Book – The Da Vinci Code
Author – Dan Brown
Year – 2003
Pages – 598
Genre – Thriller
Series – Robert Langdon
Having finished Angels and Demons earlier this week, I made the decision to crack on with the next in the series. These are beasts at around six hundred pages each, but I thought at least they are page turning beasts so I should be able to push through it quite quickly. As it goes, it was a bit of a chore, and I have the feeling that the main reason is because it simply isn’t all that good.
Let’s cover the story first. It takes place about a year after the events of the previous book, and the curator of the Louvre in Paris has been murdered, leaving a series of cryptic clues that must be unravelled by our hero, professor of religious studies Robert Langdon, and cryptologist Sophie Neveu. With a rampaging albino monk named Silas, a dogged French police chief desperate to pin the murder on Langdon, and a millennia long conspiracy to keep safe the secret of the Holy Grail.
There’s some positives here – there is a lot of interesting (and of course, quite arguable, history) in here, and Brown knows how to keep a plot quite thrilling. But unfortunately, I found the whole book quite a chore.
The exposition is so much that the whole thing becomes quite frankly ridiculous. Whenever the stakes should feel high, the characters spend vital time discussing snippits of trivia about art history. There are sometimes just pages and pages of just talking. The shoehorned romantic moments are terrible, and poorly done, making Langdon just feel somewhat leery – he is twice Sophie’s age, and the attraction is surely simply because they are forced together in unusual situations. It is the second time in as many books that Langdon appears to pounce on the grief of a woman, and whilst he is obviously not as predatory as that, it says far too much about male privilege that it is presented as a somewhat noble attaction.
But the worst thing by a mile is the writing. I mentioned this is the last one I think – it is corny and hardly Chaucer – but it is so much worse in this one! I started to take photos of the pages that were particularly bad, so let’s just pick out three of them.
“Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringorosa was still reeling from the blow.”
Such a mixed metaphor here! Kaleidoscopes don’t need shaking – they need turning. Maybe we should be mentioning a snowglobe. Or a cocktail shaker. Or something at the very least that should be shaken. Or not even that maybe, as it is followed up with the fact that it was a blow, and none of the above would cause a blow. Did Brown, or nobody at his publishers read this at some point and realise what a mess this sentence is.
“The exact length, if Langdon recalled correctly, was around fifteen hundred feet“
If it was around fifteen hundred feet, then it is not the exact length. That’s not rocket science, it is simply a contradiction and sloppy writing.
“Langdon and Sophie had enquired unwisely if there might be some coffee brewing alongside the tea Gettum had offered, and from the sound of the microwave beeps in the next room, Langdon suspected that request was about to be rewarded with instant Nescafe.”
For context, this is a university professional in London making the hot drinks. Because of course, in Britain we have no idea what coffee really is. We are weird little heathens who would never be able to make a coffee. And upon such an unusual request, the only thing that a dizzy headed fool like a researcher at King’s College would be able to do is to whack it in the microwave.
This one particularly wound me up. The whole basis of Brown’s thrillers is that it is full of facts and research, and yet this feels like he could remember that the British drink tea, and don’t boil water like the Americans do, but couldn’t take the time to find out what a kettle is! It is lazy. This is lazy writing. In the blog I wrote the other day about a horrific wrestling autobiography, I mentioned about how badly written everything was, but of course, this was because of the problems with self publishing a book. This book however was one of the best selling books ever at one point. Could some time and care not go into actually putting it together!
I didn’t hate this book, and it is the second time I had read it, and I don’t remember disliking it at all the first time. In fact, I will keep reading the Langdon books even after it. But I do feel a little as though I resent this book. It didn’t need to be bad, but it all too often was, and that isn’t fair, because there are far too many pages here for lazy writing.