Friday, September 25, 2009

I waited five years for this?

I read a lot. I reckon I finish around 50 books a year across a wide variety of genres, but one of my favorite is the 'adventure' book. You know, books that read sort of like Raiders of the Lost Ark, with lots of cliff hangers and general feats of daring.

With reading habits like these, it was inevitable that I would encounter Dan Brown. The first of his books that I read was Angels and Demons and I loved it. It had a propulsive, thrilling plot, an interesting premise, and was in general a fun romp through Rome.

I read The Da Vinci Code too, along with all the rest of the world, but enjoyed it less. While it was still a page turner, there was a lot more speechifying, and it felt a bit like the author had an ax to grind.

Which brings us to today, and The Lost Symbol. I was on the hold list for this book since before I quit at the library and moved to Japan, so it's been a long time in coming. The good news is that Brown can still write short, fast moving chapters that keep you constantly reading to find out what happens next. Sadly, that is pretty much the only good news. I often had the feeling that rather than reading a thriller I was attending the lecture of a rather stuffy professor. If our hero Robert Langdon isn't lecturing about symbols to one of the other characters, then one of them is lecturing him to 'open his mind.'

The book also mirrors some of the other defects of The Da Vinci Code, including a laughably insane antagonist, and a real let down of a climax. I understand that for books like this that flirt with the supernatural and yet take place in the 'real' world it can be hard to write a fitting ending. The finish we are presented with in The Lost Symbol is ludicrous. The final reveal of the villains plot is so un-epic and nonsensical that I felt more than a bit robbed.

I do have more of a problem with Mr. Brown than this derivative follow up to The Most Popular Book Ever. He has inspired a huge copycat following. Every other author of adventure/ thriller novels has been trying to hit it Da Vinci Code big for years, and so now much of the genre is taken over with novels about religion, science, codes and all of the other tropes that propelled The Da Vinci Code to the huge sales numbers that it enjoyed.

Luckily, I have come up with the The Lost Symbol drinking game. Take a shot every time Langdon lectures somebody, every time somebody tells him to be less skeptical, every time you read the words "ancient mysteries" and every time you successfully guessed a plot twist. If this was a two hour movie, the amount of shots consumed as a result of playing this game may well prove fatal, but with a few days to read the book, you should be safe.

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