Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Waited 7 Years for This?

I vividly remember when I first became aware of the phenomenon that is The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s mega-mega bestseller. I had just stepped off an airplane in Chicago, finishing the first leg of a three-part, 8-hour journey. As we strolled to the next gate we passed countless travelers with their nose tucked into the book and a handful of book and gift shops on the concourse with Everest sized stacks of the hard cover piled precariously near their entrances. Heading up the aisle of our next flight, I passed no fewer than 7 fellow travelers flipping through the pages of the non-stop thriller.

I had dashed through a couple of Brown’s adventures, the techno-thriller Digital Fortress and the ice pack action piece Deception Point, but not yet become aware of his collegial hero Robert Langdon, who debuted in Angels and Demons. With claims of over 80 million copies sold, The Da Vinci Code became a fixture on the bestseller charts and spawned not only a new genre of modern day adventures with ties to the middle ages, but also a cottage industry of books, pro and con, trying to decipher the true meaning of Brown’s epic.

With all that preceded it’s arrival in bookstores, Browns long-anticipated follow up, The Lost Symbol, which once again features symbologist and historian Langdon, faced some pretty tall expectations. As with Brown’s prior work, he wasted no time setting the hook squarely in the reader’s mouth. It looked like we were in for another roller coaster ride through the twists, turns and history that Brown does so well. That is until this high-speed train drove straight of the rails and detoured straight into disappointment.

Brown had the tendency to walk close to the edge of preachy-ness and could easily overwhelm readers with the minutia of history and arcane symbology. The fact that The Lost Symbol centers on a storyline involving Freemasonry, a favorite whipping boy for conspiracy theorists, adds to the level of detail stacked neatly upon detail.

As the story races through a single night, showcasing some of Washington D C’s most interesting and historic buildings it comes to a crashing, predictable climax with about 30 pages remaining. In those 30 or so pages, Brown back fills the story with more than a little ponderous, preaching. While his work should never be confused with great literature, as a fan, that’s not what I expect from Dan Brown. My expectation is one of great escape, but I was left with wondering, “I waited 7 years for this”?

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