Elizabeth's Reviews > The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
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did not like it
bookshelves: bestsellers, thrillers, abandoned
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Morgan (though "recommend" is an awfully strong word)
Recommended for: absolutely no one

Normally I wait until I’ve finished a book before passing judgment on it, but sixty pages into The Lost Symbol I decided that life was too short to read really terrible books.

One of the things I liked best about The Da Vinci Code was that its plot unfolded in real-time: it takes place during a few very busy hours of Robert Langdon’s improbable life, in about the amount of time it takes to read the novel. This technique keeps the pace of the book exciting (there are no natural breaks in which to put the book down, because you are right there with Langdon for each plot development and puzzle solution), but also demonstrates the kind of discipline on the part of the author also shown in a really well-rhymed sonnet that commands the respect of the (or, at least, this) reader. This is the novelistic equivalent of Scribe’s well-made play (a cinematic example would be the film Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant, one of my favorites).

The Lost Symbol, however, is anything but disciplined. The point of view, time, and place bounce around every one or two minutes, evincing not the well-put-together thriller of The Da Vinci Code, but rather the attention span of a three-year-old. Each scene lasts about as long as a television commercial, and juxtaposed scenes have about as much connecting them as two adjacent television commercials.

Another piece of sloppiness: during my brief encounter with the novel, I encountered the phrase “exact same” five times. A good friend of mine used to be in the habit of correcting anyone who dared to let that phrase pass his or her lips (because, after all, if two things really are the same, then the word “exact” is superfluous, not to mention grammatically suspect), so while I will tolerate the phrase as a spoken colloquialism, my feeling is now that only the most careless of writers would ever commit such a phrase to print.

With all the doors that must be open for Dan Brown after the phenomenal success of The Da Vinci Code, how difficult could it have been for him to sit in on a lecture of a popular course at a prestigious liberal arts college? I only wonder because no college course I have ever attended proceeded anything like the one shown in one of the many (many, many) flashbacks early in the book (although, admittedly, I did not go to Harvard, but I suspect the students there would not be so easily impressed by something as shocking as (gasp!) pointing out that the Church has rituals of its own. I mean, come on, these kids are taking a course called “Occult Symbols”: what did they expect?)

So I have no doubt that, if I had read the book in its entirety, everything would turn out to be not as it seemed in a shocking plot twist near the end, but, really, there are too many good books out there for me to waste my time on this one.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 4, 2009 – Shelved
November 4, 2009 – Shelved as: bestsellers
November 4, 2009 – Shelved as: thrillers
November 4, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Maybe Dan Brown slept through all his lectures at his prestigious liberal arts college (which was Amherst, not that I blame them). Or perhaps Brown's books take place in an alternate universe in which "symbology" is necessary because everyone is extremely literal and cannot recognize any sort of religious occurrence. It's like THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH meets SOPHIE'S WORLD, to give Brown way, way too much credit.

I highly respect your opinion but I still want to read this book and experience the disaster for myself, though according to the spoilers I've read on the ending you are on track with that.

message 2: by William (new)

William Your comments combined with my failed attempt to wade through Angels & Demons convince me that it is not worth the effort.

message 3: by Ellen (new)

Ellen I just finished this book and you were probably right to quit when you did. There were some things I enjoyed because of how ridiculous they were, but the ending was very much like his last two and in no way worth the 3 hours I put in. I should have just put in "National Treasure" and called it a day.

Ellen I agree - this book really was a botch. I finished it, but then was irked that I'd bothered.

Liked your "exact same" quip. I cringe at "exactly right" as well (DFW would call this SNOOTism). What's the alternative to being exactly right? Sort of right? Similar to being a "little" pregnant.

Arthur That is a tragedy, because the book really grabs you and pulls you into a wonderful adventure starting at page 61!

Novia You are lucky to finish it at 60. I read all through page 449...and finally decided to stop.

I rather use my time to read something else

The Winter Rose I'm having the same problem right now with it. At page 50 and not sure how much more I want to invest. The constant scene shifting is very jarring. And I had the same reaction to that ridiculous college lecture. Maybe that would be believable if he were tecahing High School, but it didn't ring as believable dialogue to me at all. I was cringing during the whole scene.

Aaron You're lucky, I wish I'd been smart enough to put it down after 60 pages.

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