Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Book Review - The Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown)

It was with grave trepidation that I picked up The Da Vinci Code. As a general rule, and excluding the classics, I normally refuse to read any books that are so universally praised – there’s bound to be an anti-climax. But after much pressure from my market customers I caved to the persistent “You have to read The Da Vinci Code” comments. As most of the literate world has read the book, I’m not going to bore you with the storyline, but I will give you my reasons for thinking it fairly overrated.
For me the book started off well. I was lured into its’ intrigue and enjoyed the ambience that was created by the books’ setting and artistic backdrop. But after the first couple of chapters my concentration wavered as I became increasingly disappointed by the predictable plot. For a book that is described as a brain-teaser and a page-turner with endless twists and turns, I felt incredibly let down. Let’s be honest – do we really need a world-class cryptographer to recognise a Fibonacci sequence? Last time I checked it was part of the NSW High School Maths Curriculum. Nor does it take a Harvard symbologist to recognise Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Add all this to the fact that I knew what was going to happen 10 pages before it actually happened and in my eyes you have a bit of a fizzer that, quite frankly, was a little insulting to the intelligence.
The mundane plot aside, I also found the lead characters lacking any real personality. Dan Brown focuses so much on the plot that he fails to develop either Robert Langdon or Sophie Neveu – they are merely transporters of the story – a way to move the plot along. The real characters of the story are Da Vinci, Opus Dei, The Priory of Sion and religion itself - which is all well and good but hardly groundbreaking. You only have to turn the clock back to the early 1980s and a controversial book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail (by Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln) to see that stories about this very subject matter have been circulating for centuries.
Some might think I’ve been too harsh. So to calm the masses I will acknowledge that the book was competently written and that it’s a much better read than some of the other “crap” out there. But in my view the only thing that makes the book so captivating for readers is the subject matter. People go wild over anything that questions the basis of religion. I guess we have to thank Dan Brown for at least encouraging many people who haven’t read a book for years to pick one up again. (2 Stars)