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(Review) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown


The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Mr Brown seems to be all the rage at the moment. And when I mean all the rage I pay particular attention to RAGE. Being condemned is an instant way to see your sales figures get at least another digit added to the equation. Being condemned by an Ayatollah may not have been good for Salmon Rushdie’s health but it did propel ‘The Satanic Verses’ to the top of the best sellers list and get it a lot more attention and readership than Mr Rushdie would have ever previously dreamed of.

I feel the same is true with ‘The Da Vinci Code’. I doubt we’d see this particular title, alongside a host of Dan Brown’s other books, gracing the Top Ten sellers of Amazon and assorted other book sellers had it not been for the controversy the book has caused. It’s been condemned by the Catholic Church and the movie adaptation has had various sites, including Westminster Abbey, refuse permission to film in the locations mentioned in the book.

It’s a shame that The Catholic Church, whilst condemning the book and telling people not to read it, have actually given it so much publicity that many more people have become curious and actually gone and read it. I say shame because the book is actually about as controversial and ground breaking as a book as Busted is to Punk rock.

The Da Vinci Code is mediocre pop. It’s bland and incredibly easy to read. It has a cloak of ‘controversy’ and ‘conspiracy’ surrounding it which has caused its success. Combined with the fact that you can’t get on the tube or a plane without seeing at least one person clutching this, or one of his other books, it draws you in to its clutches. You end up picking up a copy to see what all the fuss is about.

Well, for anyone who likes an intellectual read, or reading about conspiracies, or even a good mystery book, The Da Vinci Code will be a big disappointment.

Its 590+ pages tell of a single days events. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing but in this case you as a reader are led by the hand through the events, focusing on a number of different characters who are all interlinked. Clive Cussler said that The Da Vinci Code was “one of the finest mysteries I’ve ever read. An amazing tale with enigmas piled on secrets stacked on riddles”. Well, the enigmas piled on secrets, etc, didn’t seem to appear in my copy of the book. As for being one of the finest mysteries…. Well, when I read a mystery book I like it to test my imagination and get me thinking about it, trying to solve it or work out what is going on. Everyone likes to solve a mystery after all. The Da Vinci Code keeps all the clues to itself until the characters actually work them out. There is nothing for you, the reader, to actually ponder and work out. To actually feel fulfilled over when you’ve worked out the secrets correctly. The ideas and hints are not previewed to us before the characters realise them.. To be frank – there are no secrets.

The book reads the reader by the hand through the 24 hour period. It gives enough information for you to understand why the characters are going from point A to point B (most of the time) but doesn’t give anything for the reader to chew on. It’s a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Something to watch but not think about as the content is actually non-existent.

The writing style is good, in regards to it is incredibly easier to read and follow. It uses simple English for the mass market readership. For that Mr Brown must be commended. He knows the type of book people pick up at airports and train stations and has tapped into the market perfectly.

For anyone who has any knowledge about conspiracy theories, the Templars, various Jesus myths, etc, the book is a non-entity. Dan Brown has added nothing new to the genre and if anything has watered it down to such a mass-marketable state that you may as well spend your time doing something more useful. Like washing your hair or watching the latest shenanigans on Big Brother…..

I’ve heard people comparing ‘The Da Vinci Code’ with Umberto Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’. All I can say is WTF??? The two are light-years apart. Now I will admit being slightly biased here as Foucault’s Pendulum is one of my favourite books. It’s superbly well written, has hundreds of great ideas that it weaves into a believable mythology. It allows the reader to piece together the ‘facts’ in the book to see what’s happening and keeps the readers imagination active. If anything Foucault’s Pendulum gives the reader too much information! I also love the fact that Umberto Eco made the first chapter so heavy to read that many ‘lay’ readers gave up. DON’T GIVE UP! Once you get past the fairly cumbersome opening a stunning work of fiction awaits you!

To bring back my punk analogy….. if Da Vinci Code is Busted then Foucault’s Pendulum is The Sex Pistols. It’s the grand master of historical conspiracy theory novels.

The Da Vinci Code has one core twist in it that makes you think WTF? Not because it is a stunning and intellectual twist – heaven forbid that! – but because you just can’t see any evidence of the twist before it happens and it runs against everything else in the book.

So, my verdict on The Da Vinci Code. I’m actually glad I read it and like I said before it is not a hard read. However I do feel disappointed with it because it was so ‘vanilla’. I like to come away from a book thinking about things I’ve read or feeling affinity with the characters. I’m not sure what I came away from this one. Annoyance I guess. Especially as I picked three of his other books up at the same time in a sale (‘Angels and Demons’, ‘Digital Fortress’ and ‘Deception Point’). That’ll teach me. Don’t believe the hype!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2005 11:06 pm (UTC)
I actually really liked it. I read it before all the hype started though so I wasn't expecting it to be anything special. The bit about The Last Supper made me go and investigate the painting online and then sit there with my boss (we were both reading the same book) and go "Ooh look! Yes!"

Jul. 10th, 2005 08:05 am (UTC)
I haven't read it, but a lot of people I know have, including my sister. She is a blue badge Scottish tour guide, and is fascinated by the way the book has caused interest in Rosslyn chapel to soar - which is good, because the chapel needs as many visitors as possible to fund the restoration programme, but bad, in that now they have to organise strictly numbered tours to go round the place.

Everyone I know who has read it says the same as you - easy to read, not many surprises for those who already know a bit. I might read it myself someday, but I shall get it out of the library!
Jul. 10th, 2005 10:20 am (UTC)
Angels and Demons is his best work in my opinion. The other two are also not bad, Digital Fortress is quite claustrophobic, and Deception Point is very "cold" (something which I think you'll understand when/if you read it).
My two biggest beefs with all his works are firstly that he relies far too much on coincidence and luck to get his heros out of trouble (especially in Deception Point). Also while he's obviously done his research, he actually appears to have done a bit too much research on some things, therefore he goes into far too much detail about unhelpful things like describing the interior of a nuclear submarine in minute detail.
But like you said, it's mostly just something to sit and veg out reading, not a great intellectual tome.
Jul. 10th, 2005 07:44 pm (UTC)
I have also read all of his books and I definitely agree with you that Angels and Demons is the best one :D :D
Jul. 10th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC)
I think it was a good read - and anything that gets people who don't usually read to pick up a book has to be a good thing.
Jul. 10th, 2005 11:12 am (UTC)
*nods* Definitely. It made a change to see so many people on the tube/train reading something other than The Sun.
Jul. 10th, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC)
I've read the Da Vinci code - mainly because I'm such a fan of Leonardo Da Vinci (I'm off to see some of his works next Saturday as they are touring NZ at the moment) I was obviously disappointed by the book; not to say it was a bad book - as Angus said very vanilla. Just not as good as I would have liked. On the plus side it has brought conspiracy theories to the masses!
Jul. 11th, 2005 08:10 am (UTC)
I've not read it yet (just read your verdict). I'll put my own review up when I have :)
My mum loved it though, couldn't put it down, keeps raving about it.

I wonder who's opinion mine will be closest too

Jul. 11th, 2005 09:21 am (UTC)
As you say a very easy read, I read it on holiday last year and it was just right for that. Though it did give me flash backs to a holiday many years ago were we rented a flat. I'd only brought a couple of books and they didn't last very long so I looked at what was in the flat. Book one of Mission Earth and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
I think my brain ended up dribbling out of my ears.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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