Dan Brown has written several books that intrigue and excite the reader. From Angels & Demons to Digital Fortress, Brown has practically concocted a genre all by itself. As a Freemason, and a fan of history itself, I was immediately drawn to Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. Both books have made their debut on the big screen as well as becoming bestselling novels.
Brown's formula is simple: Take history we can relate to, combine it with some sort of clandestine endeavor and mix in some secret societies. Rinse, wash and repeat. Unfortunately, it is a formula he has used consecutively for his last three book and it is getting old--fast.
The Lost Symbol begins with our beloved protagonist, Robert Langdon, being called to Washington D.C. unexpectedly by an age-old friend that has never been mentioned in the previous books. As with the previous books, Langdon then embarks on an adventure that forces him to use all of his teaching background. In addition, Langdon is routinely painted as a moron in The Lost Symbol. For instance, conversations such as this exist throughout the book:
Someone: Have you heard of ________?
Langdon: Yes, but it is just a myth!
Someone: No, its true. *proves it*
Langdon: Oh my God! Everything makes sense now.
For a professor that is pretty much considered the leading authority on the topics discussed, I would've expected more. Langdon also deals, again, with his claustrophobia and gets a chance to show off his swim skills...again.
From the Freemason side of things, I wasn't very thrilled to see that our ritual made it into the book. That part, at least, is true. However, Brown relies heavily on Freemason lore for this book, bordering on over-reliance as made-up "facts" about the Freemasons are often used as plot devices in lieu of good storytelling.
I trudged through all 500 pages of The Lost Symbol in three days. As I said before, I'm a sucker for stories based in part on real history (I even liked National Treasure). I wasn't expecting Brown's newest offering to be some sort of grand opus, but I also wasn't expecting it to be a below-average adventure either. The last 100 pages or so were absolutely painful to read. I don't want to give anything away but suffice it to say that the "big secret" at the end was one of the literary world's oldest "twists."
I truly hope that Brown writes another book. But in this book I'd like to see him move away from his tried-and-true method to something fresh and compelling, much as Angels & Demons was when it was first released.