Review: The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

the lost symbol book cover

Robert Langdon #3

Symbologist Robert Langdon is surprised to receive a call from his old friend and sort-of mentor Peter Solomon. Solomon is a famous and renowned Freemason, too, and when Langdon misses the call, he is not at all surprised that he gets into contact with Solomon’s assistant when he rings back. Asked to guest lecture in Washington that evening, Langdon rushes to get his things together and catch his flight to deliver his speech. However, upon arrival, Langdon’s whole evening goes wrong. Arriving at the Capitol Rotunda, he realizes that there is nobody to hear his speech, and that Solomon may be in terrible danger. Langdon has been given a Hand of Mysteries invitation which has sickeningly been crafted from Solomon’s severed hand, as well as a wicked phone call from a mysterious man, demanding that Langdon locate the Masonic Pyramid as well as unlock the Lost Word that is theoretically contains.

Shortly after the gruesome discovery is made, CIA’s Office of Security head Inoue Sato turns up, demanding that Langdon assist her, and that it is a matter of national security. However, it seems other higher up 33rd degree Masons want Solomon to be safe, but refuse to let Langdon solve the mystery with Sato, and Capitol Architect Warren Bellamy swoops in to rescue Langdon from Sato’s clutches shortly after they find a pyramid in Solomon’s private vault beneath the Capitol. Now on the run and sought for national security purposes, Langdon runs. Knowing that Solomon is in mortal danger, he contacts Katherine Solomon, Peter Solomon’s sister who work in the field of Noetic Sciences.

After being informed that her brother is in danger, Katherine needs to get out of her lab, but encounters a problem when a giant of a man by the name of Mal’akh, who is also Solomon’s kidnapper. Langdon feels the family has suffered plenty enough what with the death of Solomon’s son Zachary at a terribly young age as well as their parents over the years. However, Katherine has more than one issue at hand when the madman is infuriated by not being able to capture her, but continues to blow up her lab, which is her life’s work. Every bit of research she has ever done on thoughts, mass, the weight of a soul, all gone. Meeting up with Bellamy and Langdon, she demands answers, and will not take it for an answer that she may not assemble and decipher the Masonic Pyramid even though her brother is in mortal danger.

However, fate is not with them, and Bellamy sacrifices himself for capture to get Langdon and Katherine out and hoping that they will hide the pyramid. Instead, they assemble it and find a whole new section of riddles and symbols to interpret. Sato has not given up the hunt for them, and is intent on finding Langdon and having him decipher the pyramid for her. Will the CIA’s Office of Security catch up with Langdon and Katherine? Will they be able to either figure out how to work out the pyramid and contact Solomon’s kidnapper for the fair trade that was offered, or will they have to abandon the Masonic hunt in favour of hunting Solomon himself, attempting to figure out where he is being kept?

GRADE 5Everything about this book irritated me. Dan Brown has never been a fantastic writer, but he has been capable of conveying his story. However, there is nothing new to it. Some sissy from Cambridge (yes, Langdon, I am talking about you) gets whisked away for another one-night-stand adventure that nobody throughout history has been able to conclude in decades. Another girl is brought in, another conspiracy; another fast paced few hours and, naturally, another escape from the authorities to pull it all together. There was nothing new here, and though Langdon’s character has always annoyed me a little bit, this book really did him no winning favours. Do not go into this book expecting your world to be rocked. It was not particularly well written or well laid out. Dan Brown tried far too hard to be suspenseful, and the writing style just grew grating and did so quickly. Not what I would recommend. Angels and Demons may not have been the most well written book of all time, but the story was interesting. The Da Vinci Code was again not fantastically written, but the story was engaging, albeit not as charming as its predecessor. The characters were stunted in here, too, and while I know that Brown has never really been into the character growth thing, this was just atrocious. I was deeply unimpressed. It is an alright read for in between things, but not necessarily to put on a must-read list.

Review: The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

dan brown da vinci code cover

Robert Langdon #2

Louvre curator Jacques Saunière is murdered at the museum and leaves a puzzling message for police captain Bezu Fache. A puzzling code and a post script to find Robert Langdon, who just so happens to be in Paris on business. Langdon is called in, and soon police cryptographer Sophie Neveu turns up, who is Saunière’s estranged granddaughter. She informs him subtly that Bezu Fache has in actual fact decided that Langdon is the killer, and that this is a formal interview. She assists Langdon in a great escape from the Louvre featuring much deception while at the same time recovering as many clues that Saunière left for Sophie as possible, and the two run rampant across the streets of Paris looking for sanctuary now that Langdon is a fugitive.

While out an about, it soon becomes evident that Saunière was the Priory of Sion Grand Master, charged with the protection of the Holy Grail. Suddenly his murder takes on a whole new meaning. With all the clues that they gathered at Saunière’s murder scene, Langdon and Sophie follow the trail to discover a cryptex in the Depository Bank in Zurich. This is the Priory keystone, and is a massive breakthrough in history. The hunt is now on, seeing as whoever killed Saunière killed him for the information of finding this box, and that is now a mission. Sophie learns about the history of the Priory of Sion as well as the Holy Grail, and what is really represents: Jesus Christ’s bloodline through the ages, passed down between him and his wife, Mary Magdalene.

Sophie struggles to understand what this has to do with her family, and all the time they are being hunted by Silas, a Catholic monk with ties to Opus Dei, a religious sect. He works for the Teacher, who is desperately looking for the keystone and all the answers on the Holy Grail, and will stop at nothing to get them. After being branded fugitives, Sophie and Langdon need a safe place to go to, and Langdon takes them to his friend and colleague, Sir Leigh Teabing, an avid historian and one of the foremost authorities on the Holy Grail. They need his help and they need his expertise, and they are lucky to come across him. So a journey across continents begins, fast and desperate and with so little time left to solve a riddle that is centuries old, but they are determined on doing it, and intent on doing it correctly.

Will they be able to solve the puzzles of the cryptex and utilize the keystone? Will they actually be on the truthful path of the Holy Grail, to uncover the secrets that have been buried for centuries? Will they escape the deadly assassin that is hot on their heels and being driven by a higher power he firmly believes in? Will Robert ever be able to shake off how guilty he looks to the world that he has run from an arrest?

GRADE 6The Da Vinci Code was not nearly as good for me as its predecessor. While it is alright, with a decent story and plenty of information to absorb, people must not get carried away when reading this. It is researched fiction with a conspiracy spin on it, nothing one hundred percent serious or one hundred percent accurate. As I have said before, Dan Brown may not be the greatest writer of all time, but he writes solidly. There was some humour in this book, I think mostly between Sir Leigh Teabing and his manservant more often than not, but there was also an inordinate amount of data presented to the readers. Really not bad, but just not as tight and as well executed as Angels and Demons. Again, no real character growth, just a pair to carry the story for you, which is perfectly alright for this genre.

Review: Angels and Demons – Dan Brown

dan brown angels and demons cover

Robert Langdon #1

Angels and Demons is the first book in the Robert Langdon series. It is the twenty second book in my book challenge.

Robert Langdon is called from his Cambridge home one morning, no pleasantries and no subtleties. A man has been brutally murdered, his eye ripped from his socket, and he has been branded. Langdon’s academic mind battles to connect the crime with the evidence when he is flown out to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet with CERN director Maximilian Kohler. It seems an ancient brotherhood called the Illuminati is responsible for the murder, though they have been extinct for centuries. Leonardo Vetra, the murdered scientist, was also a priest. His daughter, Vittoria, returns to CERN upon the news to discuss the research her father and her were conducting prior to his death.

Upon arrival, it is soon evident that the research Vittoria and Leonardo worked on has been stolen. The technology is antimatter, and is hundreds of times more powerful than nuclear energy. It could be one of the worst weapons of mass destruction ever created. The canister the antimatter is stored in has a twenty four hour timer on it before the power expires and it levels an unknown but extensive blast radius. As though things could not get worse, the Swiss Guard at Vatican City contact CERN to advise them that they are able to see the antimatter on a camera that was stolen from them, and that its range permits it to transmit from within the city alon. Vittoria and Langdon rush to Vatican City to attempt to retrieve the canister.

Inside Vatican City, papal conclave is drawing near, with one hundred and sixty five cardinals convening to elect the new Pope. The four preferiti are not amongst them, and the Camerlengo, Carlos Ventresca, gets a call from a Hassassin, who swears his allegiance to the brotherhood. He claims that the four preferiti will be butchered as the evening progresses upon the “alters of science”, and at midnight, the Vatican will cease to exist entirely. Naturally, it becomes a media circus. Langdon works with Vittoria and Commander Olivetti to organize a search for the antimatter as well as attempt to find the missing cardinals and save them.

Will Langdon and Vittoria be able to save the cardinals? Will Langdon truly follow the Path of Illumination after centuries of its fading out of existence? Will the Vatican be able to regain control of the media that is running rampant with the story? Will the antimatter be recovered in time, or will the Illuminati finally rise up in all its glory and claim triumph and success over their ancient pact?

GRADE 7It must truly be read in nothing further than a fictitious light. I am not concerned with how much is correct and how much is inaccurate; I read it simply as a fun read, and a decent one. I know that is where too many people get upset; they take the tale far too literally. The story keeps you hooked, and the characters are intriguing, though they are not revolutionary and character growth is minimal. The whole science/religion debate that was highlighted in the book was very thought provoking. While Dan Brown is not the best writer of all time, the book reads fast enough and simply and is exciting along the way. I honestly enjoyed the book immensely. It had a fast paced story, and the concept was well executed. I have read the book a few times, and it remains stimulating, so I would definitely recommend Angels and Demons for consideration if you have not read it before.

The Great Book Snatch!

The feeling of success is still washing over me!

There I was, cruising around the shopping mart, doing my groceries for the month, when I stumbled upon books. Now, staying where I stay, that in itself is very strange. To find reading material in your average grocery store here happens next to never.

But never mind that. There was a load of cheap, tacky paperback romance novels that I gave a very wide berth. But there, gleaming all lovely and dark red from the depths of a shadowy corner was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. I do enjoy reading his works, they are well thought out, finely executed, fast paced, intelligent and gripping. So I slipped my fingers around it and yanked. It was not a dream, it was not  figment of my imagination. It was real! I put it in the front of my trolley, careful to protect it from all the other things that were lying around in there already, and the numerous things that I still had to add.

I’ll admit, I never even checked the price. That was not my concern. It could not be too bad, could it? All the other books were priced at roughly R29.00 each (that is to say, $3.32 / £2.08). That is inordinately well priced. A steal, even. So I hoped against hope the same would hold true for this novel, and luckily for me, it did. I went on to have a look at what it would have cost had I not picked it up at the grocery store, and found the next most affordable one (of the same quality as the one I bought) to be around R120.00 ($13.75 / £8.59).

I skipped off when I was done and placed my latest purchase in its new home. Let us call this the beginning of my Dan Brown collection. It is about time I owned his books!

Do you also feel a sense of achievement when you forage or come across a good book on sale, or hiding in the recesses of forgotten shelves?