Monday, October 18, 2010

The Lost Symbol (It's still lost.)

Yeah, I finally got around to reading The Lost Symbol. Like The Da Vinci Code, it grabbed me from page one, and it was almost impossible to put down. Once again I was impressed with Dan Brown’s technique of switching point of view between hero Robert Langdon and the villain of the piece to ratchet up suspense.

For almost five hundred pages, this book was an action and intellectual thrill ride. But then it wasn’t. The problem? A promise not kept. The big idea is that hidden somewhere in Washington D.C. is the secret to unlocking the Ancient Mysteries of mankind, a secret guarded by the Masons since the founding of our nation.

The good guys want the secret to remain hidden, while the bad guy wants to find it and destroy it so the Mysteries will be lost forever. But over the course of the book the good guys come to the conclusion that the time has finally come for this lost knowledge to be revealed.

Now, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. If these Mysteries were all they were cracked up to be, the knowledge would change the world (at least the world occupied by Robert Langdon) and Dan Brown’s future books would have to be set in an alternate reality. But I was led to expect that the secret, referred to in the title as a Lost Symbol and the text as a Lost Word, would at least be uncovered - if only to Langdon and his allies.

No such luck. In the end, they are certain they’ve discovered where this thing is hidden. But it happens to be in a place inaccessible by normal means. So that’s it. They’re sure the secret is there, but since they can't get at it they just walk away. Ho hum.

To atone for this letdown, Brown’s characters try to explain the basis of these Mysteries, but the attempt falls flat. In the final chapters, the book devolves into a mishmash of religious/scientific/metaphysical doubletalk, and instead of ending, the story just peters out.

Is a good book with a lousy ending still a good book? Tough call.

7 comments:

Randy Johnson said...

Is a good book with a lousy ending still a good book?

For me, using the words good book and Dan Brown in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

I read The Da Vinci Code first, then backtracked on his other books. As I was finishing the third one, I realized I'd already read this story--twice! So when I started the fourth(as it happens, his first published novel), I decided to pick out the villain of the piece. I made my choice on page 25 and was unsurprised when I was proved right.

You did the dirty work for me, so I don't have to bother.

Thanks!

Laurie Powers said...

I couldn't get beyond the first chapter of The Da Vinci Code. Just not my cup of tea.

As for whether a good book can have a lousy ending, IMO lousy depends on whether it's lousy technically or lousy because the reader thinks it is because he/she didn't like the outcome. One book that I thought was lousy technically was The Kite Runner, which dissolved into a ridiculous Hollywood shoot-out ending. Even though the ending was happy, I was so disappointed. I felt like the author sold out.

Richard Robinson said...

I only got through about 30 pages, then wife tried it. She liked it but at just over the mid-point the one week library loan was up. I think she's back on the list, but it won't be here before we move.

Evan Lewis said...

Well, Randy, I've been tempted to try Brown's first two books. If he's following the same formula as the later ones, I'll probably benefit from exposure to the technique. I just hope the endings pay off.

I guess I can't put an easy label on this book, Laurie. I thought most of the book was excellent, but the ending absolutely sucked. In this case, Brown didn't sell out, he just gave up.

Good news, Rick. There are three major county library networks in the Portland metro area, all with many branches. You can get cards for all three networks, so there's a ton of stuff to choose from. There will be little or no waiting on a book like The Lost Symbol.

Charles Gramlich said...

I thought the Da Vinci code was barely OK so I never had any urge to read this one. This is a heckuva review though so maybe I'll give it a try.

Paul D. Brazill said...

I liked Th Da Vinci Code. A touch of the 39 Steps about it, which is always a good thing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My husband, who places great value on the ending, would say no. I am undecided. Are many hours of lovely soaring worth a flat landing? I say probably. My book group loved Da Vinci but I liked it less. Just seemed preposterous. I can't suspend my belief enough for this sort of plot unless a writer is really, really good.