As another big-budget movie based on a Dan Brown novel rolls out, supported by a massive marketing push, I’d like to share my thoughts on the three Dan Brown novels I’ve read, in the order I read them. I’m a bit surprised I’ve not mentioned them in this blog before.
I first encountered Dan Brown in a cluttered living room in San Diego. Angels & Demons was the title of the book, and my friend recommended it highly. I had free time, and reading is part of my job, so I sat down to consume it.
I’ll say this for the story: It was paced well. Events happened and knowledge was gained at a rapid pace but there was time for characters to reflect and for readers to catch up. It’s why I finished the book. The two main characters weren’t bad. And… that’s about it.
On the other hand, the science the entire story was based on was preposterous. The whole plot is driven by a battery that lasts twenty-four hours to the second, and it never seems to occur to anyone that a) battery life is not that predictable and b) even if it were possible to create a battery with a charge that lasted an extremely precise amount of time, there was no motivation here for the people who created the battery to worry about stuff like that.
That’s really a minor quibble, but everything else depended on it. People base decisions that could lead to the destruction of Rome and the death of millions of people to a blind faith on the 24-hour timer. It was the clock that drove the plot.
If that one seems ticky-tack, there were many worse errors in the grand parade of downright stupidity as far as science and scientists were concerned, creating an overwhelming wrongness that ruined the story. Things start off with a ride in a jet that can’t take off and go downhill from there. Then there was the tension between religion and science, which certainly exists, but the ability to create antimatter (which has been going on for decades now) certainly hasn’t created new rifts between science and religion. Unfortunately, this rift is another key plot driver. And the location of the secret lab at CERN? Nope. Antimatter as a world-changing power source? Sure, until you consider the ungodly amount of energy it took to create it. I could go on and on.
There was lots of information about some of the great works of art around Rome and the men who created them, and I found some of it fascinating. (Or was that stuff in the Da Vinci code? It’s a blur, now.) But was Brown’s research on art history any better than his science? I don’t know, but his credibility was shot long before the story even reached Rome. I just hope I’ve forgotten all those facts, in case they’re wrong.
And as far as the process for selecting a new Pope, I’m pretty skeptical that what is portrayed here – even if we allow that a bunch of senior church officials could be so utterly stupid – would be legit.
The ending is simply preposterous. Ridiculous. Eye-rolling, head-slapping stupid. But it’s dramatic, I’ll give Mr. Brown that.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t remember who convinced me that The Da Vinci Code would make up for my disappointment with the previous read, but I was reasonably optimistic as I started in on the most famous of Mr. Brown’s novels.
To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the book anymore. It just didn’t stick. I remember rolling my eyes a few times, and thinking “that would never, ever, happen,” but overall I was not as annoyed by this book as I was by the other. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? “Dan Brown’s least annoying work to date!” Some of the characters are reasonably credible, but others are cartoons at best.
This book was controversial, which ironically is probably why we’re being treated to multiple major films based on Mr. Brown’s work. Remind me to write an otherwise innocuous novel that says Jesus had children. (I think that was the controversy – I suppose I’ll have to come up with my own.) There is a “huge” revelation in the story that begs a large question for anyone who can count past thirteen.
Still, I read the book, and once again I think the pacing had a lot to do with that. Dan Brown, for all his faults, kept me turning the pages.
Fool me three times…
Then there’s Deception Point. A steaming pile of suck from beginning to end (yet, once more, I read it all). This book was off on so many levels there’s no point trying to list them here. Let’s just leave it at: I’ll never read a novel by Dan Brown again.
Note: if for some reason you actually want to buy one of these books, and you use the above links, I get a kickback.