Wednesday, September 14, 2011

103. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol (2009; 639) is the third in the Robert Langdon novels, after Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code. This particular story though not as controversial as the Da Vinci Code is equally intriguing and mind-opening.

Robert Langdon receives a call from his friend Peter Solomon asking him to prepare a speech for a meeting of Masons at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. Peter is a worshipful master and a 33rd degree Mason. Suddenly, an innocuous acceptance to give speech turns into a rescue mission involving highly placed and powerful institutions and individuals such as Inoue Sato, director of the CIA's Office of security and the Architect of the Capitol and a Freemason, Warren Bellamy. Keeping Peter Solomon as a hostage, Mala'kh who had earlier called Robert, pretending to be Peter's assistant, formally invited Robert with the Hand of Mysteries, which is Peter's hand, to look for the lost symbol.

Mal'akh's is 33rd degree induction was a ploy for him to get access to the whereabouts of the Mason's pyramid which is believed to bring enlightenment to world. It is Mal'akh's personal duty to prevent this enlightenment from coming out and to keep humanity in the darkness they currently find themselves in. Mal'ak, a worshipper of the Black Arts and the physical representation of the angel Moloch, believes that finding that the lost word and tattooing it on the only untatooed part of his body, a small part of his head, would make him complete. To achieve his aim Mal'akh tries to destroy the Noetic Scien laboratory in addition to obtaining the pyramid.

Katherine Solomon, Peter's sister and a Noetic Scientist, has some interesting results from her research: she has found out the effects of thought on matter, was dealing with Dr Abbadon - a man who had described himself as the personal doctor of Peter. Dr Abaddon wanted to discuss certain problems Peter is facing. Using masks and make-ups to cover his total body tattos, Dr Abaddon had gains the trust of Katherine and an appointment is scheduled at her office, with the supposed attendance of Peter.

From here on the story moves on with increasing pace and intrigue and having everything take place in 12 hours tightened the plot a bit. Besides, the short-chapters also aided the reading of this 639-page novel. Trust Dan Brown to throw in a lot of materials, things you have not heard of, things you can hardly believe. With codes and inscriptions Dan Brown has written a story that would keep readers googling and reading. The level of research behind this book is not in doubt for there were much to the extent that we are told of the 'the dual Pratt and Whitney engines' moving the 'Falcon 2000EX'; though it was also its bane for some of the information did not work to improve the novel. For instance, trapped in a tiny conveyor travelling in an enclosed space and in total darkness, Katherine Solomon said this of Mala'kh or Dr Abaddon:
He knew private things about my brother, my mother's death, and even my work ... things he could only have learned from my brother. And so I trusted him ... and that's how he got inside the Smithsonian Museum Center. (Page 307)
Robert Langdon's ability to sustain the reader's attention cannot be disputed. This book would hold your attention and it would do it perfectly if you refuse to be bothered by the many 'internal thoughts' written in italics. These italicisation of characters' thoughts were not necessary as the story would still have succeeded in pace and intrigue if they had been eliminated. Now, they virtually distract the smooth flow of the read.

I was also expecting Jack Bauer-like Robert Langdon to have grown from his earlier two encounters, since this novel was not written in isolation or better still since references were made to the two previous 'escapades' he undertook. However, the book began on a near 'saintly' note for Langdon who could prejudge the thoughts of the villain, so that time had to pass for him to appreciate the size of what he is under.

However, if the reader, like me, reads Dan Brown for the information he provides, the deftness with which he makes innocent objects become bearers of codified secrets, like the Laus Deo inscribed onto an aluminium capstone on Washington Monument, or the Washington Apotheosis in the dome of the rotunda of the US Capitol, or even if it is your faith that you want challenged, if these are your sole or major aim of reading Brown, then Brown deserves another applauds for another masterful novel, as he scores high marks on all of these. However, if you seek flawless prose, structure, a revelation, a convoluted theme, then kindly go elsewhere. Finally, as a book of codes and symbols, the author did a good job to leave some of the 5 coded messages on the cover of the book for readers to solve, making the book interactive. However, reading it two years after publication means that most of them, if not all, have been decoded and published on the internet.


  1. The only Brown I have read has been The Da Vinci Code, and while some instances in the books surprised and delighted me, other things bothered me a little bit. I find that it's hard to read a book that ends each chapter on a cliffhanger, and though that alone should inspire a sense of urgency and relevance, sometimes the overplaying of tension makes me a little tired. I am interested in this book though, as the plot sounds really interesting and I can imagine that the puzzles are very satisfying as well. I am glad to hear that this was a good read for you. This is the first review that has me seriously considering picking this one up. Excellent analysis, Nana!

  2. Glad to hear you liked this :) Definitely a quick and fun thriller type novel.

  3. @Zibilee thanks. I believe that once we make excuses for certain things - knowing his weaknesses and his strengths - we can make enjoy it. I believe the overplaying of chapter endings makes it read faster, though I agree that it can also be tiring. And yes, the puzzles are very satisfying. They are those that make me enjoy Dan Brown.

  4. I have not touched any of Dan Brown's although I have Da Vinci Code and this one. This is one I would definetely like to read. You've built my interest here.

  5. @Geosi, if you love intrigue, puzzles and cliffhangers, you would love Dan Brown.

  6. I was very disappointed in Dan Brown's newest book. I was hoping for so much more from this author. Having enjoyed his previous books, I was anticipating another thriller. This was not what I got. There was a very similar plot line and an abundant amount of busy and unnecessary plot lines. I am sorry to say that I felt a real let down and was very anxious to finish the story and move on.

    1. I get you. He would have done much better with fewer lines. I felt same too. The winded unnecessarily.


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