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OK, I admit it. I'm a sucker for Templar mysteries and all things Rennes-Le-Chateau. That's not to mean that I believe every word of all the conspiracy theories (my personal beliefs are a lot closer to the underlying conspiracy in Eco's Focault's Pendulum than anything else). So perhaps it's not surprising that friends recommended me Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

I wasn't impressed. Underneath the metaphysical trappings of an author who's discovered the stories of the Priory of Sion and decided that they're a truth that needs to shake the Catholic powers-that-be lies a run-of-the-mill technothriller, reminiscent of the myriad of Clancies and Cusslers that, err, grace the airport bookshop shelves. It's probably a good thing that I was reading it on a transatlantic flight with bad movies, otherwise I'd probably have watched the films instead of reading a second rate thriller.

The Da Vinci Code is certainly not the ground-breaking novel that its die-hard fans make it out to be - if anything it's just retreading ground from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris' The Adept fantasies. There's more semiotics and codebreaking in any one of Eco's novels (or even Jasper Fforde's comedic literary fantasies), while 1970's BBC documentaries told more about the Priory of Sion and the art of Da Vinci than Brown's novel. There's also so much missing here: no mention of Rennes-Le-Chateau, Bannockburn or the paintings of Poussin. It's a half-baked work that promises much more than it delivers.

Not recommended at all. And my sympathy goes out to the caretakers of Rosslyn Chapel...

(and why does the geek in me keep typing "The Priory of Psion")


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 1st, 2004 02:47 pm (UTC)
Don't sympathise with the Rosslyn people too much, there was an article in the travel section of the Guardian the other week about how much they are coining it in since the book came out.

There are others by him, and they have similar flaws - how come I can spot the puzzle answer 5 pages before an assembled multitude of world experts? is the worst. I've read "Angels and Demons", which comes before the Da Vinci Code in the timeline (it's the Illuminati, guys!), and one about computer code-breaking in the NSA that my brain won't retain the name of. I would say your experience of reading them was appropriate - a flight or a beach, they're not worth expending Real Life Time on.

In defence of the phenomenon, I have to say that suddenly a lot of people that I work with have gone from hardly reading anything to devouring books, because a few of them discovered Brown and have been actively touting him. And I've managed to do some If You Enjoyed That You Might Like This. So we now have a Bookcrossing Library and people are swopping all sorts of stuff, and discussing their books instead of Big Brother.
Aug. 1st, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. The restoration work's now due to come in well ahead of schedule, apparently. The book is definitely a service to humanity in that respect.
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC)
Its just a crime/detective story FFS, he didn;t invent any of the theories and doesn't claim too. However, as Christopher Brookmyre pisses over everyone in the sort of off-beat crime category, I am only recommending it to people who like to switch their brain off and just enjoy slumming it for a while. Bubblegum for the brain my old English teacher used to call it.
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:32 pm (UTC)
Agreed entirely - what gets my goat is the hype here!

(And I really must read more Brookmyre)
Aug. 2nd, 2004 02:25 am (UTC)
You've read some? How did you get on, I mean I think he is the greatest, but then again, I connect with the language and the cultual background totally. Theres a new one coming out in 2005 (pouts). I need to find more authors I like as much as that!

I am drawn towards one of the books that is out that explains fully each theory in the Da Vinci code, but thats the fortean in me wants to read them, there was one very chunky one that was full of interviews, mmm.
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:48 pm (UTC)
I had to read it for my book group and wasn't impressed as you. I was amazed at all the people who thought it ground-breaking: I can only imagine they had no grounding in alternative catholicism at all.
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:49 pm (UTC)
I had to read it for my book group and wasn't impressed as you

This should ahve been I had to read it for my book group and wasn't impressed, like you.
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:52 pm (UTC)
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:55 pm (UTC)
I think I'll just go to bed and start typing again tomorrow.
Aug. 2nd, 2004 02:26 am (UTC)
You could have meant you thought it was really really bad, not just really bad!
Aug. 1st, 2004 03:54 pm (UTC)
Ah - found my review...
I've previously read "The Liar" and "Nights at the Circus" so instead I focused on "The Da Vinci Code."

Spoilers below the cut

I thought it was a passable detective thriller. Nothing special, nothing revolutionary. Admittedly I'm a lapsed catholic with an interest in the historical development of the faith so a lot of it I'd heard before, and I've read at least one of the books referenced by the novel [1]. In the late 80's.

The fact the novel is dated wasn't my main problem, though. It was badly written. Groaningly so. I identified Teabing as "the big baddy" as soon as he was introduced, Sophie's heritage was written large, the clues to follow... pah! The only suprise was the big twist at the end but by then I didn't really care.

However, I shouldn't be such an old curmudgeon. Reading it HAS awaked a wish to visit Paris and spend some time at the Louvre.

[1] The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, fact fans.
Aug. 1st, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I haven't read that one, and don't intend to, not after running into follow-up book no. 1, which I found to be a formulaic, not entirely internally consistent, third-rate romantic thriller. Templar Noir, perhaps.

As you say, fair airport reading.
Aug. 2nd, 2004 10:08 am (UTC)
It's not very good, it's true, and I can't see how it can be turned into a film since most of it consists of people lecturing each other at extraordinary length. But -- here's why I smiled a lot as I read it -- headgardener is a direct descendant of the St Clairs of Rosslyn. So (according to the novel) I've therefore married into the matrilineal line of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Bow down before us, earthlings!! ;-)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )