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 November 5, 2003
As someone who has been interested in the sort of topics mentioned in the Da Vinci Code, I was happy to see that Dan Brown actually had a good idea of what he was talking about. There are definite truths in here - and there is also some speculative truth. There have been indications of what the Holy Grail might actually be, instead of what it has come to be for the public.
Fundamentalist Christians, and those afraid of some challenges to the Christian faith, may not like this book at all. (I believe that is why some people rated this with one or two stars - emotional response, instead of using logic and researching the presented beliefs themselves.)
No one can say for sure what happened - one can only follow the clues left behind. This is exactly as Dan Brown has done. A page-turner filled with historical and scientific fact that points to a certain conclusion... What more could you ask for?
on May 24, 2006
The great thing about this book - and this applies to all Dan Brown's books which I've read - is that it presents art, science, religion and symbolism in a very easy-to-read and enjoyable adventure. You don't need to believe that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene to read this book, because there is much more to it than just that! Enjoy it and you'll not regret it!
My Review: This is my second time reading this book except that this time around I decided to listen to the e-audio version as I went on walks or drove back and forth to work. I had first read the book several years ago and only remembered that I really enjoyed it.
This time around I enjoyed it just as much. Brown doesn't waste any time getting into the action. It was narrated wonderfully by the very talented Paul Michael who truly brought the characters to life and did great French and British accents in both genders. His vocal talent really added to the experience. So much so that I'm going to find other audiobooks that he has worked on.
As with his other books, Brown weaves some historical facts with art history and his own fictional tale and in the end left me with quite a bit to think about. Whether or not his suggestions are true is irrelevant to me. I enjoyed the book and liked getting a different view of some very popular beliefs.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
** This book review, as well as hundreds more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm (www.thebakingbookworm.blogspot.ca) where I also share my favourite recipes. **
on November 18, 2014
The Da Vinci Code is set in modern day Europe, namely France and England. It follows the exploits of Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology, and Sofie Neveu, the granddaughter of Jacques Saunière, who himself is The Louvre's currator. Langdon and Sofie find themselves in the middle of a very deadly game where anything suspicious probably is and nothing is as it seems.
Dan Brown has a certain way of keeping just enough mystery in the novel to keep the reader intrigued, but the balance is just so, so that one never loses interest for a moment either. Sofie Neveu, the novel's protagonist, was arguably the crowd favorite. Without a doubt, Sofie, and all the other well crafted characters for that matter, felt like they were jumping off the page and running about in the real world.
I personally enjoyed this book immensly, however, many would disagree with the portrayls of Jesus Christ and the Holy Grail that are introduced throughout the book. Definitely a novel for more mature readers, as it deals with subjects and concepts that might be quite difficult for younger people to grasp.
I'd recommend this masterpiece to to any readers who love a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster ride set in the present but with a lot of history delicately sewed in. There's not quite any genre I'd class this in, Dan Brown very powefully creates his own, and it blows you away.
on August 22, 2013
The presentation of DaVinci Code in this format makes a difference (illustrated version!). While I love the high concept and the absolute cleverness of the puzzles, when I originally read DaVinci Code in paperback, I was inclined to give a three stars. Why? The main character to me is too flat, even for a thriller, no real depth or convincing characteristics. Dialogue really bothered me. Where some novelists stop a novel to write mini-essays (Crichton comes to mind, but I enjoy those), long speeches from characters is less effective to me than narrative intrusion. But I still can't dismiss DaVinci code because it's just plain clever. I'm thinking more of the great puzzles than the outcome (the fictional outcome that seems to outrage everyone). I'm delighted (as a novelist) when a novelist breaks through in such a substantive way. Kudos to Dan Brown all the way. I'm a fan. But, frankly, I enjoyed his earlier novels far more (especially Deception Point and even Angels and Demons).
But this illustrated edition is magnificent. Clues I "missed" were readily apparent. Things I thought were just "narrative license" became feasible enough for suspended disbelief when the prose is juxtopositioned against these lush illustrations. The Last Supper rendering is better than reproductions in non fiction books in my library. It was really nice to see a novel in this format, even at this price tag.
And, again, I do think Dan Brown is high concept and successful for a reason. This just isn't my favorite of his novels. I read, recently, where he plans on sticking to this main character in all future novels. That's a shame, to me. His characters in Deception Point were far more engaging!
Overall, a good investment for your library. For a good read, yes, it's still a good read in spite of my quibbles on character and dialogue. Why? Because you can't beat those delightful puzzles and the high concept pitch. But I see DaVinci Code as fun, not controversial.
on March 8, 2006
Written at about the level of the average Nancy Drew mystery, it is best appreciated at that level. As far as the content, there are howlers on virtually every page (starting with the hero who looks like "Harrison Ford in Harris tweed" and is a "Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard" -- good work if you can find it). You have to ignore very pulpy, cheesy writing to enjoy this romantic thriller. Intended as a book that a dedicated reader could finish in a day, or something you take to the beach and casually finish in a weekend, "The Da Vinci Code" makes for a reasonable airline novel, so much so that it is often a bit clunky in its desire to ensure that no intellectual effort on the reader's part will be required. Here's a recurring example in this novel: a bit of unfamiliar terminology, say "crux gemmata" (jeweled cross) will will be explained on page N, then on page N+1, a character will finger his jeweled cross and explain, "Oh, yes -- this is a crux gemmata."
I've read dinner menus that were more demanding on the reader. My wife and I both read about a third of it in a day, sharing the same copy, and that's a full work day plus taking care of kids, bedtime, etc. That's also a kind of virtue, I guess -- it's fast and peppy. As far as history goes, Dan Brown apparently thinks that "most historians" give credence to the forgeries and frauds promoted in hoary best-sellers like "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." This author gets the best of both worlds: simultaneously claiming that "it's just fiction," while introducing the novel with claims that the historical record contained within is "fact." That claim is ridiculous. To pluck a random example, he spends some time talking about the Council of Nicaea, and incorrectly summarizes it as the origin of the doctrine of Christ's divinity by Constantine.
He ignores the Arian controversy out of which it arose, which is like trying to explain the Treaty of Versailles without mentioning World War I. He ignores the documented fact, agreed upon even by the cheerleaders of the gnostics that he is sympathetic to, that the earliest gnostic doctrines held that Christ was *purely* God, and not really man -- the very reverse of the doctrine that serves as the lynchpin of his novel's intellectual base (such as it is). This is a bad novel for weak or misinformed Christians, but anyone familiar with history should spot the train wreck of Brown's ideas a mile off. Oh yes, and in Brown's world, Opus Dei has shadowy assassin "monks" (in real life, Opus Dei is not a monastic order -- there are no Opus Dei monks, let alone trained assassins), and the Catholic Church has been promulgating known lies as its central dogmas, promotes violence throughout the world, and has been retarding the progress of science and knowledge for 2 millennia.
Brown leaves the reader with the impression that this, too, is a matter of settled historical record. Oh, but then again, it's just fiction. Except when it's not. In general, if you're looking for a heady thriller wrapped around Christian arcana. This book has spawned a number of other great books. Holy Blood, was the book Da Code was based on, and Giorgio Quest was based on Da Code.