The Da Vinci Code - A Review of Sorts
So, you ask, do you think TDC is good book? Depends on what your idea of good is. If by good, you mean that the writing is deep and mature and takes you far into the world of the book, where you feel as if you know the characters and have lived in the settings, and the phrasing of the words is sometimes so beautiful it takes your breath away, then no. If by good you mean the author manages to keep you turning the pages even though his writing is stilted and the characters are like stick figures, then yes, it was good.
Dan Brown is not an amazing writer. His books do not sell because he can perform miracles of life with a pen. I keep thinking that Brown must have one hell of a publicist for this book to garner the type of attention it did.
TDC is not the first book to take on the tenets of the Catholic church or Christianity. In fact, I think Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is far more damaging to the Christian belief system than TDC (and far, far, better written).
Where Brown succeeds is in brevity, I suppose. TDC is not a very long book and he sort of rushes through every aspect of the story, never stopping too long on one subject enough to make it a treatise which, I suppose, would turn off readers looking for a page turner.
Brown's characters elicit no sympathy from this reader. They were hollow, wooden puppets, held up - barely - by the strings of Brown's flimsy plot devices. In fact, the only character I liked - the grandfather - spends 99% of the book dead. Most of the characters were absolute cliches and Brown often resorted to phrasing that appeared to come off of bumper stickers.
Yet, I read the book in a few scattered hours. It was intriguing, but not for the storyline. Instead, it was Brown's injected conspiracy theories that kept me interested. I wonder what his motives were for writing the book; it appears to me that he wanted less to write a good thriller than he wanted to use the novel as a venue to tell people that he thinks the history of Christianity is a farce.
I see TDC as nothing more than a piece of fiction interspersed with Brown's view of reality, vis a vis the Catholic church and the history of Christ. He presents his material in such a way that people who take affront to any attack on the church will view Brown's material as heresy, rather than the rantings of a man with an agenda. I'm almost amused by those who have taken the book so seriously that they rushed to debunk it. How do you debunk fiction? How do you debunk a man's opinion? Granted, he used real agencies - The Vatican, Opus Dei - in a disparaging way, but how many books out there use other real life organizations in fiction? It's only because Brown used TDC to put a puncture wound in the faith of some that the book was taken so literally by many.
The best thing I can say about the book is that it piqued my interest in many subjects, among them Da Vinci himself, the classic artwork referenced in the novel and the mystery of the Grail. If TDC acts as a stepping stone for people, myself included, to educate themselves in areas that were previously unknown to them, then that's a good thing. However, I don't think that was Brown's intention, nor do I think that the masses who have staged a war against the book are doing; they are fighting against one man's fictional concept of their belief system, which seems like a vast waste of energy. If anyone comes out of reading TDC having their faith shaken, then I would suggest that their faith was not too strong to begin with.
As a novel, TDC is pedestrian. The plot is thin, the codes are easily seen by the reader before the characters break them, the plot twists are either telegraphed or inconceivable to the point of absurdity and the ending is contrived. It's a page turner only because Brown is a master manipulator; he drags you in with theories and near blasphemies that make you think, but he never puts these things to great use. Instead, you end up turning the page just to see how the damn thing ends. As one who grew up with a love for cryptograms, Encyclopedia Brown, logic puzzles and adventure games, I felt let down by the book; it could have offered me so much more than it did.
I didn't turn the last page with the satisfaction that I normally get when I finish a book. Instead, I was left wondering what Dan Brown's real motivation is. Which made me feel a bit used, as a reader.
Kudos to Brown for forcing me to educate myself on Da Vinci, the arts and the history of the mysterious grail. But thumbs down to him for writing such tripe and passing it off as history.