Meg's Reviews > The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
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Sep 19, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: on-my-shelves, 52booksin52weeks-2009
Recommended for: People who want to take comfort in the fact that Indiana Jones 4 could have been WORSE.
Read in September, 2009

I have such issues rating Dan Brown books... I want 1.5 stars, I think. Snark ahead.

Here's the deal: the man can't write. He's a name-brand & url spewing, Wikipedia-like fountain of knowledge, who CAN'T HANDLE VERB TENSES. He also likes really short sentences. That aren't sentences at all. Really. Expect iPhone, Twitter, and Google shout-outs, too. I'm almost surprised he didn't mention the inevitable hash #thelostsymbol and tell us to use it when we tweet about what we just learned.

On the flip side, who doesn't love a good romp around a famous city solving mysteries with art and science and religion? You know the drill, and the formula hasn't changed here in the slightest.

As a former DC resident of 7 years, I have to admit, I was expecting slightly more from the location, but Langdon and his companion du jour keep getting trapped in random places, so it's a bit disappointing on that front. He does get 10 points for a hilarious caper including the Blue Line out to the King Street station though and the Red Line to Tenleytown (yeah, Tenleytown shout-out, what up!)

This book's wacky science theme is Noetics, and the quasi-religious thing at hand is the Masons. Since the first thing that comes to mind re: Noetics is Fringe, I sort of expected a Pacey Witter guest appearance, but alas, it was not meant to be. I know absolutely zip about the Masons, but who wants to bet their membership applications go through the roof this month?

So my final verdict: did I hate it as much as Catcher in the Rye? No. (Will I ever hate any book as much as I hate Catcher in the Rye? Unlikely. BUT THERE'S TIME.) Is it the best Robert Langdon book? Not by a long shot. Angels & Demons still is the best of the trilogy. Is it still vaguely enjoyable in the way only a Dan Brown book can be? Yes. Does Dan Brown's copy editor need to be publicly humiliated? YES AND HIS NAME IS APPARENTLY JASON KAUFMAN (according to the Acknowledgements, so I'm not like, stalking anyone here) AND GOOD LORD MAN, ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES CAUSED BY PEOPLE BURNING THIS BOOK EDIT THIS INTO SOMETHING ENJOYABLE. EVERY TIME DAN BROWN DOESN'T KNOW HOW A VERB WORKS, KITTENS DIE.

Also, if I ever have to read the words "neutered sex organ" again, I will be forced to remove my eyeballs and then pour bleach directly onto my brain.

One more P.S., since I tweeted this and then forgot to include this here: Most unbelievable part of the plot? The Redskins are in the playoffs AND score on their opening possession. PLEASE TRY AGAIN, YOU FAIL AT HAVING SPORTS KNOWLEDGE.
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Reading Progress

09/19/2009 page 400
78.59% 3 comments
02/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 18-67)





Bettie☯ Brilliantly summed up.


Mary Catherine If only this book was as entertaining as your review!


message 65: by Meltha (new) - added it

Meltha Darlin', you are a gem. I'm putting this one way, way down on the "need to read" list.


message 64: by Ty (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ty I think it would have been more helpful if you explained precisely why he "cannot write". He obviously tells a story, with an arc in which a protagonist must accomplish something, meeting obstacles along the way before the denouement. It is legitimate to mention that one does not like a story, or that they did not sympathize with the characters. But to judge an adventure/thriller against he standards of literature, (which Brown has never claimed to write) seems a bit slap-dash and unimaginative to me.


Bettie☯ Um Ty, Meg did say precisely why she thought Brown can't write: He's a name-brand & url spewing, Wikipedia-like fountain of knowledge, who CAN'T HANDLE VERB TENSES. He also likes really short sentences. That aren't sentences at all. Really. Expect iPhone, Twitter, and Google shout-outs, too. I'm almost surprised he didn't mention the inevitable hash #thelostsymbol and tell us to use it when we tweet about what we just learned.

Maybe be you just skimmed the review.


message 62: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Bettie, I think Ty wants to know why I think he cannot write when Dan Brown has written a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. (He just had a fancier way of saying it.)

The funny thing is that I think this is probably the weakest plot of the Langdon trilogy, with a tenuous connection between the main mystery plot and the science plot. I'm not necessarily debating that the man can or cannot write a thriller or plot a mystery novel, BUT the man is selling a million books on his first day. There are how many people reading this stuff? I just wish our standards were a little higher.

Ty, beyond what I actually stated in my review, I also have issues with his characterization, his extreme use of TELL, not show, and the formation of his chapters. Unfortunately, I'm about 500 miles away from my copy of the book, otherwise I might be able to point to more specific issues, but I will say that there are some authors out there in the mystery/thriller field who are AMAZING writers. Tana French comes to mind first. Granted, it is not my genre of choice, but I don't think that genre writers should be held to different standards than those writing "literature" - or rather, those writing books for huge, mass consumption should be held to a different standard than whatever you'd call literature.

If Dan Brown has outright said, "I don't write literature," then he just dropped another million points from me. Holding your genre to lower standards, especially when you are THAT popular, is an idiot move.

And for those reading that just want to laugh, check out the Telegraph's article: Dan Brown's 20 Worst Sentences


Cheryl Loved the Indian Jones 4 comment. Perfect way to sum up the tone and feeling of the third installment for Robert Langdon


Andre I still have to finish the last 100-pages of this novel, and I have to admit that I agree 100% with Meg. Dan is very sloppy with his new one, he left plenty of holes and nonsense in the story. I'm quite disappointed with this one, as I'm actually expecting that of Angel and Demon's quality storytelling.

And you're so right about the very bad editing of this novel. He badly needs a new editor.


Princess So funny. This review was much more entertaining overall than the book. I especially like the "neutered sex organ" line--I absolutely agree! Thanks for giving me a great laugh tonight.


message 58: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, the book was rather disappointing. But then it is our expectations that decide the appreciation.

However, I think standards of writing is a different issue. What's the base of 'standards' anyway.
Again, about sentences being short, language is an ever evolving entity, subject to influences from a lot of factors including technology. Are we using the same lingo that was used in the orignal Beowulf?

Ofcourse, conceptually the book isn't very strong as far as comparisons go. Perhaps, had this been his first book, we wouldn't even be talking about it here.



message 57: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg @dreamwild1985 Yes, yes it does.

While the kitten population has already become seriously endangered by Dan Brown's inability to conjugate, your dedication and any donation can help stop this travesty.


Hazem El Mahi I can't agree more! Meg, you are brilliant! I kept saying to my pals all what you just mentioned exactly and they were amazed by their inability to put the book down! pretty amazing huh!


Angie I agree with Prasanth. Personally, if all writers sounded like Hemingway or Steinbeck I would absolutely shoot myself. The joy of reading comes in the differences that each writer's style presents. Also, you'll have to forgive my amusement at your idea of a "wacky science theme"... I found that funniest of all. Good review, even if I don't completely agree with it.


drowningmermaid LOL, awesome.

Although I wouldn't call Brown a "Wikipedia-like fountain of knowledge." Especially since the wikipedia editors have this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inaccura...) to say about him. He's more like a "unedited fountain of misinformation."

What I get from Dan Brown is how easy it is to dupe people by sounding scholarly, and how little people know about history. Almost all of the "facts" in DVC that he added in about ancient mysticism, architecture, and the Templar Knights (which he swore in interviews was all 100% accurate) are phenomenally, completely fabricated to fit his story.

I wouldn't have such a problem with him if he didn't blatantly lie about the fact that his fiction is, well, fiction.


Michele Love your review. Naturally I read it after I finished the book. Too bad, as I might have saved myself some irritation.

Oh and personally I found the phrase "heavy shaft of flesh" far more disturbing. Ha ha


message 52: by Mario (new) - rated it 1 star

Mario Pozzetti Excellent review, my thoughts exactly. Especially the part where you say "Here's the deal: the man can't write. He's a name-brand & url spewing, Wikipedia-like fountain of knowledge, who CAN'T HANDLE VERB TENSES." I thought it was me but evidently it's not. And I'm Italian, go figure.. although I love English Literature. I must read something good now, just to wash this really really bad taste in my mouth. Any suggestions?


message 51: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Mario - One of my go-to book recs is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I tell everyone I know (and plenty of people I don't) to read it.

Other than that, depending on what you're looking for - American Gods by Neil Gaiman, or In the Woods & The Likeness by Tana French are also excellent books that I'd recommend about 8 million times more than the Lost Symbol.


message 50: by Mario (new) - rated it 1 star

Mario Pozzetti Meg wrote: "Mario - One of my go-to book recs is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I tell everyone I know (and plenty of people I don't) to read it.

Other than that, depending on what you're looking fo..."


Perfect, thanks, I'm certainly going to follow your suggestion because as I see it if we dislike the same things there's a chance we might like the same things, will let you know.


message 49: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth I loved your review! Hilarious and right on the money. I just finished reading a couple of weeks ago, unfortunately. I did want to ask, though, what's with the hatred for The Catcher in the Rye??


message 48: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg @ Beth - I just found Catcher in the Rye to be really overrated and as a personal taste thing, written in a style I truly did not care for. I also had issues engaging with the plot. Sometimes I just end up hating a book, which tends to happen the most with Victorian lit, but also happens with more recent stuff like The Road (oh man, that book's popularity drives me insane).


message 47: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Ah ok, I get it. That's of course happened to me as well. A lot of books that get too hyped really disappoint - for me, Jane Eyre and Slaughterhouse Five spring to mind.


message 46: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc You're a moron. The joy in reading comes from the ability to lose yourself in a story. To be able to use your imagination and forget about the daily grind. The ability to be able to sit back in your comfy chair and be taken on an adventure. Good god, if I sat there and nit picked every line and every idea I'd never get through any book. Get off your high horse and try enjoying a book for a chage instead of tearing it down. It was a good story and a good way to spend a few hours relaxing.


message 45: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Marc, A++ comment. Actually, I frequently enjoy stories. I also frequently enjoy stories that fall more in the domain of pop culture, rather than so-called "literature," like those written by Stephen King and other genre (mystery, sci-fi, fantasty, horor) writers. I intensely dislike holding writers such as Dan Brown and Stephen King and all the other bestselling authors out there to different standards than say, someone like Salman Rushdie. If I'm going to read and enjoy something, then it's going to happen regardless of sales or what section it's shelved in a bookstore, but in terms of your comment, I suppose that's neither here nor there.

Here's the thing Marc. You make the point: "Good god, if I sat there and nit picked every line and every idea I'd never get through any book." I don't do it with every book. And to be fair, I have even nitpicked authors I love and adore, such as J.K. Rowling and her love of some unfortunate grammar decisions. And I have managed to overlook the issues I highlighted here in one of Dan Brown's other books (Angels and Demons, to be more specific) and I actually do think that's a fun read. I won't get into how DB pretends all his science-type stuff is totally real, but plotwise? Sure, Angels and Demons is fun to read.

The joy in reading comes from many things, and I think it's highly personal for each reader. I'm going to go out on a limb here though, and say that your argument goes beyond mere aesthetics here, and you'd perhaps like to discuss Dan Brown's technical writing abilities? I have issues with The Lost Symbol on both a taste-level AND in terms of Dan Brown's writing ability. If you'd like to discuss that further, I'd love to.

My issue with your comment, Marc, comes from the fact that this is a review site, and this is my review. I don't pretend to be affiliated with any review publication, online or print. Let's be honest here: my review is not going to affect sales of this book. Or at least, I highly highly doubt they will. I paid my $17 bucks for my copy the day it came out, posted my thoughts, some people agree, some don't. I think at the end of the day, the status quo of Dan Brown being a rich but pretty unspectacular writer remains the same. This is just my opinion on his most recent book, and it seems enough people agree with me to justify leaving it intact.

Hopefully this reply addresses some of your concerns with my review.


Eileen I totally agree with all of your comments, except about what is most unbelievable. The most unbelievable part is how Peter can run around after his hand has been hacked off as if he simply has a hangnail!


message 43: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc Meg, I want to apologize for my opening sentence in my last comment. I simply let my emotions get the best of me after reading so many disparaging comments on a book I enjoyed. Which is ironic for me because I am a fairly progressive person and I do agree with open discourse in all things. We're all entitled to our own point of view especially when it comes to book reviews. Any further comments I may make will certainly lean towards more of an open discourse than an attack.

Frankly, if someone called me a moron on my own book review page I'd have responded a bit more harshly! I applaud your tone in your response to my comment.


message 42: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Hey Marc, it's the internet. No harm, no foul. I just like to snark, that's all!


Emily Silva I concur. I almost lost respect with the first iPhone reference and lost it with the Twitter reference in the end. Good job, Danny boy!


message 40: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Rush I totally acknowledge Dan Brown's literary shortcomings, yet I'm enjoying the book in all its silly glory. So even though I disagree with your opinion on the book, your review is hilarious. Well done. Thumbs up.


Abinash well i agree with Meg on this review. but i would surely like to point tht Dan writes these novels for nerds of mysticism, religion, comp geeks etc. well don't u feel tht it is better for him to conc. on the details of these rather thn on Grammar or superior prose writing. the details of the artworks which he gives are brilliant. u can google any of the things he has written relating to the narration, they will be pin point!!!
U have failed to appreciate the work on an important basis, its the relation between science and ancient Mysticism. i agree tht it is not new (The eight has the same the thing) yet it is so refined and seems so real...
With his mediocre language and i agreable instances of vague imagery i would say tht this isn't worth a Nobel Prize or Pulitzer Prize but is surely worth reading...


message 38: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Meg wrote: "@ Beth - I just found Catcher in the Rye to be really overrated and as a personal taste thing, written in a style I truly did not care for. I also had issues engaging with the plot. Sometimes I j..."

I have to agree wholeheartedly, Catcher in the Rye was terrible and incredibly overrated. Thank you for your review of the latest Brown novel, I just finally picked it up from the library and it's going right back. I'm not even going to waste my time!

I loved Gaiman's American Gods, and can't wait to pick up a few others you recommended to someone else. What drives me up a wall is how people depend on Oprah to tell them what to read, and no matter how long the book has been in print, the masses run to pick it up immediately, as if it's a brand new discovery. I worked at Borders for a long time and we dreaded when Oprah's reading choices would come out. Following her pick of East of Eden, I actually had someone come up to me and say, "Yes, Oprah told us about this new author, I believe his name is John Steinbeck." **Sigh**




message 37: by Bob (new)

Bob Bob I am confused as to why someone who has issues "on both a taste-level AND in terms of Dan Brown's writing ability" would continue to buy his books only to give them 2 star reviews

I honestly agreed with Marc's first comment wholeheartedly and don't know why he softened up

As for Dan Brown's short sentences, it's called poetic license

I really can't wait to hear what you say to this, because I'm sure that it will be terribly enlightening


Casey Meg wrote: "Mario - One of my go-to book recs is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I tell everyone I know (and plenty of people I don't) to read it.

Other than that, depending on what you're looking fo..."


Ooh, I loved American Gods. I have House of Leaves on a 'to-read' list but have been told it might give me a mental breakdown it's so bizarre.




message 35: by Graydon (new)

Graydon Having read his previous novels, I actually paid money for this book.
It started with a reasonable degree of promise, and there was a patch in the middle which was true to his page-turning style, but for the most part, this most recent 'effort' of Dan Brown's made me want to claw my brain's eyeballs out.
Lazy, predictable and insulting. 500 pages of nettle-imbued toilet paper would probably annoy me less than this one did. -.-


Grahammu Dan brown 1, Meg 0

Dan Brown is brilliant even if his sentences (gosh forbid) are not. His ripping yarns have pretty much touched a reading generation. You Meg, who knew you just wanted to rip it apart, bought it on the first day of release. Wow! Brilliance caused ripples one way or the other.


message 33: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Grahammu wrote: "Dan brown 1, Meg 0

Dan Brown is brilliant even if his sentences (gosh forbid) are not. His ripping yarns have pretty much touched a reading generation. You Meg, who knew you just wanted to rip i..."


Oh ok, you have totally changed my mind about everything I choose to be! Definitely. Thanks for this meaningful comment on the internet. (Or, actually: the fact that you consider Dan Brown "brilliant" really tells me everything I need to know. If he's brilliant, then I'm guessing he should be able to compose a full sentence with actual functioning grammar. If I took the statement about his "ripping yarns" touching a reading generation seriously, I would need to weep for the future of publishing and writing in general. Oh wait, I actually do. And to be fair, having actually vaguely enjoyed some of the plot of Angels and Demons, I did actually give this book a fair shake for at least the first ten pages.)

Hurray, opinions!


Nadine Doolittle Absolutely the wittiest thing I've read today...(day spent slogging through The Lost Symbol)...logged on to see what other people thought and this review made me laugh out loud.

But Catcher in the Rye is a work of genius. Just saying.


Dennis "Redskins in the playoffs"! Wow! You sound like you don't know the meaning of fiction. Sorry. I just think that since it's fiction and it's his book then he can write anyway he pleases.


Devon Why do you bother reading his book's if you think he is such a horrible writer?


message 29: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Leland A couple of comments made me reevaluate the reaction I had to this book. His short sentences contributed to my speed reading through it, and I mistook that for good story development.


message 28: by Meghan (new)

Meghan hahaha this review amuses me. well done! *applause* I haven't read any of this guy's books, but you made me chuckle.


Jerald Vernon Torres technically, he's imperfect but over all he can tell a story. I'm totally disagreeing with yah.


Aubree Bowling The metro thing was kind of cool, but I lived there for 10 years and worked blocks from the king st metro in Alexandria. There's no tunnel there, Dan Brown. moron.


Justin That's one of the best reviews I've ever read on here!


message 24: by Taylor (last edited Apr 03, 2012 02:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Taylor E You are entitled to your opinion as I am entitled to mine and personally I enjoyed his writing.

To a certain degree you ARE correct. To be honest, I found your critique truthful and funny. The Lost Symbol, unlike the other two of the Robert Langdon series, were more facts and research more than anything. He simply places a thriller around controversial scientific facts and theories.

There wasn't much of a story line as in The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. There were more difficult science and theory that would confuse and frustrate someone if they didn't at least skim a few physics notes. I had problems following a little and I was taking Physics Eng at the time.

Despite this issue, The Lost Symbol was his first Robert Langdon book and first book dealing with complex science. He was a noob per-say and obviously refined his skills before releasing the other two. He also feels that theories, symbolism, theology, and religious topics are his forte and I'm glad he's going for it.

People write from their experiences, but it wasn't like he was a professor himself. Robert Langdon was simply a character, a baby born from his creativity. Just like I'm sure J.K. Rowling wasn't a wizard before creating Harry Potter. He had to research a great amount to even form a logical basic plot.

Speaking of plots, the shifting point of views could have also been a problem. Some people prefer simpler plots where there is one point of view and might get frustrated and straight-up dumbfounded remembering, retaining and comprehending 4 or 5 different characters and their adventures to collided into a final ending. However, that's Dan Brown's style and a reader should be ready for it.


drowningmermaid Taylor628 wrote: "You are entitled to your opinion as I am entitled to mine and personally I enjoyed his writing.

Brown may not have been a professor, but he was heavily steeped in the world of academia. He grew up on a campus, where his father was a teacher and a textbook writer. He regularly returns to his old alma mater and donates generously. He has referred to Langdon as "a sexier version of me." So he really didn't have to stretch himself too hard to create the RL character.

But hey, I really don't think anyone reads Brown because of his superb command of the English language (which he doesn't have,) or because his characters are deep and touching. (They aren't. They're archetypes-- good fodder for action pieces.) When I read him, it's for his tight, tense plotting-- which is the best I've come across.

I liked that Lost Symbol's research seemed a little more consistent, and he didn't overreach himself quite as much as in DVC. In DVC, at he was REALLY free-handed with his facts, and really dishonest in interviews about the amount of erudite-sounding bullshit was in his book. It was kind of a travesty, watching how many people were too lazy to google the 'facts' he used in his info-dumps.

On a different note, I can't imagine a reader choking on 4-6 perspectives. That's the way most books are written these days.

I do really like his plots, and I like that he has helped hone the "teaching novel" subgenre. I just wish that he tried for consistent real facts from his podium-- since his stories hinge on teaching his audience.


Patrick Arbuckle One of the best and most accurate reviews I have ever read. Won't even bother writing my own after this.


Marioairborne Your assessment of Dan Brown aside( not saying I disagree), what is the problem with short sentences. Hemingway used short sentences.


LaTina I hate Catcher in the Rye to. My second lest favorite school read. My first is Things Fall Apart. I thinks it's the only book I've never finished.!I needed that laugh.


Christina Why would you read a book by an author you don't like. You already don't like the da Vinci code and Angels and daemons why read this one????? It just seem like a waste of your own time


message 18: by Joe (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joe I thought i was the only one who hated Catcher in the Rye!!!


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