Although Dan Brown's highly anticipated sequel to The Da Vinci Code, entitled The Lost Symbol, has a relatively captivating storyline, Brown's writing seems to have taken a dive.
As with many authors after huge success, Brown seems to have tried to get too fancy and actually ended up with a mess. Or maybe Brown's writing has always been like this, and without the controversial theory of the Holy Grail to hide behind, his style, or lack thereof, glares from the pages.
Brown writes cliché after cliché. A favorite, "his voice soft like falling snow," makes its appearance by the second page. It's almost worth stopping then, as plowing on with hopes of less metaphors and more originality only leads to disappointment.
The plot itself is gripping. Despite the poor writing, it's hard to put the book down and after a few hundred pages it becomes easier to look past the style. As The Da Vinci Code revolves around religion and Angels and Demons around art history, The Lost Symbol focuses on American Masonic history. In all fairness, it is an intriguing story and Brown definitely did his research to create such a plausible mystery.
The structure of Brown's new novel is consistent with its predecessors. The story starts off with the initiation of his usual antagonist, obsessed and cultish but incredibly clever, into the highest level of the Masons. The scene is painted with a skull, a dagger and robes - the usual works.
Mal'akh, resident villain, however, doesn't have the same presence Silas of The Da Vinci Code or Hassassin of Angels and Demons did. Covered from head to toe in a mural of tattoos, he disguises himself with makeup and a wig, giving him an image far from menacing. With the ultimate goal to discover and steal the ancient knowledge of the Masons to keep for himself, he's a very strange character and it's hard to feel threatened by him.
Later, the story shifts to Katherine Solomon, a scientist in the shady field of noetics, whose research focuses on the theory that thoughts have a mass and energy of their own, and, with enough practice and concentration, can make physical change. Soloman's work is on an enormous scale and her discoveries are supposedly capable of throwing the world into a new golden age.
Then, of course, Brown's famous protagonist, Robert Langdon, takes center stage as he works to figure out the connection between Mal'akh's plans, Soloman's discoveries and the Masonic secrets all hidden right in the heart of the District of Columbia.
After putting the book down, it feels like some knowledge has been gained. With facts strewn throughout it'd be hard not to pick up a few new pieces of trivia. It does seem, however, that Brown is either running out of these facts or getting lazy.
Furthermore, Brown actually repeats some of those used in his less popular novels Digital Fortress and Deception Point. For example, in both Digital Fortress and The Lost Symbol Brown tells readers that "sincerely" literally means "without wax."
It's a little disappointing to see the same tricks repeated, but if Brown follows up with a better sequel, maybe this one could be forgiven.