First of all, I had a really tough time overcoming the five year wait. Seeing many great authors coming out with a book every year, or at least every two years, I couldn’t help but thinking ‘why did it take so long for Dan Brown to write a follow-up to ‘The Da Vinci Code’?’ Upon finishing the book, I can’t say, even with the tremendous amount of historical and scientific facts that he managed to put into the story, a five year wait can be justified. Considering all the publicity surrounding the book and the movies that came out in the meantime, I figured it’d be best to forget about the time frame and to judge the book as it is.
Right off the bat, the pacing is very good and Brown does a good job of building suspense. One of the best scenes in the book and one that, for me personally, even rivalled the suspense presented in Jack Kilborn’s ‘Afraid’ was the chase scene in the pod. Unfortunately, that was the last riveting scene in the book and it just seemed to go with the flow afterwards.
A lot of suspense gets killed by explanations after the fact. The reader is left hanging on a cliff quite a few times but is then presented with the simplest of explanations a few chapters later. This is even true for the identity of the ‘bad guy’, which I was already able to figure out fairly early on in the book without having to wreck my brain over it. The story goes on as if it must have been impossible to guess the identity along the way and presents a, what should have been, ‘nailbiting’ revelation towards the final pages of the book.
Short chapters are a gimmick which a lot of writers use to establish pacing and suspense in their stories. In ‘The Lost Symbol’ the short chapters are sometimes redundant and don’t add a lot to the story. For example, at one point Langdon is on the phone with the bad guy and the bad guy makes a threat, which cues the end of the chapter. The next chapter, however, simply continues the conversation where they left off. Not only does this once again kill the suspense but you’re also wondering ‘what was the point of ending the chapter?’.
Upon finishing it, I decided that ‘The Lost Symbol’ is not a dreadful piece of writing. It was enjoyable, but very predictable, and although I can’t say that I got a lot of satisfaction out of the adventure aspect of the story, the book was extremely interesting. Due to all the science and history that is presented throughout the book it felt as though I had been exposed to an information overload and it was a miracle smoke was not coming out of my ears.
In conclusion, I can understand why many people simply love the adventures of Robert Langdon. As for me, although I care about the facts and how they play out in the fictional story, I also appreciate a good build-up of the action and the adventure in a book. For this reason I will probably stick to James Rollins (on that note be sure to check out my review of “The Last Oracle”) in the future and leave Dan Brown to the masses.
The Lost Symbol is available at your local book store.