Mike's Reviews > The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
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Mar 27, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: pulp
Read in March, 2010

You know, I think this is the fist book I've ever read where I've actually cursed out loud at the author while reading. Multiple times. It's certainly one of the worst books I've ever read. Which isn't, of course, to say that it's one of the worst books ever -- that's the incorrect logical leap which many of Dan Brown's critics make -- because there are many other books which are (I'm sure) much much worse. It's just that usually I don't bother reading them. So why *did* I read this? A valid question, and one I'm asking *myself* now. For a long time I resisted, but I've been without any reading material for most of a month and I got desperate...

Before I get into the "why" I'd like to point out that I'm actually not a Dan Brown hater, so this wasn't a predetermined opinion. I freely admit that I completely disagree with his world view and his characterization of Christianity (among many other things he says which I disagree with), and his writing has never wowed me with it's mastery of the English language or it's capturing of a scene or character or conversation, but I found him entertaining in the Da Vinci Code. He was the Bruce Willis of literature: no one is ever going to mistake his body of work for art, or for something with any kind of transcendent quality, but he entertained me. This book, though, was just bad.

Why do I think it's so bad? Well the characters are annoying, the dialogue is stilted and stereotyped, and the plot is horrible. That pretty much covers everything. Oh yes, and his preachy "look within yourself" and "why can't everyone just see the obvious" is rather annoying as well (and is completely off base, just for the record -- but that's a whole other can of worms, and not why I hated the book). I think my favourite mix up is when one character refers back to an earlier conversation as if it was him that made the earlier statement, when it was really a conversation between two completely different characters.

The worst thing, though, is the fact that he doesn't pull of the suspense part. And that's a pretty big problem when you're a suspense writer. In his defense he's not the only writer who falls for this trick, but he seems to believe that simply withholding facts from the reader creates suspense. And Robert Langdon reads something! [but something which won't be revealed to *you* for another 15 pages:] And the thing he reads causes amazement! And he suddenly understands! [but you still have to sit through 15 more pages of the characters making smug and self-important comments about the obviousness of this impossible to infer fact:]. Repeat ad nauseum.

Aside from this annoying fact, the puzzle itself is a never ending string of increasingly implausible coincidences, impossible logical leaps, and ambiguous puzzles which are immediately given a definitive answer -- all narrated in such a way as to imply that it was all obvious and simple and inarguably inevitable, if we weren't just too stupid to see it.

I try not to generalize or speak in absolutes, because if you call every book "the worst book ever" then the phrase loses it's meaning pretty quickly, but yeah... This book? Not. Good. Not at all.
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