Friday, October 2, 2009

Dan Brown is Back with The Lost Symbol

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol is a guaranteed blockbuster with national news reports about Masonic architecture and symbolism in Washington D.C., and the documentaries about “decoding” Da Vinci’s work and Freemasonry in anticipation of its release. Like the protagonist of the series, Professor Langdon, Dan Brown has become the Rock Star of his field, and every struggling author wants desperately to hate the man who made adult fiction interesting again.
The book begins when Langdon is called by an old friend’s assistant to give a lecture in Washington D.C. After a little gentle coercion, he finally concedes and flies out to discuss symbolism to a crowd of restless college students. But upon getting to the Rotunda, a severed hand pointing to the ceiling sends the Professor into a whirlwind treasure hunt for a very elusive and transformative Masonic Portal that could change humanity forever.
On his tail is a man covered from head to toe in tattoos named Mal’akh, a name derived from a cannibalistic demon of ancient lore. This figure was also referenced as “Moloch” in Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem Howl, for those who find the name familiar. As for Mal’akh, the very powerful criminal wants something that very few men have been able to obtain, and Langdon, he knows, is his gateway.
As he chases through the capital after this great mystery, Langdon is reunited with another old friend, Katherine Solomon. A brilliant and beautiful scientist who does noetic research in the bowels of a secure government facility, her findings uncover the possibility that human thought is an actual physical entity, that in large volumes can have an impact on the physical world. A chase that occurs in a scene involving her and Mal’akh will make every reader relive their childhood fear of dark places.
Brown gleans from rudimentary aspects of string theory, psychology, mysticism, ancient symbolism, American and Roman history to tie in the mystery, and to build a logical context for the story. Throughout the novel, Brown makes sure Langdon deciphers the facts and myths of Freemasonry so as to not make the novel just another conspiracy tale about the brotherhood.
While it would be easier to make an interesting novel making the fraternity evil with creepy powers that make them control the world, Brown takes on the challenge of representing the Masonic brotherhood more realistically, and as a result, makes a believable piece of speculative fiction.
The chapters that are brief ensure quick action, and the chapters that are longer grip at the spleen making the reader want to know what happens next. Brown utilizes expert pacing. Admittedly, when first opening the book, the phrase “since the beginning of time” pops up, and it will make some readers cringe. But the occasionally canned phrase is a sin that any master storyteller may not only commit, but in the context of the whole work, make the cranky reviewer dismiss the misstep as only a minor detail.
As a whole, this book is an endlessly entertaining thriller with plenty of action. Many might look for The Da Vinci Code Part Two, but honestly, that is not what we want, and it is not what we get. The Lost Symbol is a fun and engaging novel that will not touch the tabletop until it is finished.
Photo caption: Book cover of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. (Courtesy photo)