Adventure, Reviews, Thriller

Review: The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, #3)The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I call this third novel in the Robert Langdon series Langdon at his most obtuse yet. There is very little actual symbol/code deciphering in the 600+ pages of this book and most of what is deciphered is either done by others or all but spelled out for Langdon. I felt like he wasn’t true to the characterization from the previous books except in that Brown leaned too heavily on Langdon’s claustrophobia and acrophobia. For one, you’d think that the man who had discovered the secret of the grail would be more open-minded but through the book, right up to the end, he doubts everything he’s told about the pyramid and the legend. There’s skeptical and then there’s just ornery.
On top of my annoyance with Langdon, which is not unique to this book, this installment is boring. Rather than being a non-stop race from clue to clue, there is a lot of scientific explication, rambling passages about enlightenment, descriptions of various locations around Washington, D.C., and far too much of Mal’akh. Brown’s previous villains have been intelligent though misguided or improperly motivated but Mal’akh’s motivations are purely selfish and literally evil.
With the two prior novels, I’ve complained that I was able to solve the clues faster than the so-called expert. I can’t say that that happened in The Lost Symbol it is because the solution is more symbolic than anything, lost in a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and revealed well after the climactic scene when I was beyond ready for the story to end. However, I did quickly figure out Mal’akh’s big secret and I guess where the clues would ultimately lead, though, for the sake of the story, it was pretty meaningless by the time they arrived there. Everyone involved should’ve been in the hospital instead of continuing their grand tour of Masonic D.C. I’ve had issues with each of Brown’s novels that I’ve read but I expect certain things that keep me coming back to the series but this one failed even in delivering that fast-paced thrill and symbolic mystery.  For a while, I thought that if this one had followed the superior The DaVinci Code I would’ve enjoyed it more but…nah.

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Adventure, Reviews, Thriller

Review: The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon #2)

The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a lot of issues with Angels & Demons, the first of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books. The only one of those solved in this famous second novel was the length and at 300 fewer pages than the first book, it still feels overly long.  There was a lot more downtime during which Robert and the other characters tried to figure out Sauniere’s cryptic messages with a bit fewer moments of real peril. Once again I found myself figuring out the mysteries long before Langdon. The hint of romance between Robert and Sophie is tacked on and unnecessary.
Despite my complaints, I must admit that The Da Vinci Code was all it was meant to be before all of the controversies – an entertaining work of fiction, albeit one with fascinating ideas. The way Brown ends many of the chapters brings to mind old soap operas – “next time on The Da Vinci Code…will Robert and Sophie escape.” That’s an exaggeration but you get the picture.
Like its predecessor, amidst all the excitement, there were moments of profound truth. Also, like in the first novel, these truths were usually spoken by the ‘bad guys’. At first, I wondered what that said about me, then I realized that perhaps Brown meant to show that reason can be found on all sides; it is what people choose to do with their ideas that makes the difference. How they interpret the truths – not unlike with the scriptures that figure so prominently in Brown’s stories.

I actually read The Da Vinci Code a couple of years ago but somehow my review got lost. I only discovered this when writing up my review of the next Robert Langdon novel, The Lost Symbol, which I will be posting tomorrow.

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Adventure, Fantasy, Reviews

Review: First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5)

First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, #5)First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First Among Sequels, the fifth book in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is set some 15 years after the end of the previous installment, Something Rotten. After her adventures trying to save the real world and the book world all while getting Landen back, this novel finds Thursday in a more, settled, domestic situation. Or so it seems.
The first half or so of the novel can be slow going at times as we peer into Thursday’s everyday life with Landen, their children, and her work at ACME Carpets. The final 100 pages though are filled with everything we’ve come to expect from a Thursday Next adventure – forays into the supernatural with Spike, dealing with the wicked Hades family, trouble from the Goliath Corporation, confusing timey-wimey stuff, and several trips into the Book World. Though this one is slower at times, it is still a fun, often funny addition to the strange and wonderful series.

If you are a book lover – the kind of book lover who dreams of living inside of books – or you like your adventures with a healthy dose of craziness, I recommend diving into the Thursday Next series.  So far I’ve particularly enjoyed Lost in a Good Book (TN #2) and Something Rotten (TN #4)

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Adventure, Reviews

Review: Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1)

4 Stars

Amelia PeabodyWhat a fun book! In Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, Amelia Peabody is a woman ahead of her time whose personality and physical appearance does not fit into Victorian society. She has strong opinions, which she doesn’t hesitate to voice and a generous, maternal heart. These traits, along with her desire for adventure – of any kind – entangle her first in the life of Evelyn Barton-Forbes, whom she rescues from herself and takes on as a companion for her trip down the Nile, and then with the Emerson brothers and their embattled archeological expedition. That’s when the fun begins.
There’s a 4,000-year-old mummy stalking them at night, some wicket banter – particularly between Amelia and Radcliffe Emerson, a couple of romantic subplots, plenty of emotions left unsaid – we are talking about Victorians here, an unexpected and unwanted guest, moments of peril, and a twist that ties it all together. It is a romp. Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first book in the Amelia Peabody series, which I cannot wait to continue, may not be the greatest book ever written but it is a great, fun summer read.

If you enjoy Crocodile on the Sandbank, I recommend Soulless by Gail Carriger


Review: Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dan Brown’s first book featuring Robert Langdon, Angels & Demons, has many flaws but the critique I’ve seen most often in reviews is about the inaccuracy of the facts contained in the novel. I wouldn’t know about this but to those critics, I say: Why are you looking to fiction when what you are seeking is fact? The role of fiction is not to relate facts but to reveal truths. And, hopefully, to entertain. Despite its many weaknesses, Angels & Demons does both. While the writing style is far from brilliant, the story is compulsively readable and it stays with you long after you’ve put the book down.
That being said, Brown stretched out many scenes far too long, often repeating ideas and feelings. I feel like the novel could have been 200 pages shorter, which would have worked to make the timeline more believable. The final 20 minutes of the countdown, for instance, lasted nearly 100 pages and contained far too much action to be believed. And still the story went on without the famed symbologist, Langdon, making the connection with the most important symbol of all (insert eye roll). As for Langdon himself, I felt that Brown was trying to create some sort of academic James Bond. There was the attractive young woman in distress that he puts his life in danger to help; there is the pointless final scene between them in the hotel room; there is plenty of far-fetched action, and there’s the cheesy dialogue. The dialogue, I believe, is the weakest stylistic aspect of the writing. Mercifully, the story doesn’t require all that much dialogue. My biggest critique, though, is of Brown’s apparent lack of faith in his readers’ intelligence. Often he felt the need to spell out ideas and feelings and actions that frankly were pretty obvious. Either he didn’t believe the reader could figure it out for themselves or he lacked faith in his own ability to make it clear. Either way, his explanations only impeded the flow of the story.
Despite these issues and despite the fact that I figured out who the main bad guy was almost as Robert and Vittoria met him (again, based on the symbol that Robert apparently chose to ignore), Angels & Demons is a face-paced, entertaining read that succeeds in revealing truths and provoking deep thoughts. It may take a mind more open than that of some of the characters to see the truths spoken by both sides of the science vs. religion argument. And it definitely takes an open mind to accept a lot of the far-fetched scenarios in the story.

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