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Posts tagged ‘The Lost Symbol’

A Gold Star for Dan Brown

Dan Brown

Image via Famous Talks. Click the link to see Dan Brown on Good Morning America.

I’ve never made any secret of my disdain for Dan Brown – bad form for a librarian, I know. But something about him has always bothered me. Sure, he can throw together a brilliant story with twists and turns and mysteries that are tough to solve. But it never quite disguised the awkwardness of his writing style, the fact that his stories are novelizations of the movies in his head rather than books designed for reading. He just doesn’t use the language well.

At least, he didn’t.

But I’m pleased to announce that, having finished reading The Lost Symbol, I can offer up a different opinion of Dan Brown. The man has stepped up his game. He’s never told a better story. I enjoyed The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons because they were fascinating tales, but The Lost Symbol went one better. It was a fascinating tale told in an engaging, clear way with humour, character development, and – dare I say it? – literary merit. Is it a better editor? More practice? Has he just been reading a lot of good works? I don’t even care. The point is, Dan Brown has always been coming up with clever intellectual mysteries, but now he’s got the writing style to back up the cleverness.

There’s a lesson in this, for Dan Brown and every other aspiring writer out there: no matter how absorbing your story line, it’s no good if you can’t use the language well. You might get the attention of avid readers – sure, it worked for Dan Brown – but fake-sounding dialogue, awkward descriptions, and stilted prose draw the reader out of the story’s world. You don’t want your writing style to jar the reader into remembering this is only a book.

Thanks to . . . well, whatever Brown has changed, I hit scarcely any of those jarring snags as I read The Lost Symbol. That made it more suspenseful, more gripping, and more fascinating than any of the other Dan Brown  novels. It made the ideas (like noetics, symbology, absolute truth, and the potential of the human  mind) clearer and more fascinating for me, and it helped me to feel closer to the characters, who seemed funny, emotional, and genuine to me for the first time.

Put simply, the plot was standard Dan-Brown goodness, but the writing made this novel.

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The Lost Symbol

Cover art for The Lost Symbol

Image via Knopf Doubleday.

Title: The Lost Symbol

Author: Dan Brown

Year of Publication: 2010

Genre Keywords: action/adventure, archaeology, CIA, conspiracy theory, Freemasonry, kidnapping, metaphysics, mystery, religion, symbology, thriller.

Summary: Now-famous symbology professor Robert Langdon is invited to give a last-minute lecture in Washington, D.C. . . . but when he gets there, he finds he’s been tricked by a violent madman in need of a symbologist who can deliver the closely-guarded Masonic pyramid, crack its code, and lead him to the human race’s greatest source of wisdom, guarded for centuries by the Freemasons. If Langdon can decipher this high-stakes puzzle, his mentor Peter Solomon goes free; if Langon fails, Solomon dies. Langdon enlists the aid of Solomon’s sister Katherine, a scientist on the verge of a major breakthrough in Noetic Science, to try to solve the puzzle posed by the Masonic Pyramid.

Who’ll Love It: Any thriller fans will eat up the standard roller-coaster plot with the twists and turns typical of Dan Brown. But Brown has stepped up his game to create a genuinely well-written mystery full of interesting scientific and philosophical information and even a few touches of sparkling humour. It has a quality of storytelling that his past works have lacked, which makes the “intellectual thriller” a lot more thrilling as a puzzle for clever readers who enjoy solving mysteries or reflecting on ideas but have, in the past, been turned off by Brown’s stilted style. If a literary snob like me loved this story, who wouldn’t?

Is That Real? Dan Brown throws a lot of weird-but-true facts into The Lost Symbol. You can check out a scattering of them here on his web site. And that’s only the beginning!  Katherine’s area of expertise, noetic sciences, actually exists. A Google search on Freemasons can open a door bigger than anything I can link to here. And Brown makes a point of noting  that “all rituals, science, artwork, and monuments in this novel are real”. The Lost Symbol can be the inspiration for further reading about a lot of fascinating (and fantastically strange!) stuff. Find out what’s fact and what’s fiction!

A Masonic symbol carved in stone

Image via Debate It Out.

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