Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Robert Langdon and the House of the Temple of Doom

Written by: Dan Brown
Published by Bantam Press
Released: 15th September 2009

Given the grand and exponential scale of commotion, controversy and criticism aimed at Dan Brown's last speculative murder-mystery tome, not to mention the renewal of interest following the release of the Tom Hanks-starring film versions of protagonist Robert Langdon's two prose adventures (the latest of which, Angels & Demons, was released on DVD to coincide with The Lost Symbol's book launch), it is hard to believe it has been over six years since The Da Vinci Code first confounded, enraged and entertained readers and religious leaders the world over. But these things take an excruciating amount of research.

Which is why it's a relief that symbologist and lecturer Robert Langdon is back in The Lost Symbol to process, question and explain all the head-scratching historical facts, fallacies and theories thrown before him, with an abundance of everyday examples (The Abyss, YouTube and Twitter help bring the ancient mystery bang up to date), although even he, at times, seems somewhat overwhelmed, cynical and stumped by the conspiracies he is expected to unravel as the tension mounts and time ticks away.

The conspiracy, this time around, is focused not in Paris , or in Rome , but in the US capital of Washington , and involves startling links between breakthroughs in Noetic science, the human mind, God and the Ancient Mysteries protected over the centuries by the ritualistic Freemasons. The plot is set in motion when Professor Langdon is invited to give a lecture in the US capital by long-time friend and 33rd degree Mason, Peter Solomon, however, upon arrival, Langdon discovers a sight far more unnerving than a restless audience.

The Lost Symbol twists, turns and twists again over the 509 pages and 12 hour period it is set, as the unsuspecting Harvard lecturer is dragged through Washington's ancestry, artwork and architecture in a complex kidnap saga in which the ransom is set at knowledge. Precisely: knowledge of the Ancient Mysteries, hidden in code on a Masonic Pyramid. In truth, the light at the top of the pyramid is nowhere near as earth-shatteringly calamitous as the theoretical secrets held by the Holy Grail or the Illuminati, but this doesn't stop Brown from ramping up the suspense with numerous allusions to the doom and “chaos” which would follow the disclosure of this case of national security.

Regardless, the outrageous plot is wholly gripping and unputdownable. If you liked Brown's previous works, this latest novel is written in the same sharp, blistering style, with the present day story punctuated by facts, flashbacks and a welcome dose of wit. At one point I feared Dan Brown had jumped the metaphorical shark (I won't spoil the scene, but you'll know it when you read it because you'll either groan or tut loudly), but I had faith and my fears were soon allayed by yet another twist in this turbulent if ridiculous tale.

I can't wait for the impending movie interpretation.

CR@B Verdict: As fast-paced, enjoyable and easily-consumable as Brown's other works, albeit far less controversial. The Lost Symbol is an inspiring, if completely over-the-top read which leaves you with a lust for knowledge and a desire to investigate all things Noetic and Masonic.

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