Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown should I explain this. Perhaps if I start at the beginning of my Dan Brown experiences. I was mostly a Sci-Fi/fantasy reader growing up and then got hooked on historical fiction at about the same time I entered college. I added other genres like mysteries, horror, etc. as I went along but never really got around to thrillers for a long time. I ignored The DaVinci Code when it first became a huge success, mostly for the same reason I had avoided thrillers (and straight fiction). You see I had read mostly for escapism (or studying textbooks and such) and the last thing I wanted was to read about people living in today's times and in today's world.

But finally my mother (who mostly likes mysteries and semi-romances by authors like JD Robb and Danielle Steele) convinced me to read The DaVinci Code. I finally cracked under the strain and guess what? I ate it up. I don't recall ever reading such a page-turner before. I liked the puzzles, I liked the action sequences, and I liked the conspiracy stuff. I'm also not Catholic so I wasn't offended. Right away I turned to Angels and Demons and loved that too. These were my first "thriller" novels I had ever read and they even won my best-of-the-year awards. Later on I read the other two previous books by Dan Brown and also read several novels by my mom's other favorite, James Patterson. (These were the earlier Cross books and before he started "writing" 13 books per year). A funny thing started to happen. Both the Dan Brown books and the James Patterson books became less and less enjoyable, the more I read. Of course I was reading the Dan Brown books backwards from the way they were published so perhaps that explained it. In the years since then I have started to read many a thriller, from a wide variety of authors and I've learned far more about the genre.

Enter Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol. I was a little worried right from the beginning because the title seemed rather uninspired. Couldn't they have come up with something better than "The Lost Symbol?" I waited until the paperback because A) I don't have room in my house for hardbacks and B) I'm a cheapskate. I’m also patient and not one to rush out and read it from the library if there's a good chance I'll be adding it to my own library in the future.

To sum up my feelings on this novel in one word: disappointing. It wasn't crap, or slush, or a total waste of time. It wasn't really amateurish in the truest sense of that word.  But I did feel the plot was waaay too contrived. And clumsy. Most of the narrative seemed to be an excuse to stick in more trivia of the kind made famous by his previous two works. The characters were flat and even the hero, Robert Langdon spent most of the book being the victim of the action and not driving it at all. And the book was too long. I don't mind lengthy reads but this one could have been at least a third shorter with no real loss to the actual story.

Despite all of that, it had some good moments. I did keep turning the pages to see what would happen next even though I frequently winced at the end of many chapters when the POV character gasped at some huge new revelation, only to have to wait for three more chapters from other POV characters to see what had been discovered. The treadmill of discovery was everlasting.

So will I read Dan Brown's next book? Yep. There's still something about them, perhaps a nostalgia that takes me back to my first thriller that did, after all, launch my interest in an entire genre.  It's easy to be a critic, especially with an author that is phenomenally successful.


  1. I've only read The Da Vinci Code, and I can't say it inspired me to seek out more of Dan Brown's novels - I found it to be badly written, though admittedly it did have a certain page-turning quality.

  2. Many folks feel that way. I think if I went back and read it again, I might have the same feeling. I suppose I have "grown" as a reader..


Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire