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.