Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

In Dan Brown's latest adventure, the author's fantasy autobiographical bookworm hero Robert Langdon scrambles around Washington D.C. in search of a fabled Masonic treasure that will secure the life of a dear friend and colleague.
All of the staple elements of a Robert Langdon adventure are in place. Locations chock-full of historic symbolism, a scavenger hunt of disguised clues leading to a long-lost artifact of power, and a villain who is sadistically driven and physically deformed. The latter, in this book's case, is a creature tattooed from head to foot and sculpted through years of steroid use and physical obsession.
The book begins in form as well. Langdon is rushed into a setting at the urging of an old friend, only to find that old friend's hand severed and pointing towards the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda. From there he embarks on a goose chase through a number of conveniently placed escapes while he evades the authorities who may or may not be trying to help him in the pursuit of a secret kept hidden for centuries by the Masons.
Symbol, in my opinion, is the weakest of the three Langdon novels. The story does not produce the depth of paradigm shift present in Da Vinci Code, and the action is not as hair-raising as Angels and Demons. The grand revelations at the end of the book come up a little short and the big mystery is held out in front of the running reader for a little too long. As opposed to Da Vinci where at the end of Act I a codgy old brit explains in detail the background of the "Holy Grail" mystery, giving the book it's foundation or in Angels, where the reader knows almost immediately that 4 cardinals are missing and the Vatican is going to be blown up at midnight, providing the urgency.
Symbol has neither of those things. We are asked to sit and watch as Langdon and his after-thought cliche of a love interest race against an un-specified time to discover and un-specified thing, and when the curtain is finally pulled back, we realize that there is no wizard, just an old man talking into a megaphone.
Still, that is not to say that book does not have it thrills. It is laden with the same google-inducing trivia that Brown is famous for and while not being as taught as its predecessors, the story still compels you to turn the page. Brown also scores bonus points for one particularly well crafted series of events that take place in the antagonist's home and makes you wonder exactly how the story is going to make its walks it way out of the corner.
All in all, its a good smart read full of interesting morsels of information that blend science, faith, and popcorn entertainment in a way that only Brown knows how to do.

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