Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Review of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown



Although I read a lot, I tend to stick with the classics than with modern works. However, I do occasionally indulge in a contemporary novel, especially if it has generated so much buzz that I can't help but hear of it and be intrigued by it. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown certainly fits in this category. The Da Vinci Code is currently #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers List, and it has been on that list in varying positions, including #1, for a mind-boggling 150 weeks. Yes, folks, that's almost three full years.

Certainly a book that shows such longevity early on deserved my attention, right? Well, I thought so, which is why I finally decided to read it. I knew going in, however, that I was treading in somewhat dangerous territory. After all, no novel could possibly live up to this much hype. Last I heard, there was even a big-budget motion picture in the works, starring Tom Hanks as the main character. I had a feeling that I would read it, be disappointed, and think to myself, "That's it?" as I turned the last page. That always happens to me when I read so-called "blockbusters."

The Da Vinci Code opens with a grisly murder in the Louvre's Grand Hall. The victim is the museum's curator, who was scheduled to meet with American professor Robert Langdon. The French police soon call Langdon in to review some mysterious clues that were left by the dying man. This seemed to be a reasonable request, as Langdon just happens to be an expert on "religious symbology" and breaking strange ciphers and codes. What Langdon doesn't know is that he is also the number one suspect in the case. Once he discovers this, he finds himself in that proverbial race against time to find the real killer and clear his name.

To describe anymore of the plot details or elements would be to give away too much. This is a suspense novel, a mystery, a thriller. The specific genre label that you choose to hang on it doesn't matter. What does matter is that the author takes you on one heck of a ride. The novel grabs your attention right from the opening scene and doesn't let up until the very end. It is extremely fast-paced and hectic; in fact, I read the entire thing in less than 24 hours. It was the first time in many, many years that a book has held my attention for so long.

One of the best features of the book is the way that Brown interweaves historical facts and anecdotes with his own original narrative. But unlike a lot of other novels I've read, these facts and anecdotes aren't wild tangents that are inserted merely to take up space. Instead, they are extremely critical to the story (and to the reader's understanding of the motivations of certain characters in the story). The facts are fun and interesting; you'll probably find yourself conducting research of your own just to see with your own eyes what Brown or his characters saw.

Not everyone is a fan of The Da Vinci Code, of course. Many critics have said that Brown's "facts" and theories are way off base, and they have tried to point out specific errors in the text. Members of the Catholic Church and representatives of Opus Dei (this group plays a key role in the novel) have also spoken out against The Da Vinci Code.  I am not a historian nor a theologian, so I can't attest to the accuracy of Brown's writings one way or the other. However, I didn't read the book expecting to be schooled in history. I read it purely for the entertainment of it all, and I think that's the main reason that many others picked up the book as well.

Overall, I have to say that I highly recommend The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. You might not get scintillating prose, well-rounded characters, highly plausible plot developments, or 100 percent historical accuracy. But what you will get is a well-constructed story that will intrigue you, mystify you, and keep you on the edge of your seat for all 454 pages of text.

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