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Previous. Next. The Lost Symbol

An intriguing novel—with reservations...

Dan Brown can cobble together a gripping tale, that’s for sure—the huge popularity of all his books testifies to it. His latest blockbuster is nearly 700 pages-worth of the same kind of stuff as he first turned out in The Da Vinci Code. It is The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Corgi, 2009, ISBN 978-0-552-14952-5).

Maybe I’m not a typical reader, but I found it disappointing overall. Sure, the author knows how to keep you in suspense, the action is well-paced, the scientific aspects apparently up to date, and the characters have enough individuality for you to keep track of who’s who, but that’s about it. The villain in particular is completely over the top. He comes over not so much as a sinister threat as a deluded nutcase.

But there are two major negatives—at least for the likes of me. First, it is a highly religious book, set against a background of Freemasonry. It touts the sad old idea that all the world’s religions point to one universal wisdom that, once discovered, will set humanity free, along with the notion that we should look for God not ‘out there’ but deep inside ourselves. Second, and more seriously, this book is far too ‘preachy’. It proclaims these ideas ad nauseam. Even the last twenty pages, where you expect a bit of climactic action and a gripping dénouement, relate a tortuous conversation that repeats yet again the same old ideas. A damp squib if ever there was one.

One could say, to balance things, that God gets some good exposure, and the book may prompt some non-religious readers to think about him. But the picture of him that it portrays is a long way from the biblical revelation. Instead, it panders to the postmodern obsession with ‘spirituality’ divorced from the personal God who has revealed himself in Scripture and, ultimately, in Jesus Christ.

The Da Vinci Code spawned a large number of books by Christians ‘answering’ its allegations. It’s hard to know what impact these may have had. This latest Dan Brown novel could well trigger another stream of ‘answer’ books, but I for one will be giving them a miss. Perhaps it will prove to be a useful talking point that will give Christians an opening to share their faith. I hope so. But overall, The Lost Symbol gets a thumbs-down from me.

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