on March 29, 2004
When I first started reading this book I was eager to become immersed in what I had been assured by many was a brilliant novel.
If there is brilliance within these pages, I see no evidence.
The plot itself starts with an intriguing idea, but there is so little in the way of particulars to flesh it out, so it barely gets beyond that initial stage. Much of this impression of scant detail is given by the author's tight fisted grip on information he prefers to keep from the reader in order to set up big revelations later in the book. Yes, mystery is an excellent device, but in this case it was overdone. It just made it apparent that there were so few actual details to be shared that they had to be rationed-doled out one at a time.
Even assuming that the reader has read Angels and Demons and knows the hero, character development is poor. Even given the rather unsurprising surprises the author does eventually reveal, it wouldn't be out of the question for the pages of introspection to be slightly more indicative of the characters' thought processes and emotional state. Granted, I can see the author was attempting to keep us from guessing too much and thereby spoiling his surprises, but part of the joy of reading a novel, even a fast-paced thriller, is getting to know the characters. Without that, we're given no reason to care what happens to them.
Instead of such character development, we get page after page of exposition that seems to have no place within the plot. Disney? The Little Mermaid? These meandering notions have no purpose here. They do not further the plot. They do not shed light on some piece of the narrative. If we're supposed to be overawed by the hero's surpassing intelligence in noticing things in Disney films that imply knowledge of the Grail, perhaps the hero should be more to us than a one-dimensional character sucked into a murder investigation.
The story itself was remarkably poorly written in many ways, but the most glaring was that, in the midst of what should be a moment of unbearable suspense, the action stopped as the narrative went off on a tangent. An interesting tangent perhaps, but still inserted awkwardly in a moment perhaps best left whole. By the time we resume where the action was suspended, it's hard to recapture the original emotion.
The hero, Robert Langdon is a professor and unfortunately resorts to lecture mode often. I often half-expected him to pull a chalkboard out of his pocket, start scribbling on it and say, "You see, Sophie..." When he did resort to doodles on a piece of paper at Teabing's house I laughed out loud.
Many of the facts he regurgitates-either in lectures to others or in the privacy of his own thoughts-seem to be included either for the purpose of proving that the author did, in fact, do research, or for the purpose of padding the novel and adding length. Both of which tactics one would expect from a student writing his/her first paper but not from a published author.
I won't go into the art history here as other reviewers with better credentials in that field have discussed it except to say that Mary Magdalene is not in DaVinci's The Last Supper. It might have made the other rather far-fetched clues a bit more believable if the author had limited himself to things that are actually in the painting. Building clues around familiar pieces of the painting-like he does with the space between Jesus and John (not Mary!) being a V shape- might have given a bit of verisimilitude to the overall story.
I don't truly understand the fervor this book has generated. Most of the ideas it presented have been mentioned elsewhere. There wasn't much new here. I enjoy reading controversial theories, so it isn't the apparent debunking of accepted ideas that bothers me, though a ridiculous percentage of this debunking is just that...ridiculous.
If this had been a well-written book I would likely have forgiven such silliness. I believe wholeheartedly in the willing suspension of disbelief asked of us by authors, but in this case, I didn't see much worth believing. Truthfully, I had to force myself to finish it because there was little there to hold my interest. Before you ask, I finished it because I had truly expected to find something within the book that would prove it was as brilliant as I had heard. I also promised to read it all for the sake of discussion. If you really want to read this, nothing I say will stop you, but do what I did and borrow someone's copy. Save your money for something worth the $24.95.
on March 27, 2004
This could have been a really great read. The premise is fascinating-- a centuries old mystery and conspiracy come to light in the modern world. Unfortunately, the writing is so disappointing. The writer never met a cliche he didnt like. The characters are wooden (the reluctant professor, the feminine but strong young woman, the evil conspirator, etc). In addition, the writer, so confident of his own cleverness, uses the same puzzles over and over again. There is some interesting word play, as the characters solve a puzzle left for them by the enigmatic dead man. But the writer makes use of the same puzzles in repitition until the reader is skimming pages quickly to get to the next new revelation.
In some senses this book is a page turner-- because the premise is engaging, the reader does want to know the answers. Its just that the ride along the way is so annoying, and the characterizations are so rushed.
One final problem with this book is the number of art history errors it contains! For example, a Da Vinci painting which dramatically "bends" around the body of one character is actually painted on wood! A good researcher would never have made this mistake. There are legions of these little errors, which art historians have gleefully pointed out in many newspaper articles since this book's publication.
on March 26, 2004
In school I was told that every book should at least have one round character for it to be interesting. In The Da Vinci Code, all the characters are as flat and unappealing as roadkill. No character development whatsoever is present, and the motivations of both protagonists and antagonists are wafer thin (pun intended).
What's worse, although the plot starts off sort of promising, it soon starts te develop along the lines of the Hollywood Assembly Line. The fact that each and every character turns out to be connected one way or another is not only not credible, but annoying as well. The same goes for the (little) cliffhangers at the end of every chapter.
The pieces of the plot fit together to easily to make this book a captivating read - all the interesting facts on religion and Da Vinci notwithstanding, and the way the plot is resolved at the end of the book left me feeling cheated.
For me, the letdown started approximately two-third trough the book, in a scene where the identity of The Teacher is revealed because of Dan Brown trying to hard not to. To add insult to injury, near the end of the book Mr. Brown, evidently feeling the need to show to the reader just how clever he has been, once more returns to this scene to explain what "really happened".
If you're looking for an easy to digest holiday read for those hung over mornings on the beach, and you're easy to please, maybe The Da Vinci Code does fit your bill.
on March 22, 2004
Before you part with any cold hard cash, think back to your first creative writing class... now, remember the clunky prose and paper-thin characterizations of the least talented class members. This will give you an idea of how The DaVinci Code reads.
Don't get me wrong: I'm no literary snob, and I love a good Michael Crichton or Stephen King as much as the next person, but The DaVinci Code was no Firestarter. Many of the theories it hints at are never developed; the editor (if there was one) was clearly asleep at the wheel; and the characters themselves are so clichéd and unbelievable that you will soon find you are only reading to find out how it all ends. In short, Dan Brown makes John Grisham look like Shakespeare.
However, despite its flaws, this novel is not without merit:
BONUS #1: Dialogue so stilted you will laugh out loud.
BONUS #2: Possibly the lamest, least imaginative, most one-dimensional rendering ever of an uptight Brit by an American author... found myself wondering less where the holy grail was and more why on earth Brown chose to revive such a dull, DOA stereotype for one of his main characters.
BONUS #3: You DO have a chance in hell of getting published after all!
For a somewhat better read on the same subject, I recommend The Prophetess by Barbara Wood.
For author Dan Brown, I recommend Creative Writing 101 and a seasoned editor!
on April 10, 2004
A conspiracy/mystery story written in simplistic, episodic fiction. It's touted to be (according to the back cover) "an exhilarating brainy thriller." In fact, this book is simply horrible. The writing is as bland as anything I've ever read. The characters are as deep as a puddle of mud.
What's most disturbing are the factual inaccuracies, and this book is filled with them. It begins with the word "FACT," and then seems to imply that everything in the story is somehow based on fact. But it's not, and Brown gets even simple things like dates wrong. For example, the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1947, not in "the 1950's" as one of Brown's character's claims. Another example: One of Brown's characters says that in the non-canonical Gospel of Philip, Jesus refers to Mary Magdalene as his "companion," which in the Aramaic language is synonymous with "wife." The problem, though, is that the Gospel of Philip was not written in Aramaic but in Greek. The same character, Teabing, says the vote at the Council of Nicea was "relatively close." Sure: 300 to 3.
An in-depth view of all the factual mistakes in this piece of trash can be found here: [...] with another good resource here [...]
The DaVinci Code is, in short, a waste of time. There is nothing good about the writing, and as far as the "facts" of the book go, about the only thing I would say is correct is the page numbering.
on April 8, 2004
The Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, and many masons have kept alive among their secret beliefs that the Merovingian line of Frankish kings from the early Middle Ages were descended directly from Jesus. To justify this outlandish claim, they must profess that Jesus did not die on the cross but survived it, and went on to live a much longer life, married Mary Magdalene and had children with her, from whom the Merovingians supposedly descend. There isn't any historic evidence for this. (The Merovingians were replaced on the Frankish throne in the 8th century AD by the Carolingians, chief among them Charlemagne.)
In this novel a proponent of that nonsense has created a popular vehicle with which to attempt to deceive the public into thinking that this thesis is true. Yet it flies in the face of all historic context. From the report about Jesus contained in the writings of Flavius Josephus to the bald fact of hundreds of people who knew Jesus and witnessed his death, resurrection or ascension, and who gave their lives for Him, the contemporaries of Jesus who were familiar with the facts bear tacit testament contrary to this slander of Him. Nor does it square with early Frankish history.
There are quite a few writings about Jesus that never made it into the canon of Scripture. When you have read enough of them, then you realize that they are mostly a lot of fantasies about Jesus or those connected to Him. There are reasons they are not in the Bible. They have more in common with second party spinoffs of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, for example, written by people who loved the original so much that they wrote their own fantasy continuations of the story.
This scurrilous novel defames Jesus in every possible fashion. In a back handed way, it contends that He lied when He said that He would be killed and then would rise from the dead. It purports that all of His disciples lied in their representations of Him. It says that the crucifixion was a lie, that Easter was a lie, that His ascension was a lie, and thus that His promise to return is a lie. Either everything essential to His coming into the world was a lie or what this book proposes is a lie, couched in novel form.
Something else Jesus said is that Satan is the Father of Lies (John 8). Open your eyes and don't be duped by this well crafted lie.
on April 5, 2004
As an English teacher, people always want to tell me what they've been reading as of late. Many, MANY people offered up that "The Da Vinci Code" is sheer brilliance, and could not be put down. Several, in fact, testified that they haven't read a book cover-to-cover in decades, until this novel entered their lives. Is that something to brag about?
This novel was written for somebody who does not enjoy reading anything with substance. It is the literary equivalent of a poorly written action TV show. Hence, it keeps the attention of preteens and dullards, while ignoring character development. All three of the 'major' characters in this novel are simply named different things. They all act basically the same, and nowhere does the protagonist Robert Langdon say or do anything befitting a 'renowned Harvard symbologist."
This novel is just such claptrap. It's depressing, because there was a time that Americans could follow something that had a little depth to it. Should I be glad that Americans are reading at all? To tell the truth, not if it's this filth. A poorly told story cannot be compensated because it is flashy or has shocking ideas about religion.
It's true that I could not put this book down...for at least the two hours it took to read. How can a 500 page book take so little time to read unless it has absolutely no serious content. Stick it in the children's literature section. Just don't tell most adults that they have the equivalent intelligences of American children fifty years ago.
on April 2, 2004
The book centers around this secret society of Sion which is supposedly tasked with keeping a secret of great power, a secret which has given power, wealth, and success to those who possess it. The story falls apart once the secret is revealed.
The author makes no attempt to show how the secret actually resulted in power, wealth, or success, nor can one reasonably postulate how it could, if your goal is to keep the information secret. What would anyone in such a secret society have to gain by keeping such information secret, if it did not really lead to wealth or power? The story would have at least made sense and would have been far more interesting if the secret were how to greatly prolong life, or how to generate wealth, or something that would reasonably explain the connection of wealth and power with possessing the secret, and why someone would want to maintain the secret. The reason for the society possessing so much power is totally absent. The author also fails to support why someone would be motivated to murder to possess the secret.
on April 1, 2004
Suspiciously so in fact. That this book is *still* on the top of the heap after this long speaks of a publishing industry that preplans its successes as well as American literary culture. As an earlier reviewer stated, it's a shame they decided to make this book a "bestseller."
I found The Da Vinci Code's so called plot boring, the "astounding" revelations preposterous, and the writing amaturish. Mr. Brown presents a veritable smorgasbord of conspiracies and labors mightily to connect them all together. What results though is a mishmash of convolutions with which Sherlock Holmes would have a problem.
As far as his awesome research, I knew we were in trouble when he mentioned the "ancient" religion of Wicca. Had Mr. Brown troubled to ask, any follower of Wicca could have told him that it was pretty much invented in 1950 by Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders. That hardly makes it ancient.
I read this (from the library, thankfully) based on the tantalizing synopsis. I'm just glad I didn't waste money on it.
on March 23, 2004
I have already reviewed this book, but I have just remembered what is perhaps one of the most important inaccuracies of this book.
It says that the Divine name (YHVH) is taken from Jehovah, a combination of some male God's name and eve, however it is the other way around.
Around 400BC the jews stopped saying the divine name, saying 'Adonai' (my lord) or 'ha-shem' (the name) instead. Now, hebrew is written without vowels, so around 1000AD the Masorites (jewish monks) put in vowel points because they realized that hebrew was dying out as spoken language, so they added vowels so that people would still be able to read and pronounce the words of the tanakh (kind of like the Old Testament...same books, differant order. Refers to Torah (law), Nevi'im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings)) When they came across the divine name, they had a dilema, someone reading the Tanakh out loud may accidentally say the name outloud, defying 1400 year convention and rabbinic law. They had a simple solution, they did not put in the vowels for YHVH (modern reconstruction would say that it was originaly most likely 'Yahveh') but rather added the vowels for 'adonai' making Y+a+h+o+v+a+h = yahovah, this is an unpronouncible word in hebrew (two sylable word, because the 'o' is frequently not written, the first vowel is whats called a 'vocal sheva' something which cant be alone in a sylable-take my word for it) so anyone reading would say 'Hey! I can't pronounce that, must be ha-shem'. So jews (being intelligent people-I'm a christian by the way, we are the 'dumb' ones) knew not to say it, but in 1000-1500AD period, christian (german) monks came across it and without pause, with no regard for the language, simply said 'Jehovah' while I imagine the jews just looked on either shaking their heads or laughing hilariously.
So there you have it! The Christians invented the name Jehovah, it's not our God's name after all! Plus, Jehovah came out of YHVH, not the other way round, this male god plus eve stuff is nonsense.
So, if you've read to this point, congratulations, you have had an actual history lecture, perhaps Dan Brown should read. If I have inspired you to learn Hebrew, good! It's a great language, I love it, makes Greek look so silly.