I have used the metaphor of food to describe reading for many years now. Some books are hearty, healthy and honest like a rare steak; some are delicate and fragile, like over-wrought sugar work in a pretentious restaurant, beautiful to look at but whimsical, self-indulgent and lacking taste; some are fun, entertaining chocolates and candies; some are a cornucopia of textures and tastes. Poetry is a sauce, pungent and heady and rich.
And Dan Brown? What analogous foodstuff might he be?
A pot noodle perhaps: factory-produced, mechanically put together, somewhat gelatinous and mono-textured. With a tendency to repeat on you.
In this, the fourth Langdon novel, the Harvard symbologist is once again caught in an international crisis. Unlike the other books, Dan Brown opens this one in medias res: Langdon awakens in a Florentine hospital room, a bullet wound to the back of his head, retrograde amnesia and assassins stalking him. He is rescued and assisted thereafter by Sienna Brooks, his attending physician and erstwhile child prodigy. In fact, nothing at this point adds up for Langdon, but that is par for the course of Dan Brown. Nothing ever makes sense.
And please, Robert Langdon with your eidetic memory, when will you learn? You’re in a tense situation? Someone is offering you help and guidance? Have you not leant yet that every helpful person you meet betrays you? Leigh Teabing? The Camerlengo? Pur-lease!
The writing here is appalling: childish simplistic, clichéd, repetitive phrasing, characters repeatedly explaining what was happening over and over. It’s not that difficult! We can follow! Trust your reader to join the dots, Brown!
The plot is utterly absurd. Zobrist, a fan of Dante’s Inferno and a genius geneticist has convinced himself that mankind is on the brink of collapse due to over crowding. Fair enough, I trust Dan Brown’s research more than his writing. I’m sure his purported facts are broadly accurate. He devises a virus to combat the over-population of the planet. Langdon becomes embroiled with Elisabeth Sinskey of the World Health Organisation in the race to reach the virus before it is released. No echoes at all of the hidden phial of dark matter in Angels and Demons.
There. Job done. No need to read the book. Save yourself the time.
Bizarrely, this same mad scientist has drafted and written a series of codes to lead his enemies directly to the virus’ location. Why? Seriously, why? In The Da Vinci Code, the existence of the codes made sense: they were a fail safe guide in the event that the Priory of Sion was compromised; they needed to be obscure but they needed to lead to the right place. Here, they are pointless: why draw your enemy to the site? Being generous, the animosity between Zobrist and Sinskey may have been such that he was toying with her as a cat does with a mouse… Or the author just needed a fragile and cynical plot device to shoe horn Langdon in. I can’t help thinking that it may have been a better book without it being in the Langdon series. Sinskey could easily have carried the protagonist role.
And in the final dramatic denouement… Nothing happens. I have never read such an anticlimactic book. I’d love to warn you of spoilers here, but there are none! There is no plot to spoil!
Like a pot noodle, this book leaves you feeling emptier than when you began.
Dan Brown, if hanging upside down like a bat causes you to write this drivel, stop. Just. Stop. Stop it now.