Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Harvard Professor and world-renowned symbologist Robert Langdon (of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code fame) is off on another adventure.  This time the mystery, set in Washington D.C., involves ancient Freemason secrets, cutting-edge noetic science, an oddly tattooed villain, and high-ranking CIA officials.

Like other Dan Brown novels, this one is very fast-paced, and makes great use of the mini cliff hanger at almost every turn. (It's a brilliant way to manipulate the reader into sitting for hours, reading chapter after chapter, trying to get to the reveal.) After almost every chapter I was left shouting something to the effect of "What?!" As in, what did he see? What was on the video? What did she tell him? It was all about the never-ending questions.

Unfortunately - semi-spoiler alert - only some of the questions ever actually get answered. And when they do, it's spectacularly anti-climactic. There was one of the "surprises" that I actually didn't see coming, and it was kind of interesting when it was finally revealed. Otherwise, most of the eventual answers left me saying "meh."

A lot of people like to bash Dan Brown as a terrible writer. And sure, perhaps he isn't the best writer of our generation. But personally I really enjoy his books. I like that he's cryptic. I like that he throws in a lot of complicated symbology that may or may not be based at all in reality (but it doesn't matter because it's entertaining.) I like that he uses enough things that are based in reality (the Freemasons are a real organization, noetic science is a real thing, etc.) that it almost makes you want to suspend disbelief and consider that what he's saying could be feasible.

But mostly I like his books because they're a nice temporary diversion from reality. Not every book we read has to be a brilliant work of art. Sometimes we just need a quick, fun jaunt through imagination land. And his books easily provide that. Nothing epic. Nothing groundbreaking. Nothing worth getting worked up over. Just fun entertainment.

I think one of my fellow Goodreads users said it best in this incredibly succinct review:

Don't expect it to be a great work of art. But do expect it to be a page-turner.

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