The Lost Symbol : a novel

by Dan Brown

Hardcover, 2009

Collection

Description

Symbologist Robert Langdon returns in this new thriller follow-up to The Da Vinci Code.

Library's rating

Rating

(4592 ratings; 3.4)

Media reviews

In the end, as with “The Da Vinci Code,” there’s no payoff. Brown should stop worrying about unfinished pyramids and worry about unfinished novels. At least Spielberg and Lucas gave us an Ark and swirling, dissolving humans. We don’t get any ancient wisdom that “will profoundly change the world as you know it” — just a lot of New Agey piffle about how we are the gods we’ve been waiting for. (And a father-son struggle for global domination, as though we didn’t get enough of that with the Bushes.)
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There are moments of excitement in this skilfully edited, deeply implausible thriller. At times the suspense is prolonged rather than sustained, but the 500 pages turn steadily and the overall effect is entertaining and certainly family-friendly. The Lost Symbol is violent but remarkably chaste and devoid of profanity.
If you hate Dan Brown, you're going to hate this book. It seems Brown has decided to irk his critics by repeating every flaw he's been accused of. ... No, it's not Foucault's Pendulum. It doesn't even come close. However, if you liked Dan Brown's previous books you're likely to enjoy this one. There is some interesting trivia about the history of Washington, DC which is in fact true, which is an added bonus.
It’s true, his style is as baldly prosaic as legend, but there remains a heft to his potboilers that is hard to imitate. He is better at conveying claustrophobia and breathlessness than, say, the explosion of a top-secret lab (“fragments of titanium mesh . . . droplets of melted silicon” etc) but the latter will make a juicier scene come the inevitable Tom Hanks movie, and the author knows this.
As a thriller, "The Lost Symbol" is exciting, although readers of "The Da Vinci Code" will notice that some of the same stock characters and creaky plot devices pop up... As District of Columbia resident, I must say that Mr. Brown does a first-rate job of delivering a Cook's tour with duly sinister overtones of Washington's famous sites... It's when Mr. Brown interrupts his storytelling to deliver one of his many lectures on Christian ­intolerance—with pointed digs at the American ­religious right—that "The Lost Symbol" becomes a ­didactic bore.
If the mystery at the center of "The Lost Symbol" never quite gets solved, it's still surrounded with exactly the kind of feel-good folderol that readers love in a bestseller... Pseudoscience could turn out to be even more profitable for Dan Brown than pseudohistory. It may not make for as good a story, but then again, that may be just one more thing that nobody cares about anymore.
The Lost Symbol works, albeit with reservations. It works because whatever mental alchemy Dan Brown needed to turn away from the noise and ramp up his creative signal, to stay away from distractions and focus on the story, takes hold with the opening utterance that "the secret is how to die."
Writers envious of Brown's sales (who wouldn't be?) have devoted much ink to his deficiencies as a stylist. These are still in place. ("He could feel his entire world teetering precariously on the brink of disaster. . . . It hit him like a bolt from above. . . . In a flash he understood.") So is Brown's habit of turning characters into docents. But so, too, is his knack for packing huge amounts of information (spurious or no) into an ever-accelerating narrative. Call it Brownian motion: a comet-tail ride of short paragraphs, short chapters, beautifully spaced reveals and, in the case of "The Lost Symbol," a socko unveiling of the killer's true identity.
The Washington setting may not be as alluring as the Vatican or the Louvre, but Brown extracts enough history out of his landscape to make this a fascinating ride. And he squeezes in plenty of contemporary references too: characters run Google searches on their BlackBerrys, text on their iPhones and one jokes about the "Twitterati". Such is Brown's visual writing style, the feeling as you close the last page is not that you've read only the novel, but that you've also just watched the film.
It's hard to imagine anyone, after reading "The Lost Symbol," debating about Freemasonry in Washington, D.C., the way people did Brown's radical vision of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in "Code." That book hit a deep cultural nerve for obvious reasons; "The Lost Symbol" is more like the experience on any roller coaster -- thrilling, entertaining and then it's over.
Too many popular authors (Thomas Harris) have followed huge hits (“The Silence of the Lambs”) with terrible embarrassments (“Hannibal”). Mr. Brown hasn’t done that. Instead, he’s bringing sexy back to a genre that had been left for dead.
knjigainfo.com
Den Braun je ovog puta odabrao da svog junaka, profesora simbologije sa Harvarda Roberta Lengdona, pošalje u Vašington. Tamo bi on trebalo da održi predavanje na poziv svog mentora, direktora centralne americke naucne institucije Smitsonijan instituta, visokog funkcionera vašingtonske masonske lože Pitera Solomona (masona 33 stepena). Narednih 12 sati, koliko traje radnja romana, Lengdon otkriva da je Solomon kidnapovan, pošto je u sali gde je trebalo da se održi predavanje našao ruku nabijenu na kolac. Na ruci su istetovirani odredeni simboli, a tek na osnovu prstena on prepoznaje da je pripadala Solomonu. Stiže mu poruka da ce njegov mentor biti ubijen ako ne pronade gde se nalazi tajna masonska piramida u Vašingtonu. On, takode, mora da sazna kljucnu rec koja daje neslucenu moc.
Has it been worth the wait? Overall, yes. But that’s not to say that the book is without its shortcomings.
knjigainfo.com
Den Braun je ovog puta odabrao da svog junaka, profesora simbologije sa Harvarda Roberta Lengdona, pošalje u Vašington. Tamo bi on trebalo da održi predavanje na poziv svog mentora, direktora centralne americke naucne institucije Smitsonijan instituta, visokog funkcionera vašingtonske masonske lože Pitera Solomona (masona 33 stepena). Narednih 12 sati, koliko traje radnja romana, Lengdon otkriva da je Solomon kidnapovan, pošto je u sali gde je trebalo da se održi predavanje našao ruku nabijenu na kolac. Na ruci su istetovirani odredeni simboli, a tek na osnovu prstena on prepoznaje da je pripadala Solomonu. Stiže mu poruka da ce njegov mentor biti ubijen ako ne pronade gde se nalazi tajna masonska piramida u Vašingtonu. On, takode, mora da sazna kljucnu rec koja daje neslucenu moc.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wdwilson3
I admit to a grudging admiration for Dan Brown. He has managed a presumably lucrative career with scant writing talent, cobbling together in this instance ponderous dialog with excerpts from a Washington, D.C. travel guide and Wikipedia articles on symbols, science and religion. It’s a comic book for grownups, complete with psychotic super-villain, thought bubbles above all the characters’ heads, and cliffhanger endings to many of the more than 100 chapters. Brown employs many of the tried and true tricks of his trade again. In densely worded conversations, he describes “hidden” mysteries and secrets, piling them on until the reader is numb enough to think that the plot makes some sense. He exploits the latent (or blatant) search for conspiracy and deception in the world. And he throws in enough Biblical references to add a touch of sanctity to the proceedings.

To those that enjoyed this book, I’d ask two questions. First, did you ever meet anyone who resembles any of the primary characters in this book? Robert Langdon, the constantly slow-witted protagonist is even duller than usual. If you’re not one step ahead of him you’re not trying. Did you ever see anyone, after having his hand unwillingly amputated, in any condition to hold abstruse cosmological conversations a few hours later? How about a CIA security chief taking over a domestic investigation? I could go on. Second, do you recall any conversation taking place anything like the dialogue in this book? Sister and best friend coolly discussing theology while they’re searching for the victim? Verbose, condescending, and unnecessary lectures in the middle of a crisis? In short, this could be the least life-like book I’ve read since I told my daughter bedtime stories.

The last chapters of The Lost Symbol seem to be a set-up for Brown founding a new religion. It’s worked before. L. Ron Hubbard was a crappy writer too.
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LibraryThing member dpbrewster
Meh. It is what it is and as a writer Dan Brown is Dan Brown. I don't want to fall into describing what the book isn't, or what Dan Brown as a writer isn't, as so many media reviewers do with Brown. No one will call him a dazzling prose stylist. It is an interesting summer or airplane read and is certainly swiftly paced. However, for a book based on so much action, it is remarkably static. Whether purposeful or not, the plot twists and ending were fairly predictable early in the book. It is obviously deeply researched and once again on a topic Dan Brown has a real passion for. The book is an entertainment, and on that point it succeeds, but it is just an entertainment.… (more)
LibraryThing member richardderus
I read The DaVinci Code and, while I didn't find the writing to be high caliber stuff, I was mesmerized by the story and fascinated by the evident command Brown showed of the background material. Its factuality is of no interest to me either way. I wanted a rollicking good ride, and I got one, and I walked away a satisfied customer.

Less so here. We have the elements of the DaVinci tome's megasellerdom deployed in a less intriguing plot. One of the Big Reveals is simply uninteresting to me, and the repetition of the catchphrase "the secret is how to die" (no spoiler this, it starts extremely early in the book) made me as irritated as any mosquito's buzzing ever has. I am fairly sure it's intended to convey malice and menace, and build suspense, but I found it jarred on me by somewhere in the 40s (chapters come and go at a dizzying rate, there being 133 of them, plus an epilogue that bid fair to make me urp in its treacly upbeatness, packed into 509pp of text).

So why did I read this book? A chance to poke at a hugely successful and wealthy novelist who has never heard of me and will never read this review? Nuh-uh. I think Dan Brown has his storytelling antennae tuned to a fine pitch. I think every bit of his fame and wealth is richly deserved and earned by his honest, sincere, and successful desire to tell a good story to the best of his ability. I wanted to be gobsmacked the way I was by that DaVinci madness, that's why I read the darn book!

And I wasn't.

No one could be sorrier than I am to say this. Maybe it's a case of once is enough for this reader. Maybe it's just a mood. I tend to think that, had this book appeared just exactly as it is today in 2005, I'd be yodeling its masterful reprise of the preceding volume instead of emitting a small bleat of disappointment.

And sales figures, while the subject of messy fantasies for other writers, aren't in the DaVinci league. Others agree with me, and the chorus of "oh, well" reviews is loud.

When Brown comes to write his next thriller, even if it features Robert Langdon, I hope it treads new territory. Too many other footprints on this piece of land for Langdon to stand out. Such is the penalty of leadership: You get to blaze, but not possess, the trail.

Recommended? Mildly. But only if you're a conspiracy-thriller fan. *damn* I hate like hell to write that.
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LibraryThing member JoshuaT.
This is the best book in the series. Dan Brown is one of the best thrill writers in history! The way he writes is close to perfection. I recommend this great book to everyone!
LibraryThing member ExVivre
FACT: Publishing houses and book critics exist. Dan Brown and money exist. Plots, however, are a complete figment of your imagination.

Dan Brown was rolling around on his bed of DaVinci Code cash, his precious writer's noggin resting on the soft pillow of Tom Hanks' middle-age gut, when a $1 bill fluttered into his eyes. Immediately decoding the vast symbological heritage of the engraving by folding George Washington's head into a mushroom, he realized there was a story that needed to be told.

A select group of men in positions of power, publishers, are protecting an amazing secret: money looks best when it's precisely piled into a pyramid. Somewhere a nefarious villain - a book critic with acne and a limp - is plotting to thwart their great vision. Thankfully, the highly successful author, teacher, and Phillips Exeter alumnus, Dan Br... err... Robert Langdon, has just landed in a mysterious wealthy person's private air transportation with his trusty Mickey Mouse watch to save the day.

Reviewer's note: I've often read others on LibraryThing who say they've thrown books across the room. I've never understood this urge until 17 pages into The Lost Symbol. And again about 200 pages in. And near the end. And at the end. If I was less concerned about damaging my home and possessions, this book would have made the first literary solo flight across my living room.

I would call this thing a page-turner not because of the "thrilling" pace, but because the endless metaphysical speculation about science, magic, and mystery was so repetitive and uninspired that my eyes just drifted down the page. The plots of the previous two books were mildly palatable because they encompassed a dizzying array of great monuments and art by Bernini and Da Vinci that whitewashed the far-fetched plot devices. This book was absolutely boring. Why? There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to Freemasons and Washington, D.C.! Brown spent so much time trying to avoid the clichés that there was nothing left to use - it's all clichés! I can't believe it took 6 years to write a book whose research is based off a few Wikipedia articles.
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LibraryThing member PghDragonMan
Dan Brown’s latest work, The Lost Symbol, reminds me of a train wreck. It is so huge and powerful, it drags you along despite your best efforts to stop yourself. Even though you know there are going to be body parts strewn everywhere, you can’t look away. You know what’s going to happen as soon as you see the set-up for the wreck.

You know the set-up for the story, you almost know what's going to happen, yet you pick it up and read it anyway. You've got to. That's when you notice that something has gone wrong.

Among my dissatisfactions was the recycling of characters from other books. I don’t mean the reappearance of Robert Langdon, I actually like the guy, but some of the supporting characters. The bad guy, a real had case named Mal’akh, is a recycled version of Francis Dolarhyde from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, right down to the tattooed, super muscular body and the fixation with transformation, his own spiritual transformation, into something else. Other borrowed archetypes are here as well, but I don’t want to dwell on just that one aspect.

Overall, Dan brown has penned a very nice movie here. Wait a minute, did he just say movie? Yes, I did say movie. The chapters are relatively short, translating very nicely to the way movies are usually shot these days: short scenes with the action transitioning from one location to the next. As soon as I began reading the first chapter, I could envision the opening credits rolling over it. The second scene, excuse me, second chapter, was defiantly the opening of the book. Some characters were described almost as if Brown were envisioning some Hollywood Big Names playing the parts already. I leave the casting, outside of Langdon, to your imagination; we know who plays Langdon.

The plot and ciphers had the usual Dan Brown twists. Maybe we’ve become so used to them by now we’ve learned to anticipate where the author is leading us. Maybe the plot was just not that good. Whatever the reason, I felt two of the main secrets were so obvious, it was almost anticlimactic when they are officially revealed.

Despite all this . . . I admit it, I could not put the book down. The action does grab you and you are carried along with it. Normally I hate the phrase "page turner" in a review, but in this case, I did feel compelled to keep turning the pages until I was done. The book will have you thinking about some of the more serious ideas presented, the field of Noetic Science, for example, but I doubt you will find a Masonic Conspiracy everyplace you look. Then again, to a person with a hammer in their hand, everything looks like a nail.

With all the negatives I encountered the negatives, I could not rate this as a five star book. Because I was so compelled to keep reading, way past my normal reading endurance levels, I can’t give this a middle of the road rating, it deserves more than that. To his credit, as an author, Dan Brown fulfilled his role very well: I accepted his story’s reality, willingly stayed with the story, cheered the good guys and booed the bad guys. I admit I have a penchant for stories that translate a short time span into one intense read. Because of that, I’m going to be generous and rate this as a four star book. The enjoyment exceeds the effort to read it by a pretty wide margin.
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LibraryThing member alana_leigh
While I'm pleased that I didn't purchase this book for myself, I must note that I don't disapprove of Dan Brown the way some people do. This is the third Brown book that I've read and if nothing else, he's usually entertaining... though for me, a fair amount of that entertainment might be experienced at his or his main character's expense. To read Brown, you have to accept the ridiculous plotlines and the large number of inaccuracies. He's not going for accurate so much as he's a master of finding random facts, tossing everything into a pot and asking, "What if they were all connected?" He doesn't believe that they are, but to weaker minds, he might be easily seized upon as uncovering conspiracies. Brown is not a conspiracy theorist, he's a best-selling fiction writer. He writes suspense novels and you usually get an interesting city tour out of it (even if it's not a trustworthy one). He's not a brilliant writer, but he has stumbled upon a formula that works for him. He writes short chapters that always end on cliffhangers and works up a plot that is designed to make the reader feel intelligent without actually understanding anything that's going on as it pertains to the complicated ideas -- the reader just has to keep up with the constant dashing from place to place. Puzzles that are hyped as unsolveable turn out to be numerals that are just upsidedown and Robert Langdon, the physically fit Harvard professor of "Symbology" (because "Semiotics" was apparently too difficult a word, Brown had to invent "Symbology"?), always seems to be called into a crisis situtation where his interpretation of some symbol, code, or painting will be the key to saving the world.

This time, Langdon thinks he's heading to Washington, D.C. to serve as the last-minute speaker for an event as a favor to his friend and mentor, Peter Solomon. When he arrives, Langdon does not find an audience ready to hear his lecture on Masonic symbols in our nation's capitol, but rather, he finds his friend's severed hand and Langdon realizes that he's been led right into a trap. Peter has been kidnapped (and mutilated), this big tattooed guy named Mal'akh is holding him hostage (and is also looking to eliminate Peter's sister, Katherine), and Langdon's only chance at saving Peter rests in his uncovering a secret that the Masons have spent centuries keeping safe. I'll give you a hint: even though we spend a lot of time talking about Katherine's scientific research in the field of noetics, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. The whole noetics thing has no bearing whatsoever on the main plot, it's just a cool idea Brown thought he'd toss in so we had some "science" in there somewhere. Instead, the focus here is on the Freemasons, an often misunderstood society known for harboring a whole lot of secrets.

If you really like Dan Brown, then it probably doesn't matter what this book is about -- you'll read it and be mildly entertained. I preferred Angels and Demons to The Da Vinci Code and think The Lost Symbol is the weakest of the three. Perhaps it's because we're no longer running through European cities, but sticking close to home in our nation's capitol. Perhaps it's because I probably would have enjoyed watching National Treasure more than reading this if I wanted conspiracies about Freemasons. Perhaps it's because the threats didn't seem quite so mind-bogglingly ridiculous and so they were disappointing. Perhaps it's because I didn't feel like Brown had achieved his goal of at least keeping me entertained. (I stopped in the middle of one of his three-page chapters when I glanced at one of my houseplants and wondered if I could develop a cutting in water. I then proceded to carry out this spontaneous experiment. To me, that's a good indication that someone is bored.) Whatever the reason, by the time I was a quarter of a way through The Lost Symbol, I knew that finishing it would feel more like a chore than a pleasant diversion. It seemed as though Brown had let a lot of criticisms get to him and so things seemed less ridiculous (Dan Brown books have become synonymous with "ridiculous," so what's the point when they don't live up to that?); the ultimate threats seemed lame and the final revelation of Mal'akh's true identity was something every reader should have guessed by Chapter 20 (aka roughly around page five). Langdon spent a lot of time repeating himself and then, in turn, being lectured at by others -- every person at one time or another seemed to serve the purpose of being a human encyclopedia. Even more so than in his other books, I felt like Brown tossed in a lot of random details that seemed cool. Brown books are entirely composed of random facts thrown together, but there were lots of stragglers this time that had no tie-in. Among these random things were Katherine's noetics studies, heat-sensing vision goggles that could show the temperature differences of objects (thus indicating where people had been and so allowing one to sort of see back in time), and breathable oxygenated liquid serving as a means of torture.

I suppose poor Dan Brown must be feeling intense pressure after the success of his past books -- but then, this sold something like a million copies on its first day of release, so in those terms, this one's a success, too. I do hope, though, that if Brown has another Robert Langdon book in the works, he returns to the crazy kind of plots that involve priests piloting helicopters to save Rome from city-leveling explosions during conclave. It's what made him the best-selling success that he is. Yes, it's ridiculous... but better ridiculous and entertaining than driving one's readers to mid-chapter hydroculture experimentation.
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LibraryThing member riverwillow
I was presented with this book by a friend who absolutely loved 'The Da Vinci Code' and ' Angels and Demons' - two books I disliked enormously, but she felt I should read 'The Lost Symbol' because, unlike the other two books, it doesn't deal with a subject I have a strong opinion on. I should add here that, having read 'The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail' in the 1980s, I had a strong sense of déjà vu throughout the 'Da Vinci Code' and being a lapsed catholic, although my view of the Roman Catholic Church is very jaundiced, I was incensed by 'Angels and Demons' - oh yes and I thought his writing was a little clunky. Oh yes and being British, and a woman, who says that I don't have an opinion on the masons? But I digress.

I am a fast reader, my reading average is around 3½ books per week for fun (this doesn’t include texts I have to read) and I can usually read a 500 page or so book in a couple of days. This took me over 3 days to read, not quite a record, but even so, rather than being a ‘page turner’ – sadly not for me, it’s been a ‘putter downer’ – but I also want to try understand just what it is that makes these books so popular.

The first page reads ‘Fact: In 1991, a document was locked in the safe of the director if the CIA. The document is still there today...The document also contains the phrase “It’s buried out there somewhere” – and my first reaction was ‘here we go again’ and I put the book down and went for a very long walk. – But the thought of my friend, who only reads a book a month – but read this in a day – spurred me on and I picked up the book again. It’s definitely a book that needs some serious editing and most of these have been detailed already so I won’t bore you, apart to add that my particular annoyances are how he leads the reader by the hand, using full names throughout the text, often tacking on job descriptions, ‘Security Chief Trent Anderson’, we are repeatedly told of a characters ethnicity or size, he reminds us three or four times in the space of a couple of pages that Bellamy is ‘African American’ and, my particular favourite ‘Their father had succumbed to cancer when Katherine was only seven, and she had little memory of him. Her brother, eight years Katherine’s senior and only fifteen when her father died’.

As for the plot, I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, and the key to these is to keep the reader guessing almost to the end of the book – sadly I guessed one of the major plot twists in the first third of the book, and spent the rest of the time reading the book hoping that Brown would come up with a different solution. Additionally a couple of ‘deus ex machina’ plot twists, which I won’t spoil for anyone yet to read the book, which also made me put the book down and go for a long walk – at least my fitness has improved.

As for the characters, I really didn’t care if any of them, including Robert Langdon lived or died.

But I made it to the end and I still don’t get it. I loved the first two instalments in the Millennium series by the late Sieg Larsson, both of which kept me reading far too late into the night and I’m eagerly anticipating the last in the trilogy. I understand why people love the Harry Potter books and I kind of understand why the Twilight series is so popular. But this reads like a bad third instalment in the ‘National Treasure’ series of films - you know that one that should never be made but everyone is cashing in on the success of the other two films (and I loved first two, perfect for a wet Sunday afternoon’s switching off of the brain)
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LibraryThing member jasmyn9
Another typical Dan Brown book, this time leading us on a 10 hour tour of Washington DC's monuments and their ancient symbology. The capital comes to life as Brown describes in exquisite detail the nation's monuments and the artwork found within. This aspect of the book is always what I have found most fascinating in his novel, and The Lost Symbol did not disappoint in this regard. Langdon's long time friend and mentor, Peter Soloman, has summoned him to Washington to speak at a conference. Much to Langdon's suprise, when he arrives he finds that a mysterious man has kidnapped Peter and was actually the one to invite him, but not to speak at a conference, but to solve an ancient mystery in exchange for Peter's life.

I was disappointed a little by Robert Langdon himself. I'm getting a bit tired of his character. I enjoyed him in Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code, but he has not grown thoughout these stories and he needs a little something extra added to his character if Brown intends to continue the series.

The journey through the capital is fast paced and draws you in, I had a hard time putting the book down when I needed to. The cast of characters are wonderful, but the suprise twist is was a little too easy to figure out if you paid attention. While I greatly enjoyed the story, the last 50 pages or so seemed more like an addition to the story after the fact. They did not quite fit with the rest of the story and kind of ruined the ending for me.
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LibraryThing member meganstiles
I, too did not like it as much as The DaVinci Code, but also did not put it down until I was done reading. Very engrossing, and in typical Dan Brown, very thought-provoking, which is the ultimate goal of any good book.
LibraryThing member Replay
Reading Dan Brown's novels is like watching Lost. The first season was captivating, but then it turned into a nonsensical complicated and farfetched story. We know that it won't get any better but we still have hope.

The Lost Symbol is a condensed version of Brown's most prominent novels. He put everything in a pot, mixed, cooked and served a pale story whose ingredients are so common that it feels like eating yesterday dish. It's still OK but savor and color have faded away.

I'm done with Dan...till the next one.
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LibraryThing member bccall
As a reader who quite enjoyed the controversy of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, I had high hopes and expectations for The Lost Symbol. Having just barely finished the book on my Kindle after 28 days of reading, I'm left with the distinct impression that I just got done reading the fictionalized version of The Secret. Although the book's details about Freemasonry's entanglement in U.S. history provided a number of thought-provoking moments, I don't feel scandalized to a sufficient degree to get really excited about telling my friends about the book. I liked it, but not that much.

In fact, though the plot had its interesting twists and turns, Dan Brown's desired surprise plot twist really only occurred because he lied to the reader. Not to give the whole plot away, but basically the narrator says one thing for most of the book,-- you know, the voice that you're supposed to trust actually knows what's going on in the story and gives you tidbits along the way to keep you interested -- and then inexplicably says the exact opposite to elicit audience "ooohhh" factor. Might play out well on the big screen, but for me, the way the main twist developed just rubbed me wrong.

Despite frustration with the plot and lack of true scandal, I always enjoy a book that I learn something from, and The Lost Symbol is certainly one of those kind of books. Diving into ancient symbology, Robert Langdon methodically cracks the code to revealing the core spiritual principle of the universe that binds all religious traditions together. But possibly even more interesting than that were the great descriptions of odd historical and geographical details of Washington D.C. I must admit that on more than one occasion I found myself browsing Internet search engines to look at random historical monuments and buildings I never knew existed. This fact alone might be enough to account for an additional half star for my review rating, but for now I'm going to stick with 3 1/2 stars. Decent book, frustrating at times, but also rewarding at times.
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LibraryThing member pmwolohan
21 Words or Less: Everything you expect from a Dan Brown thriller plus a extra helping of preachiness intended to start controversy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Good: Typical Dan Brown Thriller; Well-researched, interesting asides about American history and Freemasons; Fast-paced, popcorn read full of hidden messages and secret history.

The Bad: Preachier than previous thrillers in what appears to be an attempt to recreate Da Vinci controversy; Formulaic (although in a way that works)

I'm going to keep this quick because everyone knows what this book is all about and Dan Brown isn't going to see any increase in sales from me mentioning The Lost Symbol on Stomping on Yeti. On the other hand, I'd be more than willing to reciprocate if he felt like mentioning my site in one of his books. I'm not going to say no to an increase in viewership of... How do you divide by zero? Anyway, this past week I breezed through the 500 odd pages of the newest Robert Langdon adventure. Was it a great book? No. Was it a fun book? Yes.

I rate books based on expectations and with Dan Brown it's easy to know what to expect. You're going to have short chapters, fast pacing, and lots and lots of short asides disguised as conversation between characters as they attempt to decipher the latest clue in a series of connected mysteries. I wasn't disappointed. In the Lost Symbol, Brown brings the action back to America, where Langdon and friends explore the rich history of the nation's capital. I'm not going to delve into the plot much as half the fun is trying to figure out whats really going on. My recommendation is simple: If you liked Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code you will most likely enjoy The Lost Symbol.

My only caveat is that Brown seems to be struggling to find controversial material. The main "concept" with The Lost Symbol is tenuous at best and Brown tends to expound upon it to drive home it's importance. He does this by having characters who believe preach to characters who don't and their "arguments" are suprisingly one-sided for people intelligent enough to solve mysteries that have endured for centuries. The short infodumps work well for Brown; prolonged discourses? Not so much. I also think that controversial plotline was tacked on. The thriller would have been exactly the same without it and it didn't raise the stakes or impact the plot at all. If anything it was a poor attempt to bring the female lead into the story. I had to take away a half a star for deliberate trolling.

That's it for my review of The Lost Symbol but I'd like to talk a little bit about my feelings on Dan Brown in general. His writing is very deceptive but he knows exactly what he is doing and he excels at it. First he writes short chapters. In The Lost Symbol he divides 510 pages into over 130 chapters. That's less than 4 pages a chapter. Doing this tricks the reader into feeling like they are reading faster and also boosts the page count as almost half the pages contain less than a full page of text. It's easy to assume that the book is captivating when the pages just fall away.

Secondly, Brown switches point-of-view any time there is about to be a discovery/action scene/revelation and he doesn't get back to it until a few chapters later. Since the chapters are so short, the reader keeps turning pages until they find out what happened. However, if you read to chapter 36 to get the resolution to the cliffhanger from chapter 33, you are left with the cliffhangers from chapter 34 and 35. It's a never ending cycle of teases and it works. It's especially apparent when Brown introduces time lapses mid-chapter which would serve as natural breaks but aren't exciting enough to keep the pages turning.

Brown does excellent research (although he could be making it all up) but he tends to write it in "tell don't show" fashion. It's infodumping but interesting infodumping in very small packets. If Langdon wasn't obsessed with explaining every little attribute. I feel like he would be very irritating to be around if you weren't solving a centuries old mystery. At least Brown has a thesaurus so Langdon doesn't ask "Do you want to know how I knew that?" every half a page or so.

All in all, Brown isn't the best writer and his books tend to be very formulaic if read closely together but I feel like he's got tremendous staying power. In order for his books to work he's got to do a lot of research and tie everything together. The research is going to prevent Brown from releasing books on a fast enough schedule for the vast majority of his audience to realize how formulaic the books actually are. This often happens with Grisham, Sparks, and other consistent NY Times Bestselling authors. They publish too fast and people catch on that they've read this book before. It doesn't keep them from selling a million copies, so I'm not sure they mind. A Robert Langdon thriller every three years or so will be a big hit. It's easy to see why the pieces work the way they do, but it's hard to resist their charm.
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LibraryThing member 1000reads
I was very disappointed in Dan Brown's latest effort. You would find out more by watching National Treasure than you would from this book. I got the sense that Brown was writing an apologetic for the Freemasons and I wondered at some point who, in government circles, had paid him off to do so. Don't waste your money. You'd be better off re-reading Angels and Demons.… (more)
LibraryThing member mt2012
Since there are no zero star ratings Brown's miserable clone of a gets one star. The formula is beyond threadbare; the emaciated skeleton of a plot has simply changed a few names from prior books, a couple of symbols are tacked together (they $ sign is significant for the author though goes unmentioned) and the "suspense" begins. Good and evil are so boringly caricatured that when evil meets his fate (I wouldn't want to give away that contrived end for those who manage to get that far) I had thought the book was over. Not so. There was more to go. When the bible took center stage I left Dan to wrap this up without me. Only if you can suspend disbelief for this many hours and turn off your brain to avoid knowing what happens next should you waste your time with this bottom feeder.… (more)
LibraryThing member anndar
I enjoyed this book for what it was but it does not compare to The Davinci Code or Angels and Demons. DaVinci Code pretty much rocked my world when it came out and I read it about a year before it became so popular. That book kind of kick started my journey on investigating the Christ story, etc. The Lost Symbol was a good read but not a revelation to me as were his previous works.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheCrowdedLeaf
In Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon thriller, Langdon is rushed to Washington D.C. as a last-minute guest speaker at the request of his mentor, Peter Solomon. When he arrives however, the truth is revealed: Solomon, a prominent member of the secret Mason organization, has been kidnapped, and only Robert can solve the riddle of the infamous Masonic Pyramid to find the key to the Ancient Mysteries which the kidnapper demands before it’s too late. Matched up with Solomon’s sister, Katherine, and pitted against the CIA themselves, Langdon is once again in a race against time to save the world… and himself.

We all know by now that Dan Brown can write a darn good thriller. But what distingushes him from all the wannabes? What makes him better than the rest? The level of detail he he creates, the intricate plots, the twisted clues, and the fact that everything he writes could actually be true… and probably is. Other writers do research and posit interesting theories about secrets hidden in our culture, lost cities and ancient temples. But Brown makes them look like amateurs. Similar to Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code, Brown has woven a tangled web of conspiracy set in truth, this time all around Washington D.C.

Like a shepherd leading his flock to a source of nourishment, Brown opens the reader’s eyes to clues set in our very midst; to ancient prophecies and wisdom handed down from the ages. Revealing everything piece by intricate piece, one can hardly read his evidence without believing some of it to be true. And that is what makes him better than the rest. Six years lay between the release of The DaVinci Code and the unveiling of The Lost Symbol. Does Brown’s genius make as big of an impact this time around? Maybe not as much now that we’ve come to expect it. But that doesn’t make it any less intense.

My only fault with The Lost Symbol was the ending. Overly long and fairly dull, fifteen pages of resolution and exposition, combined with a heaping dose of religious symbolism, could have been crunched into ten. Sleepily I trudged through the final pages wondering if anything else was going to “happen.” Alas, it was a struggle with no entertaining reward. But it was informative and visual.

Overall, I’m still impressed with Dan Brown and Robert Langdon. I will happily wait another six years if it means his next book is as well researched and enigmatic as The Lost Symbol.

4 stars

(I bought this book with my own dough)
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LibraryThing member riikkat
Third book in the series. This time Robert Langdon travels to Washington, where he in a very short order gets mixed up in a mystery involving Masons, CIA and a nefarious villain. It's yet again up to Langdon to solve the riddle and save the day.

My first thought after finishing this book was: meh. I think it summarizes my reading experience perfectly. The book failed to interest me and it was put-downable, which in itself is almost the worst review you can give to a book that's supposed to be fast-paced and exciting. The writing managed to irritate me. Even potentially exciting parts were frequently interrupted by what can only be called lectures about the subject matter currently at hand. It was almost like Brown wanted to show every bit of research he had done for this book and crammed the information into the story no matter what. Needless to say that this book would have benefited from some heavy editing. There were some other minor quirks as well, like calling all the characters with their full name -and- title all the time and managing to start every other chapter with the words Robert Langdon.

Brown also underestimates the intelligence of his readers. For some reason he doesn't want to leave anything for the reader to figure out on his own and explains every single detail to exhaustion, even if said detail has been clear to the reader pages ago.

The book does have its moments but sadly they tend to be fleeting, what with the lecturing and all-around dithering quickly shouldering the rest of the plot firmly to its place at the back of the bus. The ending is boring, with very little new insight to the mystery to recommend it. Even the plot twist, which livens things up a bit towards the end of the book, is fairly easy to guess about halfway through the story if you pay attention.

A disappointment all around. If you want an exciting story along the same lines, go watch National Treasure. It has tons of more excitement and even better, compared to this book, it's short.
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LibraryThing member ArcticLlama
So bad it hurts. The answer to the century old riddle to information so powerful that even its keepers wouldn't look at it, let alone try to decipher it, is the equivalent of the answer to riddle leading to untold wealth telling you that there is a bunch of gold in Fort Knox, but no information at all on how to do anything about it. The gaping plot hole regarding how someone gets a video that only the person who made it has ever seen doesn't help. If you aren't rolling your eyes at the doesn't-miss-a-trick-can't-be-fooled seasoned veteran suddenly going brain dead by not making a single follow up regarding a critical event that, of course, lets the bad guy get his hands on the good guys, well, I guess some people don't like to think when they read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Zare
This one is action-packed and extremely fast-paced story. Again we follow professor Langdon as he tries to solve the mystery before the crack of dawn in order to save the life of his best friend (is it just me or every Brown's novel after "Da Vinci Code" has that "24" feeling :)) while being hunted by a very, very disturbed villain.

Thing i did not like that much is the fact that entire novels seems to be a commercial of sorts for Freemasons - after reading this novel man can only start to wonder why people do not like and trust that secretive society of powerful men when they only want human society to prosper and live happily.

Again, Brown describes all the locations in the book with great detail and maybe in these descriptions (together with some interesting anecdotes from history) lays the main surprise for reader. Writing style is cumbersome in some parts but all in all book succeeds in its main goal - to entertain you - plus you will hear some interesting things that will hopefully make you read some more serious works on the matter.

As one reviewer already said - read Brown's works as novels, not history works and you'll enjoy it.

Recommended.
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LibraryThing member Boobalack
To me, this is the best Dan Brown book, so far. The fast-moving pace held my attention, but the very end was rather boring, thus it was not rated 5 stars. I'm not going to review the book in depth because there have already been so many others, but I will say that the plot twist near the end took me completely by surprise, so I added another half star solely for that reason. My husband, who had already read this book was nearby when I yelped out loud. He got quite a laugh out of that. The preaching at the end of the book added nothing to the story. Dan Brown apparently thinks a lot like I do. Imagine that!… (more)
LibraryThing member ejp1082
Dan Brown is a pretty known quantity at this point. He's not going to be winning any literary awards any time soon. His novels feature a heavy dose of codes, secret symbols, and obscure facts wrapped in a fast paced action thriller. You'll find short chapters, cringeworthy dialogue, and the occasional sentence fragment. I assume that anyone picking up this novel already expects this.

So the only question is: how did it stack up against expectations?

Personally, I found the subject material less enthralling than the previous Robert Langdon novels. As secret societies go, the Masons simply aren't all that interesting (or even particularly secret). Those who might have expected a grand explanation of why there are so many masonic symbols found in our nation's symbols and monuments would be disappointed - the only explanation offered is that many of the founding fathers and powerful people in general were and are masons. Again, not especially secret, and it would do nothing to dispel the many conspiracy theories relating to the subject. Whereas the code breaking done in the previous two novels took us on a tour of art history to find the clues, in this novel the codes were confined almost entirely to a single fictional pyramid. And though the action moved all over Washington DC, the settings were usually irrelevant to the progression of the mystery. The "big reveal" was delivered anticlimactically, altogether dull, and not especially believable.

Most of that is just my personal viewpoint, and others may differ. But many of the elements that I liked about the previous two novels simply weren't here.

Also, for whatever reason, I saw the final twist coming a mile away, despite the incredulity of it. His novels are so formulaic that many of the plot twists can be predicted long before they're revealed.

All that said however, if I judge it purely as a thriller, it has plenty of exciting action and it's certainly a page turner. It's not a bad bit of light reading, and one can do worse for themselves than to pass an afternoon reading it.
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LibraryThing member jsoos
Lost Symbol continues the saga of Robert Langdon, the Harvard professor and world famous expert on symbols. A neat thriller, lots of great discussions of architecture and history of Washington DC, along with a couple of plot twists (really got me - I had no idea it was coming). I thought the end dragged on a bit - could have used a tighter conclusion.

Very engaging - I read it in one sitting (actually two different flight legs on the same day) - held my interest the entire time!!
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LibraryThing member wookiemonster
Overall, it wasn't bad. I think The Da Vinci Code was better, but this wasn't bad. Though I did find one plothole as bad as Chekov and Kahn in Star Trek II... Overlooked, but glaring once it's pointed out: How did Sato get that video? Other complaints... Too many loose ends tied up sloppily in my opinion. And maybe I'm already seeing Brown's formulaic style, even though I've read only one other book by him, but there were other elements I saw coming from awhile away. Langdon, meanwhile, seems like a whiny b*tch the whole way through and way too skeptical. You would think that after his other adventures he would learn to have more of an open mind. I think this sudden skepticism is Brown's way of trying to defuse the controversy The Da Vinci Code stirred up. If your protagonist is kicking and screaming the whole way, then people can't accuse you of holding the values your character has and attack you for it... So, while I still enjoyed the story, I think Brown could have done better and held back in order to be less offensive...

4.5 of 5 stars, but then, I'm an easy grader.
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LibraryThing member katydid-it
A sort of guilty pleasure as I don't generally tend towards suspense/thriller, but Brown is a fun and fast read. I enjoyed the history of Washington D.C. and the Free Masons - especially the fact that they weren't depicted as an evil cult but instead in a favorable light. There are a few areas where I thought the plot and character development were a bit weak (Mal'ach just seemed over the top and there was a disconnect for me between his early history and his obsession with the ancient mysteries), but still a fun read. I'm interested to see the reactions to this one.… (more)

Publication

New York : Doubleday, c2009.

Original publication date

2009-09-15

Pages

509

ISBN

9780385504225

Language

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