Like many people (according to one infographic I’ve found on Facebook, around 57 million) I had never heard of Dan Brown until The Da Vinci Code propelled him into fame. I did not pay the whole phenomenon much attention – I was earning minimum wage at the time and was definitely not going to spend the little cash I had on a novel by someone I had never heard of.
I did some house-sitting in those days to supplement my income. I spotted the novel on the shelf in one of the homes I was watching and decided I might as well give it a read (and before you get into me for reading other people’s books without permission – I can read a 1000-page paperback novel without cracking the spine).
Can’t say I was crazy about it. Sure, it was interesting, but every time the story started gaining momentum he would let everything grind to a halt by having one of the characters give a long-winded explanation on one of the aspects of his elaborate conspiracy theory. At the time I was like, can we please get on with the story? I thought we were running for our lives here. (I would later learn this is referred to as pacing.) Sadly, the movie adaptation failed to improve on this particular issue. And the ending…
But then we all know the novel didn’t propel Dan Brown into fame because it was such an excellent novel. It’s the controversy raised by the novel that had everyone abuzz. Reading the novel I could fully understand why it had upset some people. However, I am also of the opinion that those people should learn the difference between a work of fiction and a history book. Enough about that one.
My interest piqued, the next time I saw Angels & Demons in a second-hand shop (I wasn’t convinced it was worthwhile to buy a new book) I picked it up. I often wonder how many people know that Angels & Demons was not only written before The Da Vinci Code, but also comes first in terms of the Robert Langdon chronology. The fact that the second movie’s storyline was changed a bit to turn it into a sequel of the first doesn’t really help.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed Angels & Demons. The conspiracy theories were still there, but their explanations were shorter, most of the novel being given over to mad dashes across Rome and desperate battles against a skilled assassin. This one was a page-turner which I’d actually consider reading a second time. It did stretch credulity at one point (that would be when Langdon jumps out of a helicopter with, basically, a beach towel and plunges into the Tiber with no injuries – even Hollywood considered that too far-fetched when they made the movie), but overall it had me turning the pages. In my opinion it was much better than its sequel.
I’m slightly obsessive-compulsive, so having read two of his novels I had the uncontrollable urge to read the other two he had written at that point. Deception Point was good (though I can’t really remember what happens in it any more), Digital Fortress not so much. Maybe it was simply that I was unable to invest emotionally in all of the US government’s secrets being stolen by hackers.
Then The Lost Symbol came out. I was moderately excited about it, and would probably have bought it once the paperback edition came out. Luckily a friend who had bought the hardcover lent me hers and saved me from wasting my money.
My theory is that Dan Brown was simply trying to milk the controversy cow with this one. With The Da Vinci Code he saw how profitable it can be to mess around with people’s beliefs so he tried to do it again. I don’t have a problem with this per se – if it works, use it – but for me he overdid it with this one. The Lost Symbol stretched my belief to breaking point and at times it even irritated me as it felt as if he was trying to make things fit while hoping readers won’t notice. I finished it, not with relief that Langdon had once again saved the day, but wondering what the day had actually been saved from. (Let’s hope the movie is better.)
So, when Inferno was released earlier this year it was quite easy to suppress my OCD. I read the blurb when I saw it in a bookstore, and it seemed like it could be an interesting read, but I decided I was quite fine with waiting until I happened across it in a second-hand shop.
That was until this week when I received this in the mail:
I receive a number of electronic newsletters every month which I don’t read aside from entering the competitions they invariably contain. Apparently I had also entered a competition for which Inferno was the prize. I’m not complaining – free books are always welcome. And it’s a first edition hardcover. There will be an auction on ebay once I’ve read it 😉
Considering the special circumstances in which this book has entered my life, it has been moved up to the next spot on my reading list. I’m eager to see how that claustrophobic introvert professor in Symbology will manage to avoid imminent death and save the world this time around, especially seeing as he doesn’t even have a bullwhip.
There will probably be a review once I’m done, so watch this space.