Want to enjoy a flashback with a side of story? Then, step right up and read The Lost Symbol.
I have enjoyed Dan Brown’s works in the past. I loved Angels and Demons, Digital Fortress, and even The Da Vinci Code was passable. This is Brown’s worst book. I feel as if it is another repackaged Angels and Demons or The Da Vinci Code, just set in a different location. Here, Robert Langdon is again traveling around the city solving puzzles and getting into all sorts of dangerous situations. The formula worked in the past, so if it’s not broke, why fix it, right?
Some things need to be fixed, Dan Brown.
I could perhaps forgive the same ol’, same ol’ plot if the writing wasn’t horrendous. This book is full of flashbacks, most of them not interesting. Mr. Brown, don’t you realize that every time you use a flashback, you essentially stop the story? No, a flashback is not the story. The story is set in the present, not the past. Readers care about the here and now, action happening in real time. Every time a flashback intrudes, it interrupts the pace and flow, not to mention the tension. When I was in a flashback chapter, I was just wishing the story would resume, for goodness sakes! Hint: you’re always going to care more about your characters than your readers, so you don’t have to subject them to every little detail of their lives. Learn to edit and cut your darlings. Heck, in one scene, Katherine’s assistant, via a flashback, remembers her unnerving experience in this cold, empty, dark, void-like cube where Katherine works. Couldn’t that information have been worked into the chapter where Katherine is escaping from the killer? Yes. The information is redundant. The flashback isn’t needed. And that’s my point. There are too many flashbacks. The device is overused.
There are other problems, like characterization. I know nothing about the characters. The most distinguishing thing about Robert Langdon, other than his intellect, is his Mickey Mouse watch, a fact Brown brings up several times. Wow. Great writing.
The climax is, er…anti-climatic. This terrifying villain we’ve been experiencing? The heroes don’t best him, meaning Robert or Katherine. No, he essentially does himself in, though in all fairness, it does make sense for the character.
So, if that wasn’t the climax, what was? Maybe the reveal of this lost symbol? This lost word? Even that’s a big let down because we spend the entire book trying to learn what it is, and we never see it. This leads to a very unsatisfying conclusion and a very long denouement.
I also feel as if Dan Brown is preaching to us from a scientific, Masonic pulpit. Many of his ideas about Christianity are blatantly wrong and taken out of context. I feel as if he was trying to convince his readers of certain Masonic truths that only he is privy to instead of just letting the characters breathe and act naturally. I feel as if his books have become a platform for his intelligent musings and Masonic truths than what they should be for: entertainment. Maybe he’s a secret Masonic member?
Not all is lost, however. I’m giving this a 2 for a couple of reasons. One, I loved his villain. This guy terrified me. And two, the ideas are good, meaning how Robert uncovers the location of this lost symbol is brilliant. It’s just that the execution leaves a little to be desired. And SPOILER only Dan Brown can write a scene where someone drowns, is submerged for over ten minutes, lives, and have it be believable. END SPOILER.
But even with these few good points, I can’t really recommend this book. Maybe I’ll like Inferno better.