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R&R 064 | The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown
The Lost Symbol
First published in: 2009
This edition: Doubleday, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-50422-5
Cover design by Michael J. Windsor; cover photo by Murat Taner / Getty.

R&R 064 | The Lost Symbol

I was given the second Robert Langdon book, The Da Vinci Code, by my friend Vanessa. Before the hype. I remember finishing it in one sitting, forgetting about the real world for a while. The book was enthralling. Naturally I read the other Langdon book (Angel's & Demons) as well, and found that it had qualities very similar to The Da Vinci Code. I wanted more Langdon, and more did come… six years later, with the (very recent) publication of The Lost Symbol.

When Peter Solomon asks Robert Langdon to give a last-minute lecture in Washington DC, Langdon does what his loyal friend asks of him. But when he arrives at the US Capitol Building, ready to give the lecture, Langdon is stunned to find no one's there. And Peter is missing. Soon, Langdon finds a very disturbing clue regarding Peter's whereabouts, and realizes the clue is actually an ancient invitation. Robert understands now that he was summoned to DC to help Mal'Akh, Peter's kidnapper, access an ancient wisdom rumored to be so incredible, Masonic blood has been spilled in order to keep it safe… blood that will be spilled further if Langdon refuses Mal'Akh.

Here's the thing. I didn't expect the latest book by Dan Brown to be a literary masterpiece. I figured it would be a good thriller (not too fluffy), a book that would entertain me in an interactive manner. I'm not about to read a book by Dan Brown and judge it poorly based on it not being 'written in stunning prose', or because it's not 'life-altering' or because the book is formulaic and thus repetitive. I agree with all of those statements, but this is Dan Brown, for heaven's sake. It irritates me beyond measure when I read snobbish reviews that basically tear down a book because the reviewer's standards are too high in the first place. Don't read a book (and don't shit on it in a review) if you know you'll hate it beforehand.

Dan Brown has the ability to blow away a large audience of readers; that's an accomplishment. But that's not to say The Lost Symbol is going to get a raving review from me, because it won't. Damn it, I wanted to be able to defy other (critical) reviews, but find myself in a hopeless, inescapable agreement. Because this book was a huge disappointment.

The main problem was the one recurring subject of the Robert Langdon books, which was the one reason I wanted to read The Lost Symbol: Robert Langdon himself. To give you an idea, most of the dialogue featuring Langdon went as follows:

Character X: "There are ancient so and so's, secrets! This symbol blah blah reveals blah blah of EPIC proportions!"
Langdon: Impossible! "Impossible. No. I am skeptical."
Character X: "But if you look at it like so and so…! OMG I solved it, a new clue!"
Langdon: "Ohhhhhhhh!" But…
Character X: "It must be true then!"
Langdon: …I am just too skeptical about it.

Rinse, repeat.

Langdon's reluctance to just roll with it made it pretty freakin' difficult for me to feel any excitement about this book. Langdon was a consistent buzz kill and basically ruined my reading experience with his 'skepticism'.
You'd think he'd learned from his previous two adventures that anything's possible when you're in a Dan Brown story. For God's sake. Weak, weak, weak. Thanks to Langdon, I lost interest and let my own skepticism take over.

Furthermore, I was annoyed with every single comic book character, namely the freakishly tattooed (symbols, from head to toe), super strong, super clever, weirdly named Mal'Akh. Sigh, why can't the villain ever be slightly normal… evil comes in all shapes, not just weird ones. Then there's Sato, and the blind priest and gosh, even the stereotypical security guard. Pfffft, fail.
Katherine Solomon was alright in that sense, but for a supposedly highly intelligent scientist who'd been through a lot (of violence) in her past, she was just too naive. Thankfully, she at least wasn't a love interest for Langdon.

I found myself wondering why Dan Brown really wrote this book. Did he really want to (six years since Da Vinci), or was it because of the success of the other two books (both made into movies recently). I realize I sound snide, but I can't help thinking The Lost Symbol is a movie script wrapped in a fat book. I wasn't at the edge of my seat to begin with; the story was entertaining, yes. I finished the book for a reason: I was curious about the outcome. I won't deny that this book does offer enough in that sense.
But too much predictability (plot twists which I saw coming pages ago) and of course that unmotivated idiot Langdon, both factors took away from the reading experience. And there was so much useless padding in this. The book's last 50 pages, describing events after the main problem had been dealt with, were just a complete drag, especially since the moderately (but most) exciting part of the book was long over.

Six years of waiting, and for what? Not for a book worthy to be at the top of its genre, but for a mediocre thriller. If a fourth Robert Langdon book ever comes out six, twelve, fifteen years from now, I don't know if I'll be reading it. Maybe I'll like it, but…

…I am just too skeptical about it.

R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009

Karin Elizabeth
  • Hila

    hmmm, interesting review. I haven't read any of his novels and no, not because I think they are "lowbrow", just due to lack of time to read anything that wasn't related to my thesis. But now that the thesis is finished, I suddenly have time to read other things. Maybe I should give The Da Vinci Code a try? I'm going to look through your blog and see what other goodies I should read 🙂

    October 17, 2009 at 7:28 am
  • Arielle

    I haven't read this book yet but I certainly plan to do so…it's so disappointing to see that it doesn't live up to the other books :-S

    October 18, 2009 at 9:48 pm
  • Karin Elizabeth

    I really liked The Da Vinci Code, and even after reading The Lost Symbol, that opinion hasn't changed. So I do recommend it. Just skip The Lost Symbol haha.

    If you're going to read this, read it used! It's entertaining, I won't deny that 🙂 but yes, knowing it's by Dan Brown… having read his other books, I had expectations. I didn't think this one would be better than The Da Vinci Code, but I hadn't expected it to be this bad (considering his other books), either. Nothing special about this.

    October 19, 2009 at 8:38 pm

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