I think Dan Brown is eighty.
My first clue came with the realisation that he has clearly only interacted with his peers from the warm, comfortably-lit confines of a gentlemen’s club, and as a result has only overheard rumours of recent technological advances while passing the swing doors to the kitchens on his way to the water closet, there for his quart-hourly bladder release, or possibly to watch more virile members then he (or his own) buggering one of the Boys. Phrases like –
Grail aficionados still discussed it ad nauseum on Internet bulletin boards and worldwide-web chat rooms.
– make it very clear that, whatever these net-and-web things might be, smoking rooms are more his pace. For certain he hails from an era when a computation machine was more glass and vacuum than metal because these to me relatively familiar terms are followed with equal emphasis by –
…the bank had expanded its services in recent years to offer anonymous computer source code escrow services and faceless digitized backup.
Suddenly I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, but at least find myself on an equal footing with the author. The opening two cliff-hangers of that Chapter (175) are strewn with samey-adjectives like an explosion at a clone factory: anonymous, anonymous, faceless, anonymous, anonymously and anonymity, not to mention a thrillingly italicised anonyme Lager – a proteiny, salt-water beverage I believe and something of a welcome distraction from the current theme.
Anyway, the action is hotting up and no mistake. Apart from the multitude of character motivation mistakes which litter this nahaharative (if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from Dan, its don’t give up on a winner easily). Such as Langdon’s iron-clad determination not to reveal… It …until some unspecified later, even when all logic screams for him to blurt it out now for Christ’s sake.
Sophie’s eyes flashed disbelief (–** ** *** –*** * *–** ** * **–*). “But if this cryptex reveals the hiding place of the Holy Grail, why would my grandfather give it to me? I have no idea how to open it or what to do with it. I don’t even know what the Holy Grail is!” I’m guessing the “cryptex” contains a ladies size T-shirt marked “You’re With Stupid”. Or a Garnier product, possibly shampoo. Langdon realised to his surprise that she was right despite the fact that she has been consistently right about everything since he first laid eyes on her. He had not yet had a chance to explain to Sophie the true nature of the Holy Grail. Ah, then this would be the perf- That story would have to wait. Oh yeah, why is that? At the moment they were focused on the keystone. Help, I’m trapped in an infinite regress with an idiot.
All things considered it’s pretty tough to get this guy to spit out any useful information despite the fact he seems to have all of it. As a result we get sentences like “[Langdon] choked, a fearful bewilderment sweeping across his face” or “Langdon could scarcely believe his own supposition” instead of, well, anything useful. As protagonists go, he’s a sack of shit and about as proactive as the same. He has made exactly TWO decisions since I started reading, TWO. A protagonist is supposed to be the driving force of the story, but Langdon does little except drift along in Sophie’s wake. On the other hand, here is what happens when he does get all action oriented:
What’s going on? Vernet pulled again, but the bolt wouldn’t lock. The mechanism was not properly aligned. The door isn’t fully closed! Feeling a surge of panic, Vernet shoved hard against the outside of the door, but it refused to budge. Something is blocking it! Vernet turned to throw his full shoulder into the door, but this time the door exploded outward, striking Vernet in the face and sending him reeling backward onto the ground, his nose shattering in pain. The gun flew as Vernet reached for his face and felt the warm blood running from his nose.
That’s right: we get one of the poorest action scenes ever written. Was Vernet trying to close the door with his back turned to it before it exploded outwards? How much of his shoulder had he been using before electing to use the “full shoulder”? What does that mean anyway? Can a pain be so intense that it causes one’s nose to shatter? But wait, that’s only got us to the first cliff-hanger, there’s more:
Robert Langdon hit the ground somewhere nearby, and Vernet tried to get up, but he couldn’t see. His vision blurred and he fell backward again. Sophie Neveu was shouting. Moments later, Vernet felt a cloud of dirt and exhaust billowing over him. He heard the crunching of tires on gravel and sat up just in time to see the truck’s wide wheelbase fail to navigate a turn.
Count the flaws: Could Vernet see or couldn’t he? What actually happened? (After careful consideration I believe the door didn’t actually explode – Langdon charged it from the other side; but really, weak, dude. The clearness of Brown’s writing is epitomised by the precision use of “somewhere nearby”). Another question might be, why is Brown using the full names of Langdon and Sophie all of a sudden? But most crucially of all, where was the rest of that truck?
So, I guess the less involved this hero is in the story, the better. Shortly after making this escape Langdon and Sophie go to the villai- excuse me, Mr. President: they go to “Langdon’s Good Friend’s House”, where oh my God the story finally gets to the point! For the first time in about 250 chapters Brown’s decision to bombard his text with “factual” shrapnel starts to half work, because even if you don’t believe a word of it the whole thing is remotely after-dinner interesting, if you’ve had enough wine (inadvertent Last Supper reference there, I swear it is). Therefore, I’m going to break from this analysis for a moment to demonstrate the depth of my own research.
I have managed to trace the original Last Supper images which Brown used in the development of his theories, A and B. Clearly the discrepancies begin to leap out almost immediately. In the first image, believed to be Leonardo’s memory-aide doodle, there are many irregularities of perspective, there are only eleven disciples accompanying Christ, and most shocking – the table is entirely bare! However in the second image, thought to be da Vinci’s preparatory maquette, Magdalene is presumably sat at the left hand of Christ, being the only disciple lacking facial hair (with the anchor tattoo).
When confronted by inconsistencies on this level it is easy to accept that something is terribly amiss. I’m going to be a little less flippant from now on and little more open minded and I hope you’ll all learn to behave a little better yourselves. In keeping with this realignment of my attitude towards a pro-Brown stance, I would like to make reference to what is actually, all joking aside now, not a bad piece of sentence making. From Chapter 35:
Telling someone what a symbol “meant” was like telling them how a song should make them feel – it was different for all people.
Now I would say, whether you agree with what he says or not, this is quite an eloquent piece of writing. Brown states an argument in a succinct and pleasing manner and should be given a fucking break for a change instead of being ruthlessly mocked as a pathetic hack without the slightest shred of talent. Clearly this cannot be the absolute case. There is a shred. I’ll leave it to the mathematicians to reveal the proportion of quality to overall word count.
Whoa, wait. What did I say up there? For Christ’s sake. You don’t suppose…