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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Brown, Dan: The Lost Symbol

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol continues the adventures of Robert Langdon, Harvard Professor of Symbology, a genius with an eidetic memory whose peculiar ability to interpret symbols lands him in hot water more often than his job description would lead you to suspect. This time around Langdon is summoned to Washington D.C. by an old friend, Peter Solomon, who asks him at the last minute to give a talk in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Needless to say, the trip doesn't go as planned, and Langdon finds himself plunged into yet another crisis, this one brought on by a religious crazy with a thing for tattoos. Saving the world--or at least the United States--involves Langdon in a sort of treasure hunt that leads him to explore the Masonic underpinnings of the country and the Masonic imagery that decorates many of its monuments.

I've enjoyed Dan Brown's books in the past because they are--or have been--page-turners. (See my reviews of Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, Deception Point, and Digital Fortress.) The DaVinci Code, for example, starts with an exciting scene, as a killer chases the curator of the Louvre through the museum. Strangely--unfortunately--The Lost Symbol is very slow to get going. The action doesn't begin in earnest until about a third of the way in. Instead, there's a lot of exposition--Langdon explaining the significance of this or that symbol. When things do finally get moving the story moves quickly, though it's still periodically slowed by further explanatory passages. Similarly, the final ten percent or so of the book is extremely dull, the surviving characters blathering on about religion with the unwelcome fervor of evangelical door-knockers. This 50-odd pages of boring (mostly) dialogue is tacked on after the dramatic stuff is over, which is to say that it's close to completely unnecessary to the story. It's also hard to believe, after everything the characters have been through by this point, that they'd opt to tour some Washington landmarks and lecture one another about religion and science instead of going home to nap. This part really should have been cut.

A few other things bothered me about the book. In no particular order:

  • Inoue Sato, Director of the CIA's Office of Security, does not come off as a credible character. I also found it impossible not to picture her as the diminutive, accented seamstress in The Incredibles.
  • Particularly in the first third of the book, the prose is interrupted frequently by the characters' italicized thoughts. Used more sparingly, this would have been fine, but it's overdone, the must mundane of thoughts sometimes meriting this kind of attention:

"Langdon left his coffee half made and hurried toward his study to return the call.

"I hope he's okay."

  • In addition to threatening the lives of Langdon's friends, the chaos planned by this book's bad guy also threatens national security, as we're frequently told. Hence the involvement of the CIA. But while the impending crisis might indeed have serious repercussions, it somehow fails to terrify. It's rather like threatening someone with a really bad splinter that will eventually become infected and might result in the loss of a limb. Worrisome, to be sure, but it doesn't get one's attention the way, say, the threat of a gouged-out eyeball would.
  • For all his brilliance and his ability to make startling intellectual leaps, Langdon sometimes comes across as profoundly stubborn and rather slow. (I actually beat him in recognizing the meaning of one series of symbols near the book's end. This does not speak well for Robert.)
  • It was inevitable that some drama or other would play out in the pitch dark of pod 5 of the Smithsonian Museum Support Center, where Katherine Solomon, Peter Solomon's sister, has her lab. I thus understand why things had to be left dark for dramatic reasons, but for the life of me I can't imagine otherwise why the woman never invested in a flashlight.

In short, a lot bothered me about the story, but the main problem is that it's a good hundred pages too long. Cut out the lectures so the book is action-packed right out of the gate and doesn't end with a whimper, and it would be a much better read, on a par with the author's earlier works.

Comments

1.

The lost symbol ..... lovely review...

2.

I read The Lost Symbol in 11 hours. Although it was anti-climactic and very predictable, there was something that I couldn't shake. Something that was on the tip of my tongue in terms of the "deeper" meaning to the book. Just by chance did I come home one day to my fiancée reading The Secret. I felt like I just had a Langdonesque revelation. I have read The Secret a couple times and the connection was immediate. I opened the first page of The Secret and the opening quote blew my mind. "As above, so below". I realized that Dan Brown's illustration of Noetic Science was the scientific measurement of The Secret. The Secret also makes a big connection to the "in between the lines" of the Bible and unlocking the mind's power of manipulating the world around us. The Secret points to Newton, Einstein, and others that are also referenced in The Lost Symbol. I'm not saying that The Secret is true, but Dan Brown takes a shot at justifying it scientifically. Loves it.

3.

The entire notion of Noetic Science was amazing to me. Overall, I too thought the book was anticlimactic, but never-the-less a good read. He is an amazing storyteller and does a great job of weaving in some meaning to his fiction.
Look forward to his next.

4.

I am a voracious reader averaging two books a week; and not small, sleek volumes, mind you! My tastes run in the genre of non-fiction mostly, though I have read a few of the classic novelists; Dickens, Hardy etc. And, I must say there was a time when I was quite smitten with the Rowling woman and her bewitching characters. However, as I stated, I am more interested in history and social sciences and therefore, non-fiction.

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