05 February 2011

The (Apparently) Lost Magic of Dan Brown's Writing

The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown

3.5 Stars
Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object--artfully encoded with five symbols--is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation... one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom. When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon--a prominent Mason and philanthropist--is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations--all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth. (quoted from goodreads)

First Sentence:
"The secret is how to die."

If you had asked me what I expected of this book before I read it, I would have spouted the standard for Brown's other novels about Robert Langdon (The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons): a thrilling and suspenseful adventure, mysterious codes, secret societies, a ruthless villain, tons of history and culture lessons, prose that isn't always very fluid, and characters that aren't always fully fleshed-out but don't need to be. And while The Lost Symbol had plenty of mystifying secrets and indecipherable codes, the part that seemed most puzzling to me was how it managed to fulfill all of the above criteria and still be a big disappointment to me - because The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were fantastic, near-genius thrillers that left me shocked and head-over-heels in love with them. So, after I finished reading the book, I sat down and tried to figure out what went wrong, and this review is what I came up with.

The plot of The Lost Symbol is definitely exciting and it keeps you wondering what will happen next and throws in quite a few shocking twists. But I was rather irritated, because what, as far as I can see, was meant to be the biggest, most surprising, gasp-out-loud twist turned out to be totally predictable and cliched. I'm trying really, really hard not to spoil this book for you, so I won't tell you any more about this so-called 'twist' other than that it was incalculably frustrating and made me say out loud to the characters,"No DUH, you idiots! I figured that out at least 50 chapters ago!" I haven't talked to anyone else who has read this book, so maybe it's just me that's so ticked off about this. (If you have read it, please let me know if you had a similar situation. Probably without the yelling at the book though. Because, you know, that's probably just me.) Also, I found myself feeling like the entire plot had been done before, was overused - Robert is called in for an emergency, an important organization needs his help, there's a beautiful scientist, an object with a code on it, police are chasing him, etc.

The villain in the book also seems ridiculously similar to past villains, and is kind of a stereotype. First of all, the villain is a male. Secondly, he is tall, incredibly strong, and involved in occult practices. Thirdly, he is extremely creepy and misguided.

In the other novels featuring Robert Langdon, the history and culture lessons were really interesting and always kept me intrigued. The symbolism and connections were fascinating. But in this one, the huge dollops of facts, myths, and odd symbols were sometimes - dare I say it? - boring.

As with the past books, the sentence structure sometimes seems unwieldy and not very fluid. However, Brown still ends each chapter with tantalizing cliffhangers. And as for the characters, many of them were simply flat; I didn't feel like they had much depth or emotion. So, all in all, I wasn't all that impressed by The Lost Symbol.


  1. I agree with this review. Before I started, I kind of expected more, I guess. I don't know what's wrong with this one - I can't seem to put a finger on it - but it's definitely there. It's a real step-down from The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

  2. Nelvieee - I totally agree! There's just something off about it.