Book: The Davinci Code
Writer(s): Dan Brown
All I knew about this book going in was that a) I found the previous Dan Brown book I'd read, Digital Fortress, horribly inaccurate, and b) it was a best-seller. Well, Dan continues the tradition. He makes his first mistake on the opening page where it states in bold letters "Fact:" and then lists several "facts" from the book. I put that in quotes because if you do any research at all on the topic you will find that at least half of what Dan claims are facts are not. Unfortunately, this "fact" page implies that much of you are about to read is true, and then the book begins to dispense a wild tale that takes direct aim at the Catholic Church, outlining a 2,000-year-old coverup by them hiding the "true" nature of Christ from the rest of the world. Now the book begins well with the intriguing murder of a Louvre curator in Paris. The man dies leaving clues to a deep secret, and it's up to his estranged grand-daughter and a visiting Harvard professor to solve the mystery. Generally Dan does well keeping the story moving and generating suspense; unfortunately, all too often he creates suspense by cheating, simply not revealing information to us. When we're not supposed to know the identity of someone the person is just mentioned as "the figure" or "the man" -- until Dan decides it's time to unveil the person. Lame. And it gets old very fast. Worse, in this book the story is interrupted by lectures and "science" lessons, where we are presented with more of the "facts" the book reveals. While interesting, up to a point, they are so outrageous -- that Jesus was really married to Mary Magdalene but the Church buried that fact and DaVinci left clues in his paintings to hint at that "truth" -- that it's just not even remotely believable. Combine that with Dan's amaturish writing, feeble plotting, and weak ending and we have a dreadful book. It's certainly not the worst book ever written, but it is a cheat. The "research" is awful and all one-sided; the characters limp and one-dimensional; and reality is twisted to force the plot Dan wants to use instead of the plot steming naturally from the characters. For example, the curator who is shot in the museum is shot in the belly and realizes it's a mortal wound: he will be dead in 15 minutes. But that's enough time for him to leave a coded message. But how did the murderer know that he would die? One bullet wound looks like another from a distance: if he's such a pro, shouldn't he make sure the man's dead before leaving? But no: the plot depends on the curator leaving his clues, so the killer takes off, leaving the curator to slowly bleed to dead. Lame. The whole thing is just weak and cheap. It's interesting, but hardly original (everything in the book has been written about elsewhere). Unfortunately, the way it's presented in the book it's designed to make it seem like this is new evidence and it's all factual. It's nonsense. One of the things that bugged me, for instance, is that a big part of the plot revolves around a secret society (I hate that gimmick). What's really dumb, though, is that the researchers and historians who are the heroes of the story seem to somehow know all about the secret society: they know the past member names, the rituals, the secret handshake, everything. Except who the current members are. That, of course, is a deep secret. Stoo-pid!
Okay, the book does have some interesting "codes" and little riddles, but it's nothing particularly challenging. They are interesting and occasionally clever. Dan even screws them up, though, by laughing at his own jokes, pointing out how clever and brilliant they are which is insufferably irritating. My favorite part of the book was the word etemology stuff, where word origins are used to supposedly "prove" assertions made in the book. I have no idea if any of that is accurate (I wouldn't trust anything Dan says -- in fact, if he says it, I'd bet it wasn't true -- the guy's a complete idiot), but it was interesting and fun. Sadly, the book fails in all regards. It's a quick and mildly interesting read, but certainly below average and a disappointment considering its best-selling status.