Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October Book Review: The Lost Symbol

Like millions of other fans of Dan Brown, I recently purchased his long-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol. The question on everyone's mind was after six years, was Robert Langdon up for another nail-biting adventure? Finishing the novel in a few short days, I can answer with an unequivocal "Yes"! And I promise that this review will contain no spoilers for anyone who hasn't yet read the book.

Symbologist Robert Langdon has been summoned by longtime friend and mentor, Peter Solomon, to Washington, D.C. for an impromptu lecture. However, when he arrives at the Capitol building, he discovers that Solomon has been kidnapped, and his captor has left a grisly memento in the Rotunda to impress upon everyone that he is deadly serious in his intentions. In order to save his friend, Langdon is called upon to find a mysterious ancient underground portal somewhere in the city that will reveal "the Ancient Mysteries."

Like the albino in The Da Vinci Code, the villain--Solomon's kidnapper--here seems possessed in his single-minded quest to unlock the secrets of the ancients in order to achieve some mystical power. Unlike the albino, however, this villain, who calls himself Mal'akh, appears to act alone. He is introduced in the prologue and, as is customary with Brown's style for developing suspense, many of the chapters focus on his point of view. With a muscular body that is completely covered with tatoos, he is a truly frightening antagonist. His ulterior motives are vague, but are eventually revealed in the surprising climax.

The symbols that Langdon must decode in order to appease Mal'akh have to do with Freemasonry, and the book presents a very interesting look at the history of the Masons, particularly the role they played in the founding of our country. Along the way, Langdon meets up with Solomon's sister, Katherine Solomon, who is also in danger. Katherine is doing groundbreaking research in the field of Noetic Sciences and is a worthy match for Langdon's superior intellect. Together, they elude possible enemies, including the director of the CIA's Office of Security, and dash through the city of Washington in their search for clues.

The action of the book takes place over the course of one night, and to say it is fast-paced is a cliche, yet true. Just as one layer of the mystery is solved, another layer appears, and Langdon and Katherine are involved in a race against time as well as in a fight for survival. This is definitely a book to read on a cold, rainy weekend--as I did--when you don't have other demands on your time.

I've been a big fan of Dan Brown since reading The Da Vinci Code and have read all his other books, which are just as good, especially Angels and Demons. Unlike other popular authors who churn out one or more books every year, often with mixed results, Brown appears to take his time to research his material thoroughly before publishing another novel. The Da Vinci Code prompted a flurry of television programs about the Holy Grail, secret societies, and the theological theories presented in the novel. Whether this book will bring about the same kind of response remains to be seen, but I doubt it, since the topic of the Masons has been discussed at length in shows already. The only subject that may spur some interest is the area of Noetic Science, which turns out to be an actual field, the study of the power of human thought. And unlike The Da Vinci Code, which caused some outrage among theologians, The Lost Symbol is pretty tame--the Freemasons are presented in a favorable light, and no controversial religious theories are discussed here.

My son also read the book and enjoyed it, but was disappointed in the characters, saying they were inconsistent. I had hestitated to read any other reviews of this book before writing this post, but after hearing this, I thought I would check out what a few other reviewers had to say. All the ones I read praised the book, but found similar devices used in The Da Vinci Code and criticized Brown's "wooden dialogue" and clumsy sentence structure. I think Langdon may appear somewhat inconsistent, at times solving a puzzle with amazing speed and at other times being rather obtuse, but I believe this is just one of Brown's techniques in creating a cliffhanger at the end of chapters. Ultimately, Langdon solves all the riddles, of course, and this is a novel driven by plot, not characterization. True, there are some similarities to The Da Vinci Code, but The Lost Symbol is definitely not a clone of that book. And as for Brown's writing style, well, you don't buy his books expecting Shakespeare!

The Lost Symbol has a list price of $29.95, but can be easily found for much less at many bookstores and discount superstores. Take my advice--shell out the money for the hardback, and don't wait for the paperback to come out. By that time, the media will have revealed all the "lost symbols"!

For more ideas of great reads, check out other reviews at the meeting of the Book Review Club.


  1. I know this book and movie were very popular but I still haven't seen the movie or read the book. I really need to put it on my queue list soon as it sounds so good-both books.

  2. My book group read the last one and they enjoyed it more than I did. I find his writing clunky and his plots improbable. He is good at creating excitement however. He knows how to make the pages turn.

  3. I enjoyed reading The Da Vinci Code but did not enjoy seeing the movie. I suppose they were trying to create a since of secrecy or mystery with the dreary lack of light. I just kept thinking turn on the lights.

  4. It's always great to purchase a book you "think" you will enjoy and it turns out to be a great read.

  5. Dear Rose

    As you know most of my reading is factual BUT I did read the Da Vinci Code and I loved it.

    Your review is excellent they always are....I know that I have said it before but I really think you could do this professionally.
    I shall have to consider buying this book I think.......

  6. Great review, Rose! Have been anxious to pick it up but waiting for less of a time crunch in my life. Enjoyed Da Vinci Code and thought 3/4 of Angels & Demons even better ... until the end :(

    A fan of Richard Russo (EMPIRE FALLS), found his new book, THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC only so-so. On the other hand, am enjoying the beginning of Pat Conroy's SOUTH of BROAD. Happy Autumn Reading!

  7. Good to hear it was worth the wait. I read an interview with him where he admitted to cracking under the pressure. Who could blame him?

    I enjoyed the Da Vinci Code on a flight to England. I’ll wait for the paperback and a long flight. I won’t read the spoiler reviews and appreciate that yours wasn’t one.

    Great review!

  8. Thank you Rose! It'll be my next read. I wish I could read it on my outdoor sofa in the garden, but it's getting cold...

  9. Rose, thank you for avoiding spoilers! I'm really looking forward to reading this book, but can't let myself pick it up because I know I won't put it down and I don't have time to read nonstop! Also, I agree with Cheryl--you write a great review!

  10. I will try to get it read before I find out about all the lost symbols. I am glad you think it is good. I will get on the list at the library to read it.

  11. First let me say that I appreciated you not including any spoilers! ;)

    We own this book, but my husband wants to read it first, so I've been waiting. (Never mind that I could have easily finished it by now...)

    Good to hear you enjoyed it--I eagerly anticipate reading.

  12. I must agree with Cheryl - you do write a good book review. I haven't read either book. Not sure....
    Keep meaning to tell you that our headers are so similar that when I come here, I think I'm back on my own blog. LOL!

  13. Rose, woderfully written review. I was eager to see what you thought before reading it. I enjoyed the Da Vinci book but not the movie(even with Tom Hanks!)but haven't read Angels & Demons.

    Sounds like the weather is going to turn this weekend and we will have more time to read. Thanks for the very interesting review.

  14. Rose, Thanks for the review...I must get the book from my husband...unless he passed it on to one of his friends. I loved Angels and Demons much more then The Da Vinci Code~~and I really enjoyed it. gail

  15. I was late and almost think your ABC for L is the "Lost Symbol". Love your lilacs photo.

  16. I'm the only one on the planet that hasn't even read Da Vinci Code yet;) Believe it or not, your review has prompted me to start reading Dan Brown;) I'll start with Da Vinci and read them in order.

    In the beginning I was put off by the religious aspect of Da Vinci. I've decided to just come at it from a purely mystery/thriller point of view and not worry about the improbable history.


  17. Sounds fab! I am not sticking to reading much at the moment.

    Hows your first page coming along?!!!

  18. Ok, I guess I'll have to read this one too, since I read "Angels & Demons" & "The DaVinci Code." These books aren't very plausible, but they are a lot of fun.

  19. Tina, Forget the movie and read the book:)

    Pattinase, I think you have to suspend reality when you read his books; just think of them as fantasy:)

    Mothernaturesgarden, The movie definitely didn't live up to the book. I didn't see "Angels and Demons," but I suppose that one isn't as good as the book either.

    Susie, Yes, I usually don't buy hardbacks unless they're on the bargain table or by an author I like.

    Cheryl, If you liked "The DaVinci Code," you would also like "Angels and Demons." I thought it was the best one of all. Thanks for such positive feedback; I'd love to be able to get paid for writing, but there are so many good writers out there. Blog writing is much easier and more fun:)

    Joey, I loved "Angels and Demons," but it's been quite a few I'm trying to remember how it ends:) I haven't read anything by Pat Conroy for awhile; I'll have to look for this book.

    Sarah, This is the type of book I like to read for long stretches of time; it would be perfect for an overseas flight. After all the hype about the Da Vinci Code, it's no wonder it took him a long time to write another book.

    Tatyana, this would be perfect reading on a lazy summer afternoon on a hammock. Unfortunately, it's pouring rain here with the possibility of frost this weekend.

    Barrie, Thank you! Yes, this is a book that can't be read as a few pages each night before bedtime.

    Lisa, I think anyone who likes Dan Brown's other books will enjoy this one just as much. I usually go the library route, too, but my sons asked if I would buy it, so this one is being passed around the family.

    Alyssa, LOL, I'm glad I read it first before my husband got a hold of it:) He's not much of a reader, but I think the last book he read was "The Da Vinci Code."

    Wendy, I'll have to go check your header; seems to me I noticed that, too.

    Beckie, I have "Angels and Demons" if you'd like to borrow it as well as all his other books. "The Lost Symbol" is being passed around the family at the moment. Thanks for the warning--went out and cut some more coleus today before they all die from frost.

    Gail, "Angels and Demons" was my favorite,too, though I don't remember why I preferred it. They're great page-turners and perfect for a rainy, cold weekend with nothing else to do:)

    Grace and Bradley, Thanks for dropping by...the two posts did kind of run together:)

    Marnie, My oldest son didn't read "The Da Vinci Code" either--he said he'd seen so many shows about it, he thought he'd be disappointed. That book proposes a rather strange religious theory, but I think you have to read all of these as pure fiction.

    Suburbia, I can understand you don't have much time for reading these days. The first page is still in the computer....somewhere:)

    MMD, No, if you take any of these too seriously, you'll be disappointed. Just lots of page-turning suspense.

  20. How funny that Langdon is looking for Solomon in the modern temple (Capitol). I'm glad you didn't reveal too much, Rose. I wasn't that interested in reading the book before, but I'll have to consider it now. You've really piqued my curiosity when all of the media hoopla couldn't.

  21. Enjoyed the book review, Rose. I always enjoy getting a good endorsement on a book to read. I think the reason there are so many books written about the Freemasons, is the secrecy surrounding them--I find it fascinating.

  22. Well, I'm almost tempted, though I'm not the fan you are. It sounds like a fun book!

  23. I haven't read any of his books Rose, although I've heard good things about them. My list of books to read is just too darned long!

    I think I'll check the library - with winter on the way I'll have more time for reading. You and your commenters have made me want to see what I've missed!

    Very nice review!

  24. Hi Rose, LOL I didn't know who Dan Brown was, though of course I've heard of the DaVinci Code. Those books seem too long and intimidating for me... I tend to have a short attention span to anything that doesn't involve soil these days.. hey what's that? Look over here! It's like I've turned into a puppy, attention span-wise (though my toilet habits are MUCH better than a puppy's!). ;-)

  25. looks like you did just fine on the comment parameter selection.

  26. I haven't read it yet but will. As you say, he's not Shakespeare but he does tell a good yarn


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