Saturday, July 24, 2010

"The Lost Symbol"

Since I had a day to my lonesome, I've been trying to get through borrowed books! I've had this on loan from a friend for a loonnng time... Here's the verdict on "The Lost Symbol:"
Dan Brown, what piffle!
I know this is not meant to be great literature, but-- really? The starry-eyed descriptions of noetic science and the Masons made me laugh out loud. Don't even get me started on the tall, sinister, tattooed eunuch villain... Maureen Dowd picked out some choice passages in her NYT book review, but I still wasn't prepared for the sheer ridiculousness of this book.
Maybe Brown was trying to make Langdon more relatable, but he come off as rather thick in this novel. WHY does he keep willfully ignoring or just plain missing just about every major clue? I guess it's supposed to teach us about the dangers of not believing, the blinders we put on when we only consider what we think we know if verifiable, but UGH, the man is a Harvard professor! And he's supposed to be our hero! Let him come up with something other than MAGIC SQUARES, for chrissakes! (Perhaps I'm jaded, but when one of the big reveals in a Dan Brown book is the same as one in a kids' book published a year earlier, I have to think Mr. Brown is kind of phoning it in.)
I may have forgiven all if the pacing had been right. Brown has kept me going from chapter to chapter with breathless incredulity. Not this time. OK, I'll grant that chapter 9 ended well: "Someone was screaming." That kept me going. But chapter 4 ends with Mal'akh's thought/sentence fragment, "A gift for the one man on earth who can help me obtain what I seek"(p. 20). OOOOH, chilling, right? Then chapter 5 starts off with, "The world's largest and most technologically advanced museum is also one of the world's best-kept secrets." (p.21) This feels like a third grader reporting on the Smithsonian, not a masterful suspense writer toying with his readers. Put the two missteps together in the pages I would hope had been most polished by an author and his editors, and I almost decided to move on to another book.
I agree with a customer who chatted with me about the book the other day: the architectural tour of DC we get is fascinating, but the plot and puzzles in this thriller just fell flat. And the characters are ridiculous.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I was very curious, so I'm glad I read it (quickly), but I'm also really grateful that this is a book I borrowed and didn't buy.
Maybe I'm just bitter that we solved the "Da Vinci Code" puzzles and didn't win the "prize more valuable than gold" of having our names used as characters in this book... but I think I'm glad to have been just a dissatisfied reader of this rather than a fictional participant!

No comments: