on 23 December 2003
I was lent this book by a friend whose recommendations I normally value. This time she was dead wrong. Okay, I admit that I read the book all the way through - the premise in itself is fascinating. However, the plotting, characterisation and dialogue are just awful, and no number of references to Gnosticism, Mary Magdalene or the Priory of Sion can lift the story above holiday-only reading. You know that a writer is rubbish when he insists on mentioning the name and technical attributes of every gun, aircraft, car etc. He's more interested in his guns than his central characters, who are paper thin. But worst of all, Brown's book reeks of smug American parochiality - all the European characters are crass stereotypes, and the villain of the piece, Sir Leigh Teabing (yeah right)has dialogue so awful you expect Dick Van Dyke to jump out from behind the curtains and bang on about "Meery Poppins". Why is it that Americans seem to think we have three stock accents and are unfamiliar with the principles of electricity? Oh, I've said enough. There are plenty of great thrillers. This isn't one.
on 28 November 2004
I have to say I avoided reading this for a number of reasons until my wife picked up the paperback copy a few weeks ago. She read it in three days and handed it over to me with a hugely positive recommendation.Reluctantly I began to read and would you believe it I too read it in three days. Why? Because it's one of those books you just cannot put down once you begin reading. I love books which have a facutal basis and although 'The Da Vinci Code's' facts are very controversial and debatable it's exactly this that grabs the reader and certainly leaves you thinking at end as to how much you may have learned and the seeds which have been implanted in your mind. For this reason I would recommend the 'Illustrated Edition' - you need to be able to look at the paintings and maps as you read the book to enhance your experience.
I am reading this because it is one of the very few books on the BBC's recommended top 100 big reads that I haven't read, and I am very excited about actually finishing a list of must read books.
This is the only reason why I actually struggled all the way to the end of this book.
It was parlous. Poorly plotted with massive holes in it in terms of police procedures, time lines etc, the dialogue is execrable and the characters unutterably stupid. Given the fact that Sophie is supposed to be a crack cryptographer her failure to grasp even the simplest puzzle is astonishing, and the exposition required on every page for the plot to work is so ludicrous it reads more like a text book or a travel guide than a novel. The whole thing is a clunky, ridiculous,aggravating mess.
on 8 November 2009
I was very disappointed by this book, blurbed as "one of the finest mysteries" which I actually found pretty obvious and straightforward for the most part. I found the initial set up for the adventure to be pretty daft and hole ridden (why didn't the curator run, why weren't there more fail-safes?). My hopes from the start were pretty slim when on one of the first page it stated "All descriptions of... secret rituals in this novel are accurate". And as soon as it was 'revealed' that the code and secrets were involved with the Holy Grail I gave up pretty much all hope.
The story telling is clumsy, with the extremely short chapters making the book seem extremely bitty. The painfully slow hinting and eventual revealing of various backgrounds and histories are quite painful. It works as a mystery in that once you've started reading it, it's hard to stop, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they're interested in grail history.
on 24 July 2005
What can one say to aptly sum up this publishing phenomenon? If I were to select just one word, it would have to be merde. The plot is weak, the characters thinner than Holy Communion wafer and the writing style like something from a lego instruction manual. If I met Dan Brown I'd say "Oi Dan, you sanctimonious turd, you're book sucks the proverbial arse." Read the Da Vinci code if you really must, but you'll find more intellectual stimulation throwing plastic cups down the stairs to see how many land upright. Made my brain turn to algae.
on 12 April 2004
It's badly written, derivative, totally unbelievable and dumbed down so far that you can almost feel yourself being patted on the head as you read. How do you fill a book of 592 pages, albeit in large type for those who have to move their finger along the page as they read? One way is with polyfiller prose such as this:
"Langdon dialled the number.
The line began to ring.
One ring...two rings...three rings...
Finally the call connected."
Another way is to insert vast chunks of undigested research - into old masters, the golden section, the Knights Templar, The Holy Grail, The priory of Sion and all the other mystic mumbo-jumbo that always hangs around together. Wodges of information, simplified to the point of insult, are either introduced unannounced or put into the mouths of the characters, whose conversation thus consists of a series of miniature lectures. To save you the trouble, most of it is a rehash of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" rendered even more unbelievable by being so simplified.
And these codes? Have some water beside you to cool your overheated brain once you start to read, because they consist of such devilish techniques as mirror writing, anagrams and substitution cyphers. Fortunately, a beautiful French cryptology expert is with us to solve these fiendishly difficult puzzles otherwise I'm sure we'd never be able to follow this story to its tiresome conclusion.
This is a book for people who can't read. If you have a mind and want something in this genre then try someone who can plot and write a proper novel, such as Artuo Perez-Reverte.
on 1 June 2005
Though the opening pages promise to blow the covers from centuries old conspiracies and bring the reader into a shady world of theological and historical intrigue, the book itself sadly fails to deliver on these promises. The historical background (which the author asserts is true) is preposterous, based apparently solely on one single source (Michael Baigent's Holy Blood and Holy Grail) and consists of a thin tissue of sensationalist attempts at Christian-baiting combined with frankly ludicrous assertions on the part of the author. To claim that this collection of unfounded myth and historical legend constitutes a gripping and realistic historical background is frankly absurd.
Taking the story on its own merits (leaving aside the poor research and history), we find that it actual has few. If anything we can credit Dan Brown with being able to weave a well-paced story. Everything moves along at a good speed, so we at least never get too bogged down in one place. However, that is about the only good thing it has going for it. The characterisation is frankly cardboard. The lead characters are about as convincing and interesting as a piece of wood, although that would be unfair to some pieces of wood I've seen. John Langdon, world famous symbologist, is teamed up with an alleged expert codebreaker and yet they fail to notice codes and clues until chapters after I, the reader, had figured them out. Mirror writing? The average 6 year old could figure that one out faster than Langdon and Neveu. There is absolutely no reason to care about these characters, and they do nothing to endear themselves to the reader in any way, such that I couldn't care less whether they lived or died by halfway through the book.
Sadly the plot is fairly formulaic as well. You know where most of it is going and it bores to the point that when some kind of twist finally does appear, it neither excites nor enthralls, but merely introduces an extra level of complexity in the already torturous 'plot'.
Overall, I give this book one star. It would get zero, but I suppose it deserves one for being well-paced and managing to entertain at times. However, as a piece of literature it fails on every possilble count. The characters are emotionless automata which could be bested by any high school English assignment. The plot and background are preposterous and inaccurate from start to finish. The alleged historical significance is the biggest fiction in the book, right after John Langdon's so-called 'expertise'. The overall results is a piece of insubstantial and preposterous fluff barely worth using to prop up the leg of a wobbly table.
on 23 March 2014
This is a foetid mess of a book spewed by accident from the substandard brain of one Dan Brown. It is possible that the following review contains spoilers, although since the book has already been thoroughly spoiled in the writing process it's hard to see how I could make it worse.
Essentially, the lead character, Robert Langdon, is a symbolologist who is called in to investigate a peculiar murder in the Louvre. Symbolololology, incidentally, is I think one of those subjects they only teach at former polytechnics, like Klingon or horse studies.
Anyway, from this bloody beginning, Langdon is gradually drawn into a vast conspiracy which implicates the entire Catholic church but oddly involves no paedophelia whatsoever. Along the way he meets a Frenchwoman and a cripple who is English (and therefore evil). He also spends a great deal of time spaffing on about symbololololology, all of which finally comes to a head when the grand secret - that people have sex - is finally spilt.
Brown's prose is so apocalyptically awful that my eyelids nearly glued themselves shut in self-defence. You know the story behind The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, in which tragically-paralysed author Jean-Dominique Bauby was forced to blink out every letter as he dictated the manuscript? Well, Brown appears to have written Code in a similarly laborious manner, by banging his head against the keyboard for fourteen billion hours and then deleting anything he didn't recognise as a word while still concussed.
The characters, despite what is supposed to be a burgeoning romance between the leads, are as bland and uninteresting as a magnolia urinal. Particularly irritating for me was the man who is English (and therefore evil), who is so massively, unrealistically English (and therefore evil) that you start to wonder whether Brown knows that England is a real country, not some Atlantean Narniaverse full of overeducated, well-spoken people who live in castles and take tea far too seriously (and are evil). And how the hell is it possible for even a writer as dreadful as Brown to make a masochist albino hitman monk BORING?
The Da Vinci Code is a runny compost heap of a book, to be recommended only to people recovering from traumatic head injuries that have wiped out their critical faculties.
on 12 July 2004
...which isn't such a bad thing, really. It covers similar ground (approximately) but lacks the others depth, genius and complexity (and it's glorious final twist). What the Da Vinci Code does offer, however, is a great fun fast occult conspiracy thriller, with engaging characters, smart action and a good easy reading style. Take everything it contains with a fistful of salt, however - Mr Brown doesn't do a very good job of deliniating fact from fiction, tending to blur real and fictional figures easily. The most annoying point of the novel occurs right at the beggining, oddly, when he presents a page of "facts" outside the fiction to validate his work - but at least one of them is discredited beyond being taken seriously. In the end, this book isn't half as deep, philosophical or revolutionary as it thinks it is is - but as a good fun holiday read its worth a look. And regarding Mr Brown's supposed great historical research, most of it seems cribbed from one or two sensationalist books (Holy Blood Holy Grail, for example) - most of the mythology and legend I was already familiar with and I'm certainly not a world famous symbologist....
Gosh, there are some pretty huge problems with this book. However, listen up: simply saying, as many reviewers have, "Remember, this is fiction", misses the point entirely. Firstly, it seems to suppose that the factual errors and misconstrusions are ALL that is wrong with The Da Vinci Code, as if you can sweep away all the myriad criticisms with that one sentence: This is fiction. Not so! There is a lot more wrong here than just Brown getting things wrong. I myself could probably get past all the errors - if they did not all pile up so heavily with other factors as well.
Oh, and by the way, we do not "deem them [the controversial facts] false" - they ARE false. "Wicca is an ancient religion", says Brown at one point. Quite simply, WRONG. Wicca only began in the 50's, with Gardner and Alistair Crowley. Paganism is ancient, but that's a different thing all together.
So, aside from all his glaring errors or fact, what else is wrong here?
Firstly: it is badly written. The sentences are clumsy; turgid; lumpen. There's no showing, only telling, as well. There is no art, AT ALL, in the language. It's bland, the grammar is bad, there are so many superflous words littering the text that removing them all would reduce the books length by about 100 pages.
Secondly: the characters are cardboard. They have no personality, absolutely no depth, and they are all (without exception) whopping cliches. The beautiful, enigmatic code breaker? The eccentric British aristocrat? The bumbling police forces? Ridiculous. The most interesting thing about the protagonist is that he has a Mickey Mouse watch.
Thirdly: the codes and clues are ridiculously easy to break. Annoyingly so. Simpole anagrams? Fibonnaci numbers? Simply holding a text up to a MIRROR to reveal its secrets? Come on, Mr Brown.
Fourthly: There is so much extraneous detail. Brown sems to have thrown in absolutely everything from his research, and a good 50% adds nothing at all to the story.
Fifthly: The suspense is of the worst possible kind. It is not true suspense, but simply holiding things back from the reader. This is NOT suspense, it's merely toying with the reader. Oh, and breaking scenes in half by introducing a chapter break, al la James Patterson, which encourages readers to continue reading, is also not good suspense. They read on through the suspensefullness of the story, they read on just because the scene hasn't finished.
Sixthly: It is insulting to its readers. Nothing can disguise the fact that is a poor book, even if you enjoyed it (which I did). The ENTIRE novel is built on one horrific misconception on Brown's part, that being the idea (which Brown expounds several times) that The Fall resulted from Eve eating an apple. She did NOT; it is a common belief, yet apocryphal. Eve actually was said to have eaten the "fruit of the tree of Good and Evil". That the conclusion of the book, the last twist and the entire resolution relies on this misconception had me INCREDIBLY angry, and it is not because I am pedantic. It's because if Brown is not aware of his mistake, that is incredibly poor research, especially as he is a "Christian" as he says on his website. If he IS aware that what he has written is essentially wrong, and he expects readers to swallow it, then that is incredibly insulting.
This is a bad book. An incredibly bad book. Yet I give it three stars. Why?
Because I raced through it. I was entertained by it. It kept me turning the pages because, despite the fact that the story is nonsense and the characters vapid, I was interested in where it was all going. If you want an engrossing read, this is it, although only if you can ignore all that is wrong about it as you're reading. If not, keep away.
Foucaults Pendulum is better; so is The Name of the Rose. So is The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza. All lovely cerebral books, with the added bonus of having true intelligence to them.