The Lost Symbol

November 4, 2009

Title: The Lost Symbol
Author:  Dan Brown
Reader: Paul Michael
Audiobook 2009
Length: 17 hours

1 Star

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The wait was five years for the next in the Robert Langdon series that includes Angels & Demons and the incredibly successful The Da Vinci Code.

The wait is now over and it certainly wasn’t worth it.  To summarize – The Lost Symbol is an overwrought, action less, poorly constructed book that never rises above the pedestrian, and often succumbs to contrivance.

The story starts out well enough with Langdon summoned to Washington D.C. on short notice to fill-in at a lecture as a favor to an old friend.  The one great scene is the action at the Capitol rotunda where a severed hand is discovered pointing upward.  This puts the plot in motion, or rather slow motion.

Again, like the two previous books, the action is confined to a very short period of time – in this case possibly only a few hours.  Brown changes his style a bit with several long flash-backs that try to provide background and context for various characters, but too often just bog down the narrative.   Rather than focus on the Catholic Church as Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, this time we are immersed in the Brotherhood of the Free Masons.  I learned way too much about the history of the Masons, their beliefs and rituals.

Warning – minor plot spoilers ahead.  Sorry I have to mention them in order to point out how ridiculous the plot is.

One of the many problems of this book is the author’s conceit that smart characters including a high-ranking CIA director would not simply explain to Langdon or others what is really going on.  When the term “national security crisis” is used to cover-up what turned out to be nothing more than some embarrassing videos, the reader is left hanging or laughing as was my reaction.  I had assumed there was at least a nuclear device involved somewhere.

And that’s the problem – the stakes were much higher in the other books: the selection of a Pope and the answer to one of the great questions of Christianity.  Instead we get endless blather about the “mysteries of the ancients.”   There was one good twist that I had not seen coming.  But the final chapters of the book that went on and on about the bible etc. were excruciating in their banality.   Even the symbol stuff – solving the puzzles isn’t very interesting.  The movie National Treasure was much more inventive using the Washington D.C. locale.

As a side note, the author seems a bit fixated on castration and shaved bodies of his villains. 

This long and tedious book might be of interest to some, it is well read by Paul Michael, but those of you who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code (and I was among them) will be disappointed.

Reviewed on 11/2/09 by Robert W. Karp





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