October 17, 2009

A Review: The Lost Symbol

I don't usually post reviews of things on this here site. As much as I read, I should do it more often since it would give me more to talk about than just my kid. Oh, and my dog. Don't get me wrong, I am oh so sure that you all love nothing more than to read about our life...but well, I imagine most of you are getting bored, so I shall talk about a book I read on Thursday.

Okay, so I read about sixty pages Wednesday night. The rest I read on Thursday.

This book? I am sure you've heard of it, as it and its predecessors get a lot of hype.

Let me start by saying that I have read all of Dan Brown's books: Digital Fortress, Deception Point, Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol. The first two in the list are interesting and separate entities. The final three, however, have quite a few connections.

My favorite of the last three was Angels & Demons. This might be because it was the first that I read, but I think it has more to do with the fact that it is crammed full of information. Full to the brim and overflowing with everything from the manner in which a new Pope is chosen to all of the buildings with sacred and secular symbols in Rome, and the list goes on.

The Da Vinci Code felt a bit like a rehashing of some of the information in Angels & Demons, and honestly it read like a blockbuster movie, which is never really a good thing. Whether you agree with the story it tells or not, books are supposed to be better than the movie, not the same as or less than. I should admit here and now that I haven't seen the movie, but my point is that if a book reads like a blockbuster, then it isn't doing its job; it should be much more than that.

Anyway. Back to the latest novel, The Lost Symbol.

Freemasons are the group with all of the intrigue this go 'round, and symbols are the name of the game once again. As far as that part goes, like Angels & Demons, and the portions of The Da Vinci Code that are about the works of Da Vinci, etc., things are fine. You learn about buildings in D.C. and some of the history of the place, although you have to take it all with a grain of salt, as Mr. Brown is most certainly a fiction writer, not a historian.

Unfortunately, reading the book feels a bit like Déjà vu because of the ingredients. Insert [group surrounded in mystery] here, mix with [symbol] here, add a dash of professor turned super-duper-CIA-foiling (or other military super-group) hero, and bake for approximately 700 pages.

And don't forget the super intelligent girl about half-way through.

There were other things about the book that were a let-down. One was the fact that the identity of the villain is supposed to be a shocker at the end. Um, hello? Dan Brown? If I can figure out where you are going with that...oh, say the second time you talk about the villain (which was in the first little bit of the book), then you've got a major problem. I honestly don't see how anyone could not figure out who he really is. Then again, I guessed the puppet master in The Usual Suspects very close to the beginning of the movie (BU! can attest), so maybe I have super-powers.

You know, like Robert Langdon apparently has in the books. I know, I know: it is fiction and he is supposed to be able to evade, etc. It is also supposed to seem realistic, people. At least enough to pull the wool over your eyes.

Anyway. So the reveal at the end where we all are supposed to gasp about his identity was lost on me as I already knew who he was.

The most irritating thing about the book was the last bit where for quite a few pages we are lectured to regarding Dan Brown's version of the Freemason's beliefs. I mean, I can see where you're going with the conversation, so just get there already and save me the lecture.

One thing I believe will be most controversial about the book (once everyone gets past their obsession with figuring out if his Freemason information is true) is his inclusion of what he called Noetics. I have done no research on it and have no idea if it really exists, but according to Mr. Brown, it is the scientific study of the power of people's thoughts. This is then translated directly into the power of prayer, etc. Of course, he also ties it into things like astral projection and moving objects with your mind (How could he not, right? This is a conspiracy theory, man.), but overall the message is that the power of prayer works.

The reason (according to The Lost Symbol) it works is probably not everyone's cup of tea. He walks a very fine line on his...theological...information, and hoo boy can that be a doozy. Whether you agree with him or not is up to your personal beliefs, so I am going to leave that for you to decide...but it means you have to read the book.

Which I am guessing you can tell I am not so sure you should do.

Basically, he wrote another blockbuster. He even included things like i-phones and twitter to make it easy to get sponsors. I mean really.

Also? Mr. Brown should make things more difficult to figure out. Especially if it is at the end of the novel and therefore is supposed to be a big 'un. Aside from the identity of the bad guy, I also figured out the location of the secret...erm...secret...as soon as the final symbol puzzle was solved. Not even the protagonist did that. To which I say: "Um, really?"

Anyway. There's my review. If you just want something to read that will keep you busy for a day and you can get past the fact that he makes it too easy to figure out (and drags it out a bit, in my opinion), then go for it. Otherwise, read something else...

...preferably something that will not be in theaters any time soon.

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