Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dan Brown's Robert Langdon Trilogy (So Far)

Photo: Da Vinci's The Last Supper.  Go to the back of the class if you didn't know that.  But don't be ashamed if you didn't know that the real name is Cenacolo.  You didn't expect a guy who spoke Italian and Latin to name his painting in English, did you?  Did you?!?

A couple of comments on Dan Brown's Robert Langdon Trilogy:

Angels and Demons:

Maybe better than Code.  One of the better 1-2 punches in recent literary history.  I wish the public could've let Umberto Eco or Iain Pears do the same for the genre, but at least someone put the genre on the map.  I'll bet the better writers like Eco and Pears benefited from Brown's success.  Creepy bad guy, and Brown shows how pace and history/description (with the occasional hysterically false entertainment) can be done.  Again, like Code and Harry Potter, it made non-readers want to read.  That's good enough.

And the Annotated Angels and Demons is even more cool.  Buy it, and Google the interesting stuff.  It's like having Wikipedia in a cliffhanger book.  You know how you read some books for the recipes, or for things that have nothing to do with the story or writing?  Read this stuff for the interesting artwork, (occasionally correct) history, and real-life historical people, and then Wikipedia them or Google them.  I'm nerdy like that.

The Annotated Da Vinci Code:

Much cooler than just the novel alone.  Great pictures of artwork a must to see what Langdon was seeing.  Good page-turning pot-boiler that isn't meant to be more than it is.  Intelligently gripping, though not quite intellectual.  Nice Gnostic touches, though, and a little bit of common sense never hurts.  The intelligent reader will be able to sift through the material and separate nuggets of intelligent coolness from the hysterically false entertainment.  Made non-readers want to read, so what's not to like about that?  Cardboard characterization a la Crichton, but the best of its type.  Angels and Demons may be better.

I repeat the Wikipedia/Google comments here.

The Annotated Lost Symbol:

Disappointing sequel, but anything really was going to be after such mega-sales from the previous two.  Made me see D.C. in a different way, though I knew much of the history in the book already.  Didn't know about the creepy, Washington-as-God painting.  Googled it--really weird.  But the most disappointing thing about it is how Brown (aka Langdon) immediately backed down from the controversy Code made about the Church.  (SPOILER!)  Third-person POV says that Langdon was surprised at the public's occasional vitriol towards him because of the controversy "he" made by publishing "his" book about what happened, but, hey, c'mon, Brown wasn't TOTALLY off-base, and it helped make the Vatican at least a little culpable about the other, more real and modern-day problems it has.  It all made some people (outside Bible-belt America, apparently) doubt and take a step back--and actually think for a moment.  What's wrong with that?  Don't back away from that!  Be proud of it!  Weak "author intrusion" made an already-disappointing book worse.  Put a bad taste in my mouth about it.  ::sigh::


  1. My first Dan Brown was DaVinci Code, read it my sophomore year, loved it. Since then I've read all of his books, and was only dissappointed in one. Severly dissappointed. Do I need to even mention which it was? The Lost Symbol almost became a joke to me as I read it. The ridiculous cliff hangers that didn't lead anywhere until the last ten chapters, the repeated conversations (some of them had to have happened at least five times!), the ending, of the great mystery which didn't even really get solved. So much for six years worth of work. Not sure I'll be buying anymore Brown novels after that complete sell out.

    Whew. I read it so long ago I forgot how much I actually didn't like it! Sorry about that.

    I also enjoyed Angels&Demons, but I keep forgetting where the priest guy actually landed after all that flip flopping. I don't know if that is a sign of good writing and bad memory, or a sloppy ending.

    One of my favorites by him was Deception Point, about the meteor found in the Arctic Circle with fossils of tiny organisims in it, seemingly proving that alien life exsists, until I read Sphere, by Michael Crichton (the only novel of his I've read, and perhaps ever will), which is about something remotely similar that left me feeling distantly indifferent about both.

  2. Emma, sorry it took me so long to get to this one. Wonderful comments. Distantly indifferent is a great way to describe my feeling about Deception Point, and outright dislike for Sphere. Both were chilled. Symbol was indeed a huge letdown, though the George Washington stuff was interesting--and that painting was just weird. Dan Brown needs a huge rebound.