The Lost Symbol

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I had been waiting for Dan Brown’s highly anticipated book “The Lost Symbol” to come out in paperback for around a year and a half after its original release in hardcover.  The sight of the book tormented me every time I stepped into a bookstore, unable to find what I wanted. Yet a week ago, I finally got my hands on that edition and begin to read what turned out to be 600 pages worth of utter disappointment.

This time, we see Robert Langdon, renowned Harvard symbologist (which by the way does not exist in real life),  Brown’s main protagonist, in Washington D.C, trying to unlock the secrets of Freemasonry amidst the city’s architecture, art, and monuments to save his friend’s life, aided by an attractive, yet intelligent female, all while running away from the officials and the madman  who brought him there in the first place.

I won’t go into the whole plot-line, because you can easily find that online at Wikipedia or any other website, and they’re more informed than I am on that subject matter. (I still have to reread the book to get its full scope). Therefore, this post is about first and general impressions.

You see, even though it was hyped up to be the second-coming of The Da Vinci Code, this book only serves as the replication of the format that has served Brown so well in his past book, as well as its predecessor Angels and Demons. But it barely works here. The action and the history aren’t up to what we’re used to, and it looks like Brown was writing for a screenplay instead of a book.

His characters, even Langdon who we are so familiar with at the moment comes off as one-sided, as there is no room for character development because Brown is too busy combining all the elements of his “no-fail” format into this blend of a book. To get the character’s full-background story, you have to skip through numerous pages that are just thrown in there for good measure.

He even throws out “fleeting characters” just to look like he can capture the full-scope, but because they get so little air time, you can barely understand why all those agents, tech experts, and the like are there in the first place. They do nothing to further the story or add any excitement to it. Oh, speaking of excitement, there is virtually none of that, because the story just drowns on and on, and even the characters sense that through their disappointments and their own actions.

In a Creative Writing class I took not so long ago, the professor kept yelling at me for paying too much attention to detail and not enough on the whole story. Brown does exactly that. It seems as though his publishers set a page limit so high he had no option but to write and write and write whatever is in his heart. And before you wonder, I am a huge fan of big books and details, but this one went over the threshold limit.

Dan Brown, bookjacket image.
Shame on you Dan Brown, really shame

Of course, every protagonist has to have an enemy, and Brown does not miss on that one. He presents us with Mal’akah, the very strange individual who is far too obsessed with finding something that he hopes to inscribe on the top of the head in order to reach what I believe is enlightenment or something of the sort. Now, what I hate about Brown’s villains is that they are all fabricated from the same cloth, be it Mal’akah, the albino monk from The Da Vinci Code or the assassin from Angels and Demons.  They all come across as far too passionate for a normal human being, making them cartoon-ish and cliche. Mal’akah is both. Also, the connection he shares with one of the characters in the book made me feel really uneasy when I got to that point.

There’s also the issue of Brown’s accuracy in information. Let’s just say, he’s been well known to suggest theories as facts, causing an uproar in several countries, like here in Lebanon, where the sale of The Da Vinci Code and its movie showing were prohibited. Judging by the content of this book, Brown will not elude this at all.

My final bone to pick with the book is its ending. I can’t tell you anything about it because I will ruin it for you, but be sure of this, you will skip over it. You honestly will. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I doubt it will. Here’s where the smell of the blend becomes an actual stench and you just need to get rid of it.

So, my suggestion: just wait for the movie. The book was not worth the wait, at all, and this is coming from a fan of Brown’s previous work. The movie will hopefully do a better job at showing this half-baked story. So yes, spare your money and your energy, and if you want something cheesy, you can read a romantic novel and not this piece of “literary” art.

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