Thursday, October 8, 2009

book review: the lost symbol by dan brown

I'll assume you either know the plot of this novel or you don't want to know about it, so I'll spare you the summary.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this book. If you asked me my thoughts while I was reading it, they varied among "I love it!," "It's really good!," "I can't stop rolling my eyes!," "When will it end?," and "Well, it's not very good, but I really like it." I completely understand why SKrishna didn't rate this book. And I completely understand why the ratings at Amazon are so disparate. There are parts of this book I would rate 1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars, 4 stars and 5 stars. Different readers will place more importance on some parts than others, and with this book more than any other book I've read, I would find it impossible to predict a reader's reaction. Here's how I viewed the book:

1 star elements: The ubiquitous italics; there are other ways to emphasize things you want the reader to pay attention too. As a reader, I abhor this technique. My eye tends to glance around the page and picks up on things that are different. The italics distract me, and they really serve no literary purpose here.

The watches. I get it; Langdon has a Mickey Mouse watch. It's important to him; it's irrelevant after the first mention, and it's annoying in a suspenseful scene. The fact that Katherine also has a very special watch given to her by her parents is laughable, but at least it was only mentioned once. I suppose she wasn't as concerned with time as Langdon.

The formulaic romance. I loved Angels and Demons (and I want to read it again to see if my opinion has changed), and I thought The DaVinci Code was mediocre at best (I credit growing up in both a church and intellectual community, but I found nothing shocking or outrageous in the book, and after Angels and Demons, it seemed formulaic). I am willing to suspend my sense of reality for the sake of a good mystery or adventure story. I am not willing to overlook the fact that for three books now, Robert Langdon happens to end up solving a very important mystery with a ridiculously intelligent, articulate and attractive woman who has some very close relation to the man (whom Langdon is also closely related to somehow). At least there was a quick mention of what happened to the Angels and Demons woman in The Da Vinci Code. Here: nada. As a woman who has a fondness for intelligent, worldly men, the idea of these women falling for Langdon seems improbable at best and laughable at worst.

The sexism. Hearing alleged intellectuals walk around talking about "man's secrets" is infuriating. Hearing Katherine talking about mankind rather than humanity is worse. For a book so concerned with being forward thinking, Dan Brown could use a seminar in appropriate language and gender bias.

2 star elements: The villain (I'll avoid specifics in case you haven't read it). He's too unbelievable. He's so unbelievable he wasn't scary. I like a villain with a few doses of humanity or something about him or her I can relate to.

3 star elements: Although I liked parts of it, it was all too much. It was too long, too hard to maintain that much intensity for that many pages. The resolution was unsatisfying.

4 star elements: The idea of this book is cool. I like adventure stories. The thrill of the chase was fun. For 80% of the book, I really enjoyed Katherine as a character. She was intelligent, open-minded and inspiring. I appreciate she got to make some discoveries instead of our intrepid hero, but as I said earlier, her use of mankind instead of humanity rubbed me the wrong way, and I don't think she would fall for Robert Langdon.

This paragraph: "Is there? Is it not possible that we are still living in the Dark Ages, still mocking the suggestion of 'mystical' forces that we cannot see or comprehend. History, if it has taught us anything at all, has taught us that the strange ideas we deride today will one day be our celebrated truths. I claim I can transform the pyramid with a touch of my finer, and you question my sanity. I would expect more from an historian. History is replete with great minds who have all proclaimed the same thing...great mind who have all insisted that man possesses mystical abilities of which he is unaware." p. 308

5 star elements:
Whether you consider it science fiction, science, an interesting religious view, or just unsettling, noetic science is intriguing and fascinating. The ideas in this book made me think, even if the book also made me groan. I'll give you this point, Dan Brown, I didn't tweet about noetics, but I am blogging about it.

Will I read the next Dan Brown novel? Probably. Here's what I would like to see Dan Brown do: first, write children's books. Wouldn't it be fun to see a sixth-grade Robert Langdon solving little mysteries? The problems could be more elementary too, and it would fit perfectly. Another option would be to have Langdon have a daughter who suddenly appears and wants to get into symbology. A young adult heroine is born. She could follow him around the world learning and solving little puzzles. These formulas would work for children's books, but I find them getting old in adult books.

I'm pretty much done with Langdon as a hero. If he comes back, I'd really like to see him in a more supporting role, or at least an equitable role. Katherine had the most to do of his female characters, but she still felt too much like a sidekick for someone who knew more than Langdon in many pivotal scenes. If Langdon comes back as the hero, and he inevitably will, can one of his three female sidekicks also return? I can't stand adding another one.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) - I loved parts, and I enjoyed parts, but as a whole, it's mediocre and likable. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Only if you'll talk to me about it.

Source: I checked this book out from the library

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the well done review. The reviews on this book seemed mixed. I'm waiting for the audio version from the library!


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