Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Lost Symbol: a book review

Grade: B+

Dan Brown has to be one of the greatest mystery writers out there today. His most recent book, The Lost Symbol, is as gripping as his previous, The Da Vinci Code. It is a book you cannot put down because each chapter leaves you hanging and desperate to figure out what happens next to answer the plethora of questions in your head so you can start unraveling the mystery. This compelling story is so intricately woven that you never know the answers, do you even who are the good guys or bad guys, though you think you might

I found this book particularly fascinating because it takes place in Washington, D.C., where I live, and revolves around actual landmarks from the Capitol to the Washington Monument and the Almas Shrine temple, to neighborhoods including Kalorama, and even to actual metro stops. Symbol uses existing locations and specific details down to actual engravings to create the dramatic tale of the Masons and their symbols which protect a secret. The concept of the Masons also finds some basis in reality, as the group really exists and has previously included members including George Washington, who used real Masonic symbols and beliefs in everything from the etchings on monuments to the timing of when to lay cornerstones for the U.S. Capitol.

Symbol is compelling because it is founded in reality and simply expounded upon to show us a world which could exist beyond and beneath the world the reader can see. The many facets to his novel keep the reader guessing and craving more, devouring chapters to uncover answers. There are so many "Wow! I never saw that coming." moments the reader is constantly on his or her toes and consistently finds that everything they thought to be true is not what it seems. The best mysteries are exactly that; a mystery right up until the very end.

The only flaws I found with this book is that it is very similar to The Da Vinci Code, which had all the good qualities for Symbol, but was original in that it was the predecessor. In both, the hero is reluctant but brilliant and can't help but continue to stumble upon clues and fortunate circumstances that help him along the way despite all the pitfalls. His sidekick, with whom there is a romantic tension, is an attractive female who is incredibly intelligent and passionate in a specific field which happens to be related to the storyline. The antagonist an odd looking and intimidating man who is a brilliant and relentless in his pursuit of something, but is blinded by their single minded determination to stop at nothing to achieve their goal. In the end of both novels, the books get rather preachy about morals.

This still makes for a fascinating and wonderful mystery novel, but Brown is going to need to find a different formula in the future if he is to continue his reign as one of the best writers in his genre. Be warned, once you begin reading this book you will not be able to stop.

Favorite Quotes:
"Order from chaos."

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal."

"Small minds have always lashed out at what they don't understand."

"There are those who create... and those who tear down."

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