The Lost boy

I spent the better part of the weekend plowing through Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol.

Brown’s last book, The Da Vinci Code, became a genuine literary phenomenon, not only selling millions of copy itself, but also inspiring a host of books both supporting and debunking its claims of the true meaning of the Holy Grail. The Da Vinci Code also pushed a previous Brown book, Angels & Demons, into popularity on the paperback charts, and the world, or at least fiction readers, awaited his newest offering.


It’s here, and it is exactly what you’d expect it to be: a big, fun book that’s horribly written (at least stylewise) but impossible to put down.

Brown writes in short chapters that serve to advance the plot and tease the reader. It’s what he’s done in his previous books, and since it worked well then, there appears to be no reason to change now. His dialouge is stilted, often working solely as exposition on scientific matters the reader needs to understand. His villians are a bit over the top, often fooling themselves with delusions of grandeur.

Pacing, however, is a Brown speciality. The guy simply knows how to keep things moving, even when the ideas get completely ridiculous.

Brown is obviously a smart man. He has quite a bit of fun analyzing symbols and words, using their meanings as intregal parts of his books’ plots. He is not, however, a brilliant writer. Literary heavyweights like John Irving or Don DeLillo, could (to borrow a phrase from Everybody Loves Raymond) eat a bowl of AlphaBits and crap a better story.

That’s not necessarily a problem, though, because Brown isn’t striving for literary greatness. He’s simply trying to entertain.

And even when the plot almost veers off the rails (and the “twists” become fairly easy to figure out), The Lost Symbol remains an entertaining read. Is it a masterpiece, like the art work he so often references? Not even close.

It is, however, a great way to spend a few hours on a rainy weekend.


2 thoughts on “The Lost boy

  1. I’m currently reading it and I totally agree. Some of the villains are too pretentious to be believable. Plus, thanks to the movie adaptations, I imagine Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon and it just ruins the book for me now. I hated Tom as Robert and now that terribe casting decision has just ruined Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series for me. But, as you said, it’s pure entertainment and I’ll continue to ‘drink the kool-aid’ each time Brown releases a book.

  2. I agree with pretty much all you said about this. Brown has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer blow to the forehead. The twists of his novels, while often far-fetched, are generally pretty easy to see coming. Often the only thing that enables the plot to make any sense at all is the characters’ tendencies to launch into lengthy pedantic discourses on random subjects disguised as dialogue. All that being said, he does do his homework and manages to mix crazy science and revisionist history into a very interesting read. I’m writing this while watching National Treasure, which is eerily similar to Brown’s novel in both subject matter and artistic merit. Brown’s books, and this movie, are like a big greasy cheeseburger that you know is going to be bad for you in the long run but you just can’t put down.

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