Dan Brown gets a lot of flack for being a hack writer. I even read a collection of the 20 worst things he had ever written during his career as a writer, and I have to admit, it’s pretty bad. The thing is, the guy knows how to put together an intriguing thriller, so part of me wonders how much of those articles are meant to expose how bad of a writer he really is, and how much of them are motivated by jealousy. I’m a firm believer in the story as story, and nothing else, and I have to admit, Dan Brown tells a good story.
Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t have issues with Dan Brown as a writer. For one, I’m a little amazed that Robert Langdon is still the mighty skeptic who has to go through all these ridiculous hoops before he believes in something that tons of people are telling him is actually true. In Angels & Demons, he spent a lot of time telling people how the Illuminati was more symbolic than real, and then he found out that — GASP! — they’re real! In The Da Vinci Code, he told us that the Opus Dei was a legend, not fact, but after traipsing over Rome for three days, he came to find that — SHOCK! — they were real! So when he’s faced with a Masonic legend that lots of people are telling him is real, and not symbolic, don’t you think he might take a little less convincing? No, because apparently Robert Langdon has a mass of wet noodles for a brain.
My biggest issues with The Lost Symbol have to do with the characters, anyway. They’re wildly inconsistent. They’re all terribly smart, and know a little bit about everything, and are confident to a fault, but suddenly they become complete imbeciles, forget everything they know, and doubt themselves when it’s convenient to move the plot forward. Afterward, they go back to being their normal selves, like nothing happened to change who they are. I understand that characterization is often sacrificed for plot in thrillers, but I would at least ask that the characters remain consistent throughout the story, hey?
The story is entertaining, and about as deep and as relevant as anything else that Dan Brown has written. If you didn’t like his other books, then this one won’t win you over, but if you enjoy a thrilling story of conspiracies, mysteries, and adventure, then there are worse books to read than The Lost Symbol.