The Lost Symbol


by Dan Brown




Reader Appeal: Teens to adults


Genre: Thriller


 The Lost Symbol was a #1 bestseller for Dan Brown before it even released on September 15, 2009. It stars the man we’ve all come to love (or hate), conspiracy-cracking Robert Langdon—the guy who broke the Da Vinci Code.


This time around, Dan Brown does with American History what he did with the Catholic Church. Robert Langdon is now delving into the inner working of Freemasons, a well-known, not-so-secret society that’s been around for centuries. However, instead of albino religious wackos committing murder (a la Da Vinci Code), in The Lost Symbol we get to be creeped out by a tattoo-covered eunuch and wig-wearing hunchbacks.


Whether you love it or hate it, this is the essence of “pleasure reading,” where grit, mystery, violence, offensive viewpoints, and sex collide to melt our brains into mush.


If The Lost Symbol were a movie (and it likely will be), it would be a cross between Brown’s original bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, and Disney’s National Treasure. It features Freemasons, something secret buried somewhere, hidden clues inside important federal buildings, a secret history involving the founding fathers…and I’m pretty sure I saw Nicholas Cage do this already. Except there were fewer tattoos, severed hands, and hunchbacks.


It’s doubtful that The Lost Symbol will stir up any of the controversy that Brown’s previous books did, and maybe for those people who found them offensive this will be their chance to see what they were missing. But most likely, if you’re not already a fan of Dan Brown, this book won’t change anything. The author does find a new audience to annoy, though: scientific people, who might have been happy to see him undermine religion but may be less happy to see him go on about magic and telekinesis (after the manner of The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne).


Personally, I enjoy fantastical thrillers and romances. I like a good conspiracy or a rollicking hunt for the Holy Grail. I accept Brown’s books as works of fiction, so I’m not offended by him. I figure anyone foolish enough to take religious beliefs from a book about an albino monk murdering people isn’t taking the issue seriously anyway.


My main complaint against Dan Brown is that his writing is pretty…awful.


In The Lost Symbol, Robert Langdon drones on and on like an encyclopedia of crackpot history. The storytelling is full of bombast and over-the-top stereotypical characters. And the whole plot is just a rehash of an old formula with a new location. I can’t help but think that Brown might have gotten the idea for this book after watching a double feature of The Secret and National Treasure on late-night television. Still, he’s the one with multiple bestsellers, not me.


Undoubtedly, Dan Brown does know how to string you along and keep you reading, waiting to see what the next big clue will be, until you finally reach the secret at the end. If you like that kind of thing and you don’t mind Brown’s clunky, obtuse style, you’ll probably enjoy this book.


As far as appropriateness goes, there’s less to be outraged and offended by in this book, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything “good” in here. You won’t have your mind expanded or learn any great moral lessons from reading The Lost Symbol. It’s junk…entertaining junk, though, and there’s nothing wrong with reading purely for entertainment. Still, because of the graphic elements here, I’d recommend that parents read this book first before passing it on to their kids.


In my opinion, though, you all would be better off just renting National Treasure again and calling it a night.






Note: All book or comics-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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