I recently read Dan Brown’s latest offering, ‘The Lost Symbol’ and have to say that I was not disappointed. Wait, not because the book is a jaw dropping thriller or something; but because it falls in line with most of Dan Brown books: uninspiring, tepid and average.
I have been really surprised by Dan Brown’s regression since his ‘Angels and Demons’ days. I have always maintained that Dan Brown is a very average writer. However, his first couple of books (‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘Da Vinci Code’) though weakly written, were taut thrillers with intrigue and suspense which more than made up for his weak story telling abilities. However his next couple of books (‘Deception Point’ and ‘Digital Fortress’) were absolute disasters. And his latest offering ‘The Lost Symbol’ follows his regression pattern with a very weak story and clichés.
The story in the book is really formulaic with an improbable plot. Washington DC is the center of the story with Masonic connections. The story follows Robert Langdon who, on behest of a call from his friend Peter Solomon lands in DC to find out that the call was made by a scheming villain in search of some hidden secrets. The book then follows the typical Dan Brown formula: a threat to mankind by a ruthless individual who wants Langdon to solve some scripts and clues to get to his destiny. I mean, haven’t we all read the same thing in ‘The Davinci Code’ and ‘Angels and Demons’?
Free Mason leader Peter Solomon has entrusted Langdon with a pyramid capstone which he must guard at any cost. If someone gets the capstone and completes the pyramid, he/she will find a way to get to the hidden mysteries of the Masons which might spell doom for the world as it stands right now. The book follows the journey of Langdon from Boston to DC and his duel with the villain, Malakh. In the process, he is ably supported by Katherine Solomon, who is Peter’s sister and by; now hold your thoughts here; the CIA Director of National Security!!!!! Now since when did CIA start interfering in local law enforcement? Last I knew, CIA was not supposed to be doing that. Also, if you read the book all the way, you will realize that the world changing mystery is not something really earth shattering! I do not want to give out the spoiler here because it will undermine the patience of all those who have so far managed to get half way through the book. The mystery is something which is found everywhere and not at some inconspicuous corner of earth. Now, if that is the case, why solve all the codes and mystery puzzles!!! The mystery surrounding Malakh is so lame that I figured it out within a few pages of the book. And this is true with regards to other readers I have talked to. The central theme of the book is some ancient mysteries which were discovered by some Masons. However, these mysteries are never revealed throughout the book and finally we realize that the mystery does not really exist; it is something we all are aware of but just not deciphering it correctly. The ending of the whole book is totally anti climatic. I mean the whole book keeps talking about codes and clues that will solve the greatest mysteries of earth. And at the end, it becomes a cropper. The clues basically do not lead to anything earth shattering.
Another thing which the book does is undermines the intelligence of its central characters. Now, we all know the Langdon is a brilliant professor and all. But how can he be so naïve that he flies out to DC after just speaking to his friend’s secretary without any confirmation from Peter. To top it all, he also gets the capstone, supposedly because Peter needs it!!!!! Also, Katherine Solomon is a brilliant scientist. Yet, she does not care to take back ups of all her work done so far. Also, she trusts someone who she has hardly met and lets him into her supposedly ‘most secretive’ lab who no one else has access to! The CIA director cannot comprehend a way to stop Langdon from escaping! Why would the villain not kill Langdon and Katherine once they have helped him decipher the pyramid? Also, why does Brown always need to pull off romance out of the hat in all his books? It is so cliché and reminds me of typical Bollywood movies where romance ‘does’ have to be a part.
I think what Dan Brown wants to convey through this mish mash of a story is that humans have enormous potential and if channeled properly can achieve dizzying success. They would not then need to depend on various doctrines as specified by religious zealots for progress of mankind. However, I believe that the book is just a work of adventure and fantasy which the author has created because of his familiarity with history, symbolism, art, science and architecture. In no way is the author trying to challenge the Superior Power and everyone's beliefs in Him. At least I hope so. And in case he is trying to undermine the influence of religion and God, trust me, he is not going to be successful with the kind of weak plot he has in this book.
One thing this book will definitely do is increase the number of tourists going to Washington DC; especially to the Library of Congress to explore the architecture and secret tunnels through the building. This book is definitely not the hype it created. You won’t miss much if you give it a skip.