A recent article in The Grauniad revealed that, “suave symbologist Robert Langdon, star of the international phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, is set for a return to the literary stage in a new thriller this autumn.”
According to The Grauniad–
The long-awaited novel – one of the most anticipated in recent publishing history – will be called The Lost Symbol, and will take place over a 12-hour period. No more details were given about its content, but persistent rumours have suggested it will be set in Washington DC and will focus on freemasonry. It will be published on 15 September with an initial print run of 6.5 million copies – the largest first printing in publisher Random House’s history.
Brown’s publisher Sonny Mehta is quoted, calling it “a brilliant and compelling thriller” which was “well worth the wait. Dan Brown’s prodigious talent for storytelling, infused with history, codes and intrigue, is on full display in this new book,” he said, adding “This is a great day for readers and booksellers.”
Well, for booksellers, at any rate, if the sales of the earlier volume are any indicator. And what, you might ask, made the first book such a success? Here are some of the reviews of The Da Vinci Code.
You’ll note that many of the reviews are from erstwhile reputable newspapers–The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune etc. British newspapers, including The Grauniad and The Observer, toed the line and gave the book enthusiastic reviews. So universal were the cries of delight and approval that I picked up a copy, expecting, at the very least, to be diverted.
I’m not a literary snob, quick to sneer at non-literary fiction, unable to pronounce the word ‘thriller’ save with a shudder. On the contrary, I revel in the work of writers like Alan Furst, whose brilliant, atmospheric thrillers set between the world wars are far superior to most of the so-called serious literary fiction I’ve read in the last 10 years. I opened The Da Vinci Code anticipating an enjoyable read.
I read the book with increasing amazement. The amazement turned to bafflement, which turned to irritation, hilarity and disbelief. The Da Vinci Code was wretched almost beyond description. The characters had all the reality of shop-window dummies. The dalogue was alternately wooden and tortured. The characters (and I use the term very loosely) appeared to have learned to speak English at The School For Endless Dependent Clauses.
Brown, whose mastery of ungainly exposition matches the King of DOA prose, Jeffrey Archer, is laughably inept. He is a great exponent of that hallmark of the bad writer: the extraneous character who briefly appears for the sole purpose of explaining the latest plot developments to another minor character (i.e. to the reader). That’s Brown’s idea of how to propel the narrative forward. The only reason I finished the damn thing was because I couldn’t quite believe it could be that rotten all the way through.
My mistake. It was. Reviewers had hailed the marvelous intricacy of the plot and wrote of its surprising plausibility. In fact, the so-called ‘plot’ could, as Martin Amis once wrote in another context, have been exploded by five minutes thought or a single phone call. It was the dullest, most moronic, most implausible, worst written and least enjoyable book that I had read in many, many years.
What were The New York Times, The Grauniad and the rest thinking? Of their advertising revenue, I expect.
The new book will, of course, be even worse. Writers like Brown don’t get better, especially when the previous effort sold millions of copies. The evidence of his bank account tells him he’s a great (or at least competent) writer. He is not. He is a rotten writer.
The last time around, rumours circulated that the rather sinister and secretive organization Opus Dei, Catholic nutcases with friends in high places, were mounting a plot to ‘eliminate’ Brown for the sin of exposing their secrets. The rumours were almost certainly started by his publishing company or the ubiquitous Max Clifford (that bugger gets everywhere).
However, in the unlikely event that the rumours prove to have some basis in fact, can I take this opportunity to wish Opus Dei well?