on 18 June 2006
The Da Vinci Code
The highly acclaimed Da Vinci Code (written by Dan Brown) was published by Corgi, and has been subject to much controversy due to its daring and even slightly blasphemous content.
The New York Times best seller tackles such delicate issues as the authenticity of the Bible, as well as portraying the Church as a sinister organization, riddled with bribes, blackmail and organised crime.
The epic murder-mystery style book begins with Robert Langdon (fans of the author may recognise him from Angels & Demons) being woken at an obscene hour by an urgent phone call. True to Dan Brown's writing formula, a significant curator at the Louvre Museum has been discovered by the authorities, dead. As a religious symbologist, Langdon was called in to examine the incongruous array of ancient symbols surrounding the recently deceased.
As you may have deduced, the Da Vinci Code is set in contemporary Paris and throughout the book, fords the channel to Great Britain. And, after several revelations, high-speed, cinematic car-chases, and encounters with a formidable albino monk, the book reaches its climax in the heart of Westminster Abbey.
The plot revolves around Harvard professor Robert Langdon, whose enthusiasm and determination to decipher the many codes and riddles scattered throughout the book, and keep his friends from harm's way proves vital to the intricate plotline.
The enticingly enigmatic Sophie Neveu also plays a critical role in the plot. Being the granddaughter of Jaques Saunière (the recently deceased curator), she was always destined to be implicated in the post mortem. On top of this, she is also in the employment of the French Judicial Police via the cryptology department.
As well as being Jaques Saunière's granddaughter, Sophie is also the sole heir to the Priory of Sion (an ancient secret society, founded to guard an ancient, sacred secret)'s key to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. The reason for this is that Jaques Saunière was a significant member of the Priory. Sophie did not, however, realise this until too late, as she had not made contact with him in ten years, due to a childhood memory which still haunts her throughout the five hundred and ninety three pages of the book.
One particular moment which embedded itself in my mind, took place at the Zurich bank. The scene's action sparked off when the volatile bank manager (Andre Vernet) makes the rash decision to aid and abet the two fugitives (Langdon and Sophie) in evading the clutches of the French authorities. A series of transfixing events ensue, each one more unanticipated and unforeseeable than the last.
Told in third person through the eyes of Robert Langdon, this gives the book a flavour of realism and makes the reader feel more involved in the events that unfold. There are short periods throughout (a few paragraphs), when the story is seen via Sophie Neveu's point of view, but these instances are few and far between. This switch in perspective contributes to the book, by allowing the reader to observe events from multiple points of view.
The narrator is constant throughout, but a few chapters are told in flashback style. Several events are related by characters in the book themselves i.e. reminiscing.
The language used is vivid, and the author's vocabulary is vast and varied. Due to the nature of the book, a variety of technical terms are used to enhance the reader's comprehension of the plot. Don't worry however, as the terms and diagrams are always reader-friendly and nearly always explained in further detail in parenthesis or a side-paragraph. The author has one noticeable tendency though; repeating verbs. For example, Dan Brown describes Sophie's Smart-Car as being "gunned" forward repeatedly in neighbouring paragraphs. This caught my attention, in a bad way. The author's lucrative amounts of technical explanation more than compensate for the somewhat necessary lack of poetic description.
The book is awash with riddles and puzzles, and the prominently English dialogue is occasionally mingled with French. Which is kind of inevitable, considering half of the book is set in France.
The subtlety of language is used heavily in the many puzzles and anagrams laced throughout the book, as well as the author playing on natural human preconceptions. Bearing this in mind, I'd say that the book was written with adult readers in mind, and could scarcely be comprehended by a reader with a low attention span. The Da Vinci Code is, for the most part, an earnest book, that tackles some earnest issue. However, the text is occasionally spiced up by humour, usually in the form of a witty quip or flippant remark from an exasperated Robert Langdon. The text size of the Corgi edition of the Da Vinci Code (the edition I have in front of me) compliments the book perfectly; a small, yet legible size, which confident and independent readers should have no trouble coping with. Also, due to its length, it is printed on wafer-thin pages- rather like the Bible. This is also a congruent decision, as the plot practically revolves around the bible and Christianity.
Whilst reading the book, you might get the impression that the plot progresses at a crawling pace, however, this feeling is only emulated, because the plot consists of several intricately intertwined events, each unfolding in fast succession.
The book is a welcome mix of fantasy, reality and myth, and could therefore potentially be enjoyed by a wide a range of readers.
on 1 April 2004
If I had bought this book simply to read as a thriller, then I really would be a "schmuk", as stated in a previous review.
The thriller element is only a pretext to tell a larger story, so all the beefs about Dan Brown's abilities in this style are just so many wasted words.
And judging by the complete SPLIT between people who love this and people who hate this piece of work, it has COMPLETELY SUCEEDED in touching a nerve regarding the element of missing truth and coverup in how our secular world and spiritual world is managed by governments and by the Vatican.
I daresay it reflects the split between right and left political thinking as well and painfully exibits the power of brainwashing our society has undergone in 2000 years of history simply by the story's examples of symbolism.
I would highly recommend this book to you if you are a person with an open mind and who questions the excepted dogma of the church and your government. If you are already of the conservative persuasion, then please....buy a transcript of Scott McClellans daily White House press briefings, pour a hot cup of coffee in your favorite Dick Cheney mug and stay away from questioning works such as these that will strain your reasoning ability.
I'm sure the Vatican is unhappy about this book as I'm also sure that George Bush and the powers-that-be will do anything to keep women out of positions of true power.
This work deserves 5 stars for upsetting the apple cart*****