Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: The Lost Symbol


You have been warned.

I don't know how to begin. Perhaps a little background would do. I have read 4 out of Dan Brown's 5 published book. So, I think I am in a comfortable position to do this. If you don't know already, the book is based on the one of the most powerful (cults?)societies in USA - the Freemasons. I will not go on to list each and every twist and turn in the plotline in the book, but I will list down the points which did not make this book all that "awesome" for me:

1. One of the most important ones: the focus on USA. Yes, Brown is an American author. I understand that. But he went overboard here. He just about stopped short of shouting or rather printing from the rooftops that USA is the greatest nation in the world. Maybe it had something to do with his target readers. But what it does to the rest of us, the non American readers is to make us sigh and groan "This again? don't we have enough Hollywood movies doing that?"

2. Too much lecturing. We all know that Robert Langdon is a lecturer, but apparently, so is Dan Brown. The overdose of philosophy (is that the right word?) in the book becomes overbearing after a certain point. Many authors have understated messages in their narration. But it is bearable when it is understated and subtle. In The Lost Symbol, there were moments when I got fed up of it and skipped those paragraphs. It isn't just a few lines, he preaches in paragraphs, one after another. We all know we live in troubled times yada yada now can we get back to the plot please!. If I want to ponder about these things, I will pick up a book along those lines. I expect fiction interspersed with startling facts, mythology from Dan Brown, not a lecture on the greater good, truth, good and evil, etc.

3. Too much spirituality/religion. Before you say it, yes I know that was the whole premise of The Da Vinci Code. But that was different. It was crucial to the plot of the book and we discovered some amazing lore/legends and that was combined with the main storyline. The end result was spectacular. The same doesn't happen here. I don't know if Dan Brown is trying to make amends or get back on good terms with the Church but that is what it seems like. He hasn't glorified the church but he has gone to lengths defending the Bible and glorifying it. I can point out quite a few instances when it seems to be a pathetic attempt at pacification. Whatever the reason may be, he has played it really safe this time around.

4. The basic premise. Yeah, I know this should have come right on top. I cannot bring myself to believe even a little bit of the basic premise, on which this book carries its story forward. One bit that refuses to get out of my mind is the experiment that Katherine Solomon conducts, which helps her in measuring the weight of the human soul. Oh please! No matter how much I tell myself to have an open mind about it, I refuse to digest this piece. I am going to look up Noetic Science but I doubt if that's going to change my opinion at all. When we read a book, we surrender our minds to the author, allowing him to shape our thoughts in his/her way, making us see things that only he/she would have seen till now. But we have a limit. I know when you are bullshitting me.

5. If you have read The Count of Monte Cristo or seen even a few Hindi movies, you know within the few lines where he talks about Zachary Solomon that its Mal'akh. So that eliminates the surprise factor. Fine, that was just a minor glitch. Next up is the "threat to national security" angle that Sato plays and is the reason the CIA is involved in this treasure hunt in the first place. A few individuals captured on camera performing dark rituals? I am sorry, but that's the best you could come up with? Sure, since all of them are prominent American individuals, it will have a big impact, but ahem, you are afraid of a Youtube scandal? I thought CIA had better things to worry about.

I could go on and on. Sure it is an entertaining read, but it has failed on too many fronts for me to love it. It is a long read and isn't even the can't-take-your-eyes-off-it, fast paced book. It is not boring and you should definitely read it but do so with an impartial mindset. Maybe the fact that I am a skeptic and a cynical person has something to do with it but I am sorry to say that The Lost Symbol was lost on me. I am a reader who wasn't wowed, and that's the truth.

I would rate it 3/5.


  1. In the book, Mr. Brown speaks through his principal character that he does not tweet....He should. That will save the world the trouble of buying such books...

    I say this because the book can be encapsulated in half a tweet "Bible's THE shit. Science's shit. PS: Excessive Tatoo-ing will kill your grandma".

  2. that was very well written and has enough reasons for me to abstain from reading it for sometime :)

  3. Although I didn't think that this was the best book that i've read, i don't agree with most of what you've said...
    1.Don't really care that he did that... but again, i think he meant that in spite of being a very new country, they still have some sublime messages in their constructions like in Rome, Paris and the likes
    2.What you call lecturing, i call attention to detail and i think that was warranted to understand the background for each of those events that occurred in the book
    3.Yes, i agree to this point
    4.the whole experiment may be far fetched at the moment but there should be little doubt that the concept is true
    5.The few men that they were talking about were senators, judges and other luminaries... for a cult like freemasons that is misunderstood as being an evil cult by many, it is a big thing if the luminaries are seen drinking out of a skull, holding a dagger at another man's chest... such revelations could lead to widespread unrest

  4. No, I am not going to read this NOW! :-o
    Of course, I'll be back! :)

  5. Agree on all points completely except 2. But it was an extremely tedious read near the end.

    P.S American spellings didn't put you off? It did for me. Sulfur , it seems :-|

  6. woah, exactly my thoughts. Wait, let me read again.

    1. yeah, I found it so tedious, trying to imagine everything. After a point, I gave up. To a person who is familiar with the monuments mentioned, might get wowed by the book, but for others, its a pointless exercise.

    2. Way too much lecturing. At the end, I could not take it anymore, I only read it till the end because i did not want to dump it having come so close to finishing it.

    3. exactly my point, towards the end, with the whole lecture on bible, he was only sucking up to the church and all the devout Christians whom he had alienated. I know of many friends, devout christians, who refused to read the book or watch the movie as they were deeply offended by the claims made by him in the book. So it looked like he was mending fences with them.

    4. This is the most funniest moment in the book. A what the fuck moment; this is her revolutionary experiment? You know what my reaction was: IF only she had seen the movie Ghost, when Patrick Swayze's soul leaves his body after he is killed. :P But what else can you expect from her, all work and no fun makes Katherine Solomon a very stupid girl. :P

    5. Frankly, I did not see it coming. But after the confession, I felt it was a cheap gimmick. How did the sudden transformation come about in him? From being a drug taking irresponsible kid to a maniac who believes in the power of the lost word? Something which was not properly established in the book in my opinion

    All in all, a very laborious read. I got so bored with all the lecturing, I just kept reading without concentrating on it, as it was not related to the plot. So all the lectures on Freemasonary, Ancient Mysteries and all flew over my head. so for me, its a complete waste of time and money. Precious 460 bucks, that's 4 movies. First time I ever purchased a hard cover; a hard lesson for a hard cover