Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's not so bad

I finally read Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol. Well, it's not so bad. It just sucks. The Lost Symbol is still a very engaging read -- a page turner, if you will. This is book you read with a bottle of vodka at your bedside. (If you can get some weed, that would be much better too. You need that "high" feeling during the novel's low points, which there are a lot.)

In The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown sticks to the formula that worked so well in Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. It's still Robert Langdon chasing and deciphering symbols in a historic area in less than 24 hours. The lost symbol pertains to a long held secret by the Masons, a symbol -- or word -- so powerful that it can change the world as we see it today. Brown's villain, a freakishly tall and tattooed-all-over man named Mal'akh, is unispired. We've read it all before. Mal'akh seeks enlightenment and he feels that the only way to do it is if he possesses this esoteric Masonic symbol, which he eventually does.

Much has been said about this book and more particularly about Brown's writing skills. Critics have sharpened their knives; bloggers have given their two cents begrudgingly. But one of the things I absolutely love about this book is that it generated excitement in an industry that already has been left for dead. The publishing industry needs this book. People hardly buy new books anymore, and The Lost Symbol hopefully will change all that.

Brown can indeed tell a story, but the language still feels lackluster. If you cringed at some of the awkwardly written sentences in his four novels, then you'll find yourself perpetually cringing as you read this one. The dialogue is unnatural. Characters just throw bits of academic information at each other as if they were talking about the weather. Of course, the only way Brown can pull that off is if he populates his novels with characters from the academe. In the world of Brown, all his protagonists are effortlessly beautiful, have encyclopedic knowledge about everything, and just possess good luck every time. (There's one point in the novel wherein I thought that the Langdon franchise has reached its end, but I knew that it was just wishful thinking. Read the book; you'll know what I mean.)

The Lost Symbol has particular subplots that seem irrelevant to the race-against-time main storyline. Brown introduces us to the less-known field of Noetic Science, a discipline that studies how the mind can influence the physical world around it. Somehow, this narrative thread leads to the concept of the existence of the soul, an idea that really isn't anything new. Even the way Brown constructs his supportive statements for this concept feels flimsy at best. Although, one of the more interesting subplots has something to do with discovering the hidden meaning in ancient texts. In a way, Brown is encouraging people to read, which is a great thing IMHO.

Read this book if:
  1. You find Langdon hot.
  2. You can stand seeing several italics in every page.
  3. You have 6 straight hours to spare.

25 comments:

Portobello's coffee said...

I can't wait to read this. :)

Peter S. said...

Hi, Portobello's coffee! Are you still reading it as an ebook?

Portobello's coffee said...

nah! I'll wait for that "illustrated" version. It'll look great on my bookshelf.

Charlie said...

A good review, Peter, but it sounds to me like you had a real love-hate relationship with the book.

Thanks for reading it for me so that I don't have to.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Charlie! Thank you.

Yes, I did have a love-hate thing with this novel. I tried to be objective when I wrote the review though, but sometimes, my personal insights just get in the way.

Book Bird Dog said...

I know at least two die-hard Dan Brown fans. Can't wait for their verdict. They just loved the Da Vinci Code. I guess it's hard for another book to follow that.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Harvee! I can just imagine! Brown must have guts of steel to write a follow-up to that one.

line of flight said...

i have found the movies much better than the books because they can be generally finished in two hours and require less visualization.

caite said...

I am no Brown fan. I read part of da Vinci...IMHO, it was just bad. Silly plot, poor writing. I will forgive a lot in a book, except poor writing.

And from the reviews I have read, this book is more of the same. So I can't feel happy when I see all the hoopla about this book.
I want people to be excited about books too, heavens knows, but GOOD books. I want people to be excited about reading, but is this the best the industry has to offer? All this stuff in the media about a book that is, at best, of questionable quality, just seems like a scam.

gosh, does that sounds too harsh...lol

David Wagner said...

This is just the kind of book that would languish on my shelf, unread and unloved, while I get to "just one more" fantasy book that I've been waiting to read... I think I'll save the dough and pass on this one... beside, I don't smoke weed, so the low points (of which there are many, you say) would sink me...

Good review! I'm gonna plug your blog in mine tonight...

Peter S. said...

@line of flight: Oh yes. In a way, the movies are generally much better (except for the casting of Tom Hanks of course).

@caite: No, it doesn't sound too harsh. As you've said, it's just your humble opinion. Hehehe.

@David Wagner: Thanks for the plug!

josbookshelf said...

Boy, you did sharpen your knives on this one, Peter. Although you did relent in some parts. He, he. It must be one of those mediocre books---as you said, not that bad (it just sucks--ha, ha!) but nothing to crow about either. Which leaves me to forgo buying this for now and perhaps wait for the paperback copy and a sale. Not a "must-have" anymore.

Well,thanks for this post and saving me some dough. :)

Peter S. said...

Hi, Jo! You're welcome. Yes, just wait for the paperback.

stacybuckeye said...

What I loved about the first two Langdon books wasn't the writing, but the riveting way that he kept the story moving. I didn't want to put it down once I started. Looks like that could be the case with this one. Guess I'll have to wait til I've got 6 hours free ;)

StephanieD said...

I liked the first two books (because of the plotting and the pseudo-academic, obscure, and arcane details), but I am not dying to read this one. I'll wait until I can find it on the bargain table.

Praise be to the Dan Browns of this world whose legions of fans are keeping the publishing industry afloat.

Nice to find fellow Pinoy in the blogosphere.

Diane said...

Thanks for your review. I'll wait until it's out in softcover :)

Peter S. said...

Hi, Stacy! I think you can even read it for less than 6 hours! It can be hard to put down.

Hello, Stephanie D! Thanks for dropping by! I go and check out your blog.

Hi, Diane! Yes, a lot of people would just be waiting for the book in paperback (which is something I should've done).

Peter S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bookjourney said...

I did find Langdon hot.... until they portrayed him in the movies and used Tom Hanks...LOL

I usually enjoy Dan Brown so I am looking froward to reading this book. Thanks Peter for the review!

Peter S. said...

Hello, Sheila! Tom Hanks is completely miscast in the role!

Patrick said...

Nice review here Peter. I've only read Da Vinci and was unimpressed with Dan Brown's writing hence I'm no longer very enthusiastic to read another one of his novels. The movie just made me feel worse.

Most of Brown's fans seem to agree that Angels and Demons is his best. I'm just curious.. how does the new book compare to A&D and Da Vinci? I might chance upon a copy of A&D one of these days at Booksale. :D

Peter S. said...

Hello, Patrick! I don't think there's any difference among Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol. These novels are pretty much formulaic.

I guess Filipino readers tend to gravitate toward Angels and Demons because of its Catholic themes.

Maan said...

I found this book okay. Just okay. Hehehe. At least it didn't suck big time like the Digital Fortress.

I think background on Freemasonry would help the reader appreciate this book.

Pero sayang ang 780 pesos ko! Waaaah! I should have waited for the paperback...

Peter said...

Hello, Maan! At least we know what to do the next time he comes out with a new novel.

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