Book Review: Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol”

On the day Dan Brown’s new book got released, I unleashed my google-fu skills to acquire an electronic version of the book, the same way I did whenever a new Harry Potter book is released. Admittedly, it’s the only way I can possibly enjoy new and premium titles. I can’t buy the book; on checking, I was stunned to find its prize ridiculously expensive. I was able to acquire a genuine copy, and I’m proud to say that it was a tough find, particularly because fake versions are also in the wild. The P2P community was, of course, still warming up to the release and will probably be releasing download links within a day or two. I couldn’t wait another day however, I have always been impatient.

So judging by my excitement about the book, it’s too easy to conclude that I like Dan Brown’s Books, though I’m not exactly too fanatical about him (then again, IMO there’s nothing really wrong about being a fanatic, for as long as their kinds don’t act like assholes on forums and other sites). I have all four of his previous works (but unfortunately lost Angels & Demons when a friend borrowed it and was never returned. At least I was able to finish the book by then. Anyway, to give you an idea, I had a previous blog post about the book.) I have also read all of them save for Deception Point.

I’m not in the mood to write lengthy paragraphs, so in order to reduce length, I decided to use tables, comparing parallelisms between all three Robert Langdon books. Dan Brown’s books were generally criticized for their formulaic plots. From a computer user’s perspective, it basically means that all three novels were made using the same template, with only minimal revisions. For the record, The Lost Symbol has several deviations from the given formula.

Setting Geneva, Switzerland; later, Vatican Paris, France; later, London Washington DC
The Murder Victim (the novel typically starts with the killing of a person) Leonardo Vetra, one of the chief physicist of CERN. He is also a priest. Jacques Sauniere, head curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Surprisingly, the novel didn’t start with a murder, instead commencing with an intricately detailed description of a Masonic ritual. There was still a victim, however, cleverly placed in the third chapter. He is Peter Solomon, a fatherly figure to Langdon and belonging to the highest order in the Mason. There is no murder, BTW. The victim is merely kidnapped.
The Reason (for the killing) He was able to simulate the birth of the universe. He keeps the secret that can supposedly topple the foundation of Christianity. He has the artifact that supposedly complete the transformation of the antagonist.
Significance of the Murder The success of his experiment marks an achievement in unifying one of the fundamental truths of science and the Bible, signifying the merging of the two philosophies. By killing all four secret-keepers and extracting the secret from them, the killer is given the chance to find the artifact and destroy it forever. Peter Solomon supposedly holds the artifact that will let the antagonist complete his intention.
The Conflict Religion claims to be the sole holder of the truth. Also, because nearly all modern-day miracles were achieved thru science, religion is threatened with obsolescence. Revealing the falsehoods in the New Testament. None, really. There was a minor conflict early on, and it has something to do with Katherine Solomon’s experiments which I can only describe as magic being viewed or observed from the scientific perspective, which the antagonist sees somehow threatening.
The Killer (highly skilled and relentless in killing. He will give the protagonists a hard time in meeting their goals) The killer is referred to only as The Hassassin, though at one chapter another name was given to him: Malak al’haq (meaning the Angel of Truth). He is a member of a ancient cult of killers: The Assassins. Silas, an albino and a member of Opus Dei. The main antagonist in the novel is usually referred to as Mal’akh, though he also assumes other identities in the novel.
The Ancient Organization (from which the secret was born) The Illuminati, who seeks to push enlightenment thru science and scientific method, thereby declaring themselves as the enemy of the Church, or, from a religious viewpoint, a Satanic cult (the phrase Satan in its literal sense actually means “an adversary”) The Knight Templars, called such because they returned to the Holy City and allegedly found plenty of revealing documents. Later on, the secret had been transferred to the Priory of Sion. Freemasons. Not much to talk about them, unfortunately.
The Opposing Organization The Catholic Church, presumably. Opus Dei nothing. 😉
The Phone Caller (Langdon gets into the action thru a phone call conducted by another high ranking person related to the murdered person) Maximillian Kohler, director general of CERN A hotel concierge in the Ritz Hotel. Not a high-ranking officer obviously, but at least he announced the arrival of Lt. Jerome Collet of DCPJ, the French equivalent of FBI. Anthony Jelbart, Peter Solomon’s executive assistant
The Clue (an artifact left by the killer which the caller assumes can only be deciphered by Langdon) The ambigrammatic Illuminati seal on the dead man’s chest. A riddle written on the floor of Louvre. And the dead person imitating the Vitruvian man. The phone call was actually just a setup. Langdon was supposedly called for a keynote speech in National Statuary Hall but once he’s there, he found the venue to be empty. Later on, after making another phone call and realizing it was all just a setup, he was called to the Capitol Rotunda and there discovered a handequin, shaped to signify The Hand of the Mysteries. In this form, the thumb and index finger points upward, and each of the fingers has tattoo in each: a crown on the thumb, and a star on the index. The hand used was Peter’s, BTW.
The Mission Find the stolen antimatter in Vatican and neutralize it before it destroys anything. Find the Holy Grail. Find the ancient portal and unlock it in order to save Peter’s life.
The Trail It was Langdon’s idea to follow the Path of Illumination (which serves as tests for people who wishes to gain membership in the organization) to trace the killer and hopefully gain information about the location of the canister. The riddle serves as a clue that can point to the next clue until the final point is reached. Langdon is also on the run because he is the primary suspect for the murder. The handequin also has clues. In addition, Peter gave an ancient artifact to Langdon a few years ago, which can help Langdon in his quest.
The Female Lead (usually related to the murdered person) Vittoria Vetra, adopted daughter of Leonardo. She is a biophysicist. She met Langdon at CERN while they’re investigating the murder. Sophie Neveu, granddaughter of Sauniere. She is a cryptologist. She saved Langdon because she believed that he is innocent. Katherine Solomon, Peter’s younger sister. She is well-known in the field of Noetic Science. The two actually met only halfway thru the novel.
Person of Authority (who will either help or hinder Langdon depending on the circumstances) Commander Olivetti, head of the Vatican Swiss Guards Capitaine Bezu Fache, head of DCPJ Director Inoue Sato, overlord of CIA’s Office of Security
Obelisks (just for fun, these structures are recurring in these novels) The four Churches of Illumination usually have obelisks in them, ironically as pagan symbols in a religious structure. Paris is filled with pyramids, obelisks and other Egyptian art. Washington contains the world’s largest obelisk: the Washington Monument.

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