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The Lost Symbol

A book by Dan Brown.

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Robert Langdon is Back and Roaming the Streets of DC

  • Sep 25, 2009
The Lost Symbol marks the return of Dan Brown.  HIs last book was The Da Vinci Code way back in 2003.  And The Da Vinci Code went on to become one of the biggest selling adult novels of all time (albeit for all the wrong reasons).  So how do you follow up one of the biggest most successful books of all time?  Well, you really can't, to be honest with you.  I mean, how do you write a follow up to a story about the Catholic Church keeping Jesus's bloodline a secret?  That's like writing the bible and then saying, "I think I can follow it up with something that's going to blow your freakin' mind!"  I'm not here to compare, just to write just a little bit about The Lost Symbol.

Robert Langdon returns, and this time instead of roaming Europe he'll be roaming the United States and uncovering secrets about the Freemasons.  It begins with him getting a call to give a lecture in the National Staturary Hall.  When he gets there, however, he is already getting wrapped up in a puzzle of sorts.  I almost can't tell you more than that because the Lost Symbol, much like The Da Vinci Code, is a pretty confusing read... with a lot to swallow from time to time.  There are some thrills here and there, but for the most part it suffers from about the same problems as The Da Vinci Code.  In some ways that's bad.  I defended Dan Brown saying he's not quite as bad as most literary critics believe he is.  There is potential for him.  The Lost Symbol, however, brings out many of his faults, and makes them more well known.  Apparently Dan Brown didn't learn a whole lot during the six years he spent writing this thing.

Let's start with what's good.  There are some thrills and some good moments of action.  Not to mention a good dose of plot twist.  And if you're really into it, you just might get some education out of it.

Okay, now let's get onto some of the problems, because some are just really really big problems.  The biggest of which is the same problem Brown has a lot.  That being that his books move at an unusual pace.  It's not fast or slow, it's just a little jumbled.  Sometimes you get some thrilling moments.  And hey, Robert Langdon isn't really a bad character (and you don't have to read The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons to read The Lost Symbol), but where as you might get some action sequences you're also going to sit through A LOT of conversations where the characters mostly explain stuff to you.  You know how Dora the Explorer has a way of giving children that feel that they can be involved?  There are moments in the show where she'll look at the audience and say something like: "Do you see the mountain?" and it'll pause for a moment to give the kid a moment to answer before she says something like, "Right, the mountain is over there!" or something like that.  For Dora the Explorer, which is aimed at kids... that's cute.  But to get something like that out of a Dan Brown novel feels kind of insulting.  Most conversations start along the lines of asking characters (usually Langdon) something like, "Have you ever heard of this?"  "This" can be just about any damn thing.  To which Langdon might have heard of it and then Langdon and whoever will go on to talk about how they thought it was just a myth or something like that and then Robert will discover something shocking about it.  At these "shocking discovers" the chapter usually ends.  But the way these exchanges take place, you can picture that if it were a television show, Langdon and whoever he's talking to would look at the audience and being saying such things.  It can feel like you're sitting through a college lecture from time to time.

The biggest problem with that, however is that it's freakin' Robert Langdon.  This guys last adventure was discovering that Jesus had a bloodline and that Da Vinci hinted about this stuff in his paintings... and Robert Langdon is SHOCKED that nothing is as it seems?  After his adventure in The Da Vinci Code Langdon shouldn't be shocked about anything he learns.  If he learned that a ship was really just a giant rubber ducky he shouldn't be surprised.  Dan Brown sort of gives you the sense that if someone did the "Got your nose" trick on Langdon he'd probably be shocked and wondering where the hell his nose went.  It just seems unreal that Langdon would still be unable to accept that some things aren't what they seem.

There are A LOT of those moments in The Lost Symbol.  It's almost a pattern.  Langdon learns something shocking, then we move to another location where he'll learn something else shocking.  Throughout this we also get glimpses of the villain.  If there is one thing that Dan Brown is consistently bad about, it's his villains.  Here's its some crazy guy named Mal'akh who has a bunch of tattoos all over his body.  Brown's villains are always unrealistic.  And just when you think they couldn't get weirder and crazier they do.

This brings about the character development throughout the book.  There just isn't a lot of it.  We can like Robert Langdon, sure, but on his third adventure we still don't learn too much about him.  Most of the characters are like that.  There's hardly any backstory or anything like that thrown in there. 

The Lost Symbol is a pretty big book, although some of the chapters can whip by pretty fast.  Much like his previous novel, the chapters are short.  Most of them, anyway.  Each chapter ends with its own little cliffhanger or shocking revelation for the sake of keeping you reading.  Sometimes it works.  When you finish a chapter and you see the next is only two or three pages you just might shrug and think to yourself, "I can knock that out."  Thus you continue reading.  It's a little gimmicky, but keep in mind that Dan Brown IS a thriller writer and that's just one of the tricks and trades of the genre.  If you pick up a thriller you've no doubt experienced that.  It's supposed to be a ride.  

The Lost Symbol isn't much of a ride, though.  One of the reasons these lecture like moments were alright in The Da Vinci Code was because it was fascinating.  Not much is nearly as fascinating.  And it may be because the topic just isn't as controversial.  His last book was basically about saying that everything we learned in church was wrong.  This one doesn't quite go that far.  And the surreality of the characters really doesn't help either.  It's also sad that so many of these lecture moments come in long snippets that really break up the action which is happening.  In other instances they're there to remind us of certain things almost as if we might've gotten lost in the details.

And you might get lost in the details.  Not because there's so much to swallow (it's not nearly as deep The Da Vinci Code) but because the book is just long and Dan Brown opts for being a bit more precise.  So much so that you kind of get the feeling that some of the places Robert Langdon goes to throughout are being advertised.  Sometimes when reading you can picture Dan Brown sitting behind the keyboard and saying to himself, "After reading this the audience is totally going to want to check this place out!"  I imagine that after The Lost Symbol comes out, there will be many places in Washington D.C. where tourism will increase.  And Dan Brown will make sure you know exactly where it is and how to get there.  Is he writing a novel or giving us directions?

I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed The Da Vinci Code.  I could ignore many of its faults because I was at least having fun.  It's hard to have fun with with The Lost Symbol.  It's just not nearly as interesting as the book which preceeded it.  More than that, after six years Dan Brown never improved or anything.  The problems present in The Lost Symbol are pretty big and present themselves much more than some of his previous books.

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April 15, 2010
Thanks for the review. I resolved not to read another one of Brown's books after "The Da Vinci Code." This review furthers my decision. :-P
December 17, 2009
I have to agree. The Lost Symbol was a weak, weak, disappointing follow-up to a blockbuster that, despite its own set of faults, was a pretty enjoyable novel. Nice review.
October 19, 2009
Great review. I was just about to write my own review, but there's not much to say that you didn't cover.
October 05, 2009
I liked "Angels & Demons", haven't read "The Da Vinci Code" yet, and I was not a fan of either of the films, but I was hoping that this would at least be interesting. And I agree, Dan Brown's villains are straight out of a poorly written comic book.
September 25, 2009
Great Review! I agree with so much of what you said. The Dora analogy is spot on...the lecturing to the audience gets really old.Nevertheless...Brown writes page turners and I always end up reading them...but they leave me feeling vaguely unsatisfied every time.
September 25, 2009
Thanks Sean, I almost got an advance copy from Brown's publicist. Then I was thinking about buying it. Now I guess I wait until my hold at the library clears. I never thought Da Vinci code was all that great and was only a bestseller because it was contriversal. IAlso, found that Nicholas Cage's character Ben Gates to be a lot more interesting than Robert Landon
More The Lost Symbol reviews
review by . October 19, 2009
It's best to turn your brain off before diving into The Lost Symbol.  Dan Brown's latest novel drops the "hero" Robert Langdon into Washington DC to embark on yet another journey of hidden symbolism, codes and mythology.  There's just enough factual information in the book to create an interesting backdrop for this story, but the premise isn't nearly as shocking or controversial as The DaVinci Code.      The story moves along at a good pace so its easy to …
review by . April 17, 2010
Based on the number of reviews on Amazon (2,380 and growing), I seem to be a bit late to the Dan Brown The Lost Symbol party. In my defense, I can say that I have been enjoying quite a few first time authors and some favorite authors returning to the book world. Further, as I read quite a few other books with a similar formula in the past year, I really didn't see the need to pick up another one. But this is Dan Brown after all. If you have read The Da Vinci Code, and I am guessing that you have, …
review by . July 06, 2010
I actually enjoyed The da Vinci Code (even though the title doesn’t make sense… “the of Vinci Code?) and Angels and Demons. However, The Lost Symbol was disappointing at best. Perhaps is was the lack of exotic, exciting scenery (Paris and Rome beat Washington DC for exotic and exciting. My apologies to those who feel otherwise), or perhaps it was simply the poor writing. Isn’t the first rule of fiction “show, not tell?” It seems that Dan Brown forgot that important …
Quick Tip by . August 20, 2010
One of the funniest reviews I've ever read in Amazon is for "The Lost Symbol". It is a satire called "I'm pretty sure it went down like this". Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A3A2X0ZIIS9JVD/ref=cm_cr_pr_pdp"
review by . December 18, 2009
As a follow-up to "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons", it almost goes without saying that "The Lost Symbol" is going to be a runaway best-seller. Nor does it take deep literary analysis to suggest that the plot involves symbols, codes, secret rituals, freemasonry, mysticism, religion, history and frantic chases from one secret location to another as symbologist Robert Langdon slowly unravels "the" ultimate secret to lay it bare before Dan Brown's breathless …
review by . June 29, 2010
The newest addition to the Dan Brown novels is a good read just like all of Dan Brown novels. Unfortunately the novel's premise is just like all the other ones. The protagonist faces a mystery that can be solved through deciphering a code. They are joined by a member of the opposite sex in solving the mystery, and sexual tension ensues. With that said, even though they are somewhat cookie cutter novels, I still enjoy reading them. There are several redeeming features to the novels that definitely …
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
Good book, interesting US Capitol factoids!
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Really liked this book...this is my favorite book so far from Dan Brown. I couldn't put this one down.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
i thought this one would be better than it was. its was an ok read, just not what id expected.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Writing was bad, but book was somewhat entertaining. Definitely not as good as Angels and Demons.
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this book


The Lost Symbol, developed under the working title The Solomon Key, is a 2009 novel by American writer Dan Brown. It is a thriller set in Washington, D.C., after the events of The Da Vinci Code.

Released on September 15, 2009, it is the third Brown novel to involve the character of Harvard University symbologistRobert Langdon, following 2000's Angels & Demons and 2003's The Da Vinci Code. It had a first printing of 6.5 million (5 million in North America, 1.5 million in the UK), the largest in Doubleday history. On its first day the book sold one million in hardcover and e-book versions in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, making it the fastest selling adult novel in history.[4] By September 25 the book topped the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction.

Let's start with the question everyDan Brownfan wants answered: IsThe Lost Symbolas good asThe Da Vinci Code? Simply put, yes. Brown has mastered the art of blending nail-biting suspense with random arcana (from pop science to religion), andThe Lost Symbolis an enthralling mix. And what a dazzling accomplishment that is, considering that rabid fans and skeptics alike are scrutinizing every word.

The Lost Symbolbegins with an ancient ritual, a shadowy enclave, and of course, a secret. Readers know they are in Dan Brown territory when, by the end of the first chapter, a secret within a secret is revealed. To tell too much would ruin the fun of reading this delicious thriller, so you will find no ...
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ISBN-10: 0385504225
ISBN-13: 978-0385504225
Author: Dan Brown
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Doubleday Books
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