Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown

Summary: Professor and symbologist Robert Langdon is unexpectedly called to Washington, D.C. by an old friend, Peter Solomon.  When Langdon arrives in D.C., however, he learns that it was not Peter who summoned him to the nation's capital, but instead a madman who has captured Peter in an effort to coerce Langdon into helping him unlock the Ancient Mysteries of the Masons, of which Peter is a member.  On a mad chase through Washington, D.C., avoiding the dangerous CIA Director Sato and assisting Peter's scientist sister Katherine, Langdon must unlock the hidden meanings of old secret codes if he will ever save Peter.

Musings: Obviously Brown is known for his thriller/mystery The Da Vinci Code, and Brown certainly does not seek to break the mold here.  The Lost Symbol is structured almost laughably similarly to The Da Vinci Code: the obsessive madman orchestrating the scheme, the secret society that has existed throughout history, the pretty woman helper, and more.  There's nothing new in the plot line, but that's not really a criticism, as the book doesn't seek to be great literature.  Brown is most talented at cliff-hanger chapter endings and a ever-evolving puzzle, and he delivers that through much of the book.

The chapters are short (in a 500+ page book there were over 130 chapters), which keeps the pace quick.  I also liked the D.C. setting of the book.  It was nice to recognize the buildings and locations they visit and learn more about the classical origins of much of D.C. (something my husband studied in college, in fact).  Although this book also addresses the disconnect (or connection) between science and religion, it wasn't as annoying as Brown's earlier works in insisting that most people are unable to associate the two ("Oh, you are a religious person who believes in SCIENCE?! What is this? It is impossible! Aaah!").

The novel can give way to lots of eye-rolling at times, especially when Brown describes the enraptured students in college classes (has he ever been to a college class?) or the shock! awe! dumbstruck-ness! when a character finally understands what had been a mystery.  One of the major secrets was pretty obvious from early on in the book, and I felt the message of the final mystery was obnoxiously patronizing--and quite a bit of a let down.

Nonetheless, it was a quick read, and most of the time I had fun with it.

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