George Mason Law School

‘Lost Symbol’ follows familiar story

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September 25, 2009

1:06 AM

In “The Lost Symbol,” Dan Brown writes what he writes best — a story that is both awful and impossible to put down. The book runs exactly like “Angels and Demons” or “The Da Vinci Code.” If you’ve read either, you’ll recognize the beginning: an urgent call summons professor Robert Langdon from Harvard to Washington, D.C.

His paternal mentor, professor Peter Solomon, has been kidnapped by a rogue Mason fanatic — think Silas in “The Da Vinci Code” — and for the next 400 pages, Langdon runs around the nation’s capital, deciphering symbols and eluding the CIA in his attempt to rescue his friend and save the world. He is aided by Peter’s sister, Katherine, who fulfills Brown’s typical brainy-yet-sexy scientist role. Her involvement in the story is unecessary, as is the sub-plot about Noetic science. Though this seems like an interesting topic, Brown shoves it into the plot and showers the reader with Wikipedia-derived facts.

Overall, the book is typical Brown. The usual twists and red herrings seem contrived, making the plot appear random and unreliable. Also the long digressions into symbolism, Masonic history and Noetic science clog the writing.

I ended up skimming entire chapters. Langdon grows more frustrating with each page. Once Langdon shows off his historical knowledge at a crime scene, the authorities always consider him the prime suspect. He should’ve learned to keep his mouth shut in the first two books, but I guess that would make his escapes from highly-trained agents less awesome. And it’s not like the authorities offer him much explanation either; no doubt Langdon is not mistaken in wondering why the CIA would be barking orders in the Capitol Building where they have no legal authority. However, I haven’t checked Wikipedia lately, so maybe that’s changed.

As I read, I searched for a character that had not appeared in every one of Dan’s books. The scientists and Masonic nerds were out, as was the token CIA director with unclear motives. I really thought the tattooed antagonist had potential — even a sort of deranged sex appeal — but his maniacal-genius charm fell by the wayside as the book progressed and he became another quasi-religious fanatic, like every other one of Brown’s villains.

Brown does take quick stabs at philosophy, which I sort of enjoyed, but he fails to pull out anything insightful. Then again, it is Brown. He probably won’t change his characters’ forms anytime soon, and why should he? Cheap entertainment sells, and that’s what he gives you. I’d suggest borrowing from someone who has already spent their money. Read the first 150 pages, then skip to the end.

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