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Lazy and disappointing, seemingly rushed into print.
on 11 July 2005
After Adam Roberts's magisterial parodic take on the world of Tokieniana, I eagerly opened The Va Dinci Cod in the hope of reading a literary and intelligent parody of the publishing sensation which itself is in fact neither literary nor intelligent, the appaling Dan Brown techno-religious thrillers epitomised by The Da Vinci Code.
The book starts well, (although for some reason neither Roberts nor the author of the Asti Spumanti Code seem to have noticed that every single Dan Brown novel begins in the same way, a prologue within which the first victim is actually in the throes of his own violent death). The usual Roberts hallmarks are there - the author's footnotes painfully explaining a normal English idiom as a means of highlighting the strangeness of it, the highlighting of something of an afterthought by the original author as being rather more significant. For example, believe it or not but in the Da Vinci Code, when describing its hero Robert Langdon, it actually states that he looks a little like Harrison Ford - a clear hint to Hollywood. So Roberts extends this further and amusingly has his author more or less saying "anybody except Tom Hanks" - Hanks of course is the one who actually is playing Langdon in the forthcoming movie.
However, one has got a little over half way through the already quite short book before this kind of extended riff has gone by the wayside in favour of a more or less straight re-telling of the story with slightly different characters and motivations. There is nothing intrinsically funny about the idea of Eda Vinci, purported sister of Leonardo who is supposed to be the real model for the Mona Lisa.
Worst of all is the denouement, which goes on far too long, only has two substantial jokes in it, and at the very end simply stops, with no epilogue or other satisfying roundup of the plot of the book. Then there is a map of Central London with the fish shape, and an annotated picture of a codfish, both distinctly devoid of any humour. And that's it, the book is finished. The advertisements for other "Dan Brine" novels at the end that one would have expected from Roberts, are absent. In point of fact the impression distinctly given is that, unlike the Tolkien parody, very little thought has gone into making the book a complete, total and intimately detailed spoof. Instead, Adam Roberts was given a set number of pages to fill, has filled them - towards the end, almost perfunctorily - and satisfied his publisher. But not this reader.