I read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code at least a year after all the hype and hysteria had died down. I enjoyed the speculative nature of it, especially the whole Mary Magdelene debate and while it was criticised for its historical inaccuracy, it didn’t worry me too much as it was a fun and entertaining read.
I then went back and read Angels And Demons which I found to be a much better book, though both follow exactly the same formula: symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned after a violent event that leaves somebody dead, the body has been damaged in mysteriously ‘symbolic’ ways and Langdon is then required to follow a whole bunch of clues around a foreign city accompanied by a young and stunningly beautiful woman who also happens to be a brilliant scientist. Oh yeah, and there’s a deranged villain out there who’s also trying to kill him.
Dan Brown has obviously decided that this is a winning formula (and it is in terms of selling books – hey, I bought a copy) but a formula can only take you so far when your writing skills are seriously lacking. His latest offering, The Lost Symbol, contains all the same elements of the previous Langdon novels, but is at best a clumsy affair, full of clunky sentences and bad dialogue and paper thin plotlines. And if you don’t figure out the true identity of the villain 300 pages before it’s revealed like I did, then I will be seriously concerned for your sanity.
So why didn’t I notice this general sloppiness in the earlier Langdon books? The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons certainly contained bad writing, as is highlighted in this article containing some of the less skilful lines, but I think there was more action and intrigue in the first two novels and that was enough to mask those weaknesses. I really struggled through The Lost Symbol and spent most of the time wondering why his editor let so much slide through, and giggling at lines like ‘his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny’. Good grief.
It has been said that Brown has another 12 novels planned for Mr Langdon and it will be interesting to see if he’s at all tempted to rework his formula. Then again, if you happen to stumble across a formula that sells a million copies of your novel on its first day of release, I can imagine you’d be somewhat reluctant to mess with it.
So, what are your thoughts? Have you read it? Do you plan to read it? Or do you already hate it on principle? Let me know in the comments.
On a related note, I had fun checking out the Interactive Dan Brown Plot Generator also. This is what came out when I entered ‘Paris’ and ‘The Manson Family’.
A mysterious labyrinth deep beneath the streets of Paris
A nefarious cult determined to protect it
A white-knuckeld race to discover the Manson family’s darkest secret
The Invisible Enigma
When renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Arch of Triumph to analyze a mysterious geometric form—etched into the floor next to the disfigured form of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Destinistas, a secret branch of the Manson family that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Vatican.
Langdon’s worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Destinistas appears at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to deliver a sinister ultimatum: Deposit $1 billion in the Manson family’s off-shore bank accounts or the exclusive clothier of the Swiss Guards will be bankrupted. Racing against the clock, Langdon joins forces with the swan-necked and charming daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult’s secret plan.
Embarking on a frantic hunt, Langdon and his companion follow a 200-year-old trail through Paris’s most exalted statues and historic buildings, pursued by a one-eyed assassin the cult has sent to thwart them. What they discover threatens to expose a conspiracy that goes all the way back to Charles Manson and the very founding of the Manson family.
I will leave you with a couple of tracks that are tenuously related to this post, but not really.