The Daily Bongo

The Lost Symbol

by Dan Brown

After I finished reading The DaVinci Code several years ago, I quickly read through the other three Dan Brown books. That didn't take very long since Brown's book are notorious for being quick reads. For six years, I have been eagerly awaiting the book that was originally publicized as The Solomon Key. The only thing we were told at the time was that Robert Langdon would be back, and this time, he would be taking on the Masons. Well, obviously, I wasn't so eager that I read the book as soon as it came out. However, this past week, I pulled out the book that has been sitting in my TBR (to be read) pile since September.

Robert Langdon is indeed the protagonist. This time, he is called early in the morning by a friend and father figure, Peter Solomon, to give a lecture for the Smithsonian Institute that night in Washington, DC. Langdon immediately agrees to give the lecture, and begins the journey in a private plane hired by Solomon. Starting to see some similarities to Angels and Demons or The DaVinci Code? Don't worry, the feeling of déjà vu will increase. Langdon arrives just in time to give the lecture to find out there isn't a lecture. There is no scheduled lecture in the US Capital Building. Instead Langdon is greeted by a human hand, recently severed from his friend, Peter Solomon. Langdon soon finds out that he must launch a battle of wits with the hairless, muscular, heavily tattooed Mal'akh to decipher the message from a Masonic pyramid that points to the location of the Ancient Mysteries. (Again, déjà vu?) Enter CIA Office of Security director, Inoue Sato, Architect of the US Capital Building and Mason, Warren Bellamy, and Solomon's sister, Katherine Solomon. Off we all go on a merry chase to see if Langdon, with the help of Katherine Solomon, (déjà vu) can decipher the pyramid's symbols and find the Ancient Mysteries before Mal'akh kills Peter Solomon.

As you can probably tell from my constant repetition of the déjà vu remarks in the brief description of the plot, I felt as if I was reading one of the earlier books, only with the names changed to protect the innocent. Hey, don't get me wrong. I love formulaic books. There's something comfortable in knowing what to expect when you pick up a book by a certain author. However, with Lost Symbol, Langdon took it a step too far. Mal'akh seemed a carbon copy of Silas from Davinci Code. The whole setup just reeked of a rehash of the other novels.

The other problem I had was with the disjointed story elements. We were going back and forth between Katherine Solomon and Langdon. I guess that Brown wanted to talk about Noetic Science, which is Katherine's speciality, and that's why he brought her up and gave her that interest. I really couldn't see a connection between that and the Masonic Pyramid except for the 50 page philosophical discussion that ends the book. Brown had us going back and forth in time with remembrances from Katherine and Langdon, and lectures from Langdon explaining Masonic elements or symbolism. I thought the lectures were funny because Langdon would be confused, and then, eureka, have a moment of enlightenment. Then we would get the lecture explaining everything, that Langdon really didn't believe although he was lecturing about it.

Problem area number three was the interactions that the victims had with Mal'akh. So there you are, tied up and in a life-threatening position by a person who has savagely and ruthless maimed and murdered others. "Tell me what you know, or I'll kill you. The only way to live is to tell me." Come on! Even as a little kid, I knew that as soon as you told, you had no value for the killer. Your only value was to not tell. After all, he's screwed if he kills you without getting the secret from you. Well, the characters in Lost Symbol are extremely trusting in the honor of killers, or maybe they are just incredibly dumb. I'm opting for the latter. By the umpteenth time, Mal'akh was giving a victim this ultimatum, I was yelling at the book, "don't tell him! He's going to kill you anyway." Very frustrating!

Last point: the dénouemont is 50 pages long. Yes, 50 pages. It was 50 pages of philosophy, religion, and utter fluff that I felt could easily have been edited out of the book. Yeah, we heard the lecture given in the last 50 pages throughout the book, ad nauseum. We don't need a final mind numbing repetition of the same points. Thirty pages into the dénouemont, I was starting to wonder what the point was, and when it was all going to end.

Perhaps that's the problem with the book; it lacks an editor. I definitely go the feeling that Brown felt that instead of an original story, he needed to repeat the stories that he has already told. An editor might have given the book more structure and direction. Also, I wonder if Brown was really interested in this book, or if he was writing it just to cash in on the success of the DaVinci Code. Yes, it took him six years to get this book out, but I think that I heard he was suffering from writer's block for a portion of it, and that's obvious from the wanderings in the plot. Also a good portion of his time was taken up with the court case for plagiarism.

Would I recommend the book? Well, that's a tricky one. I did enjoy parts of the book. I know that I would love to learn more about Freemasonry. I'm not sure how accurate Brown was in his description of the group, but he did appear to give a positive image of them. Brown does not portray the group as a secret society whose only point is world domination and a new world order. In fact, Brown through Langdon's lectures tries to get people to think about their bias against the group and to illustrate that it is caused by lack of information. I think I want to reread the other two Robert Langdon books, and maybe I might want to reread Lost Symbol to see if wasn't as annoying as I thought in the first reading. I did like the puzzles, and I know that in a few months, there will probably be an illustrated version of the book to take more of our money. I know that I was on the Internet trying to see the Albrecht Dürer picture, Melencolia I. Plus, it would be nice to see all the pictures of all the DC locations as Langdon mentions or visits. I think I would get any future Dan Brown books from the library instead of purchasing them. Read Lost Symbol at your risk. It's somewhat entertaining. It all depends on your ability to withstand déjà vu and a pointless dénouemont.

October 31, 2009