who remained something of an enigma throughout the book. Smart, funny, powerful, handsome and rich as all get out? Make him about thirty years younger and I'd go for that.

Bottom line: if you're going to read one Dan Brown book, skip this one and stick with The Da Vinci Code.

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