No. Not this one.
Some time ago, I reviewed the megasmash success bestseller The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I had seen all manner of its popular manifestation: its name cropped up on the NYT Bestseller list, ads for it ran in The New Yorker, and, at a party I went to, the host was reading a book debunking this book. I decided to gate crash the zeitgeist and see what all the hubbub was all about.
And at the time I listened to it, I thought it read decently enough. Fast-paced with a decent dose of erudition regarding art symbology, along with a good-sized smack in the face to Christian orthodoxy. There’s a good deal too many thrillers written by morons who write as though they’re incapable of reading or those who write for people who generally don’t read.
At the time I ordered the book on CD from the library, I also went ahead and ordered Brown’s previous effort Angels & Demons figuring I’d get one or the other, listen to it, and review it. I got the more famous later book first, but the request for the earlier lingered. It arrived about two weeks before the election, and I set it aside. I didn’t want to get into the habit of reviewing the same author twice unless a good deal of time had passed.
And along the line of time passing, my opinion of The Da Vinci Code hasn’t improved. It’s just a bubblegum thriller with the added frisson of naughtiness because the plot hinges on Jesus boinking Mary Magdalene. Honestly. That’s its hook. If the boinker had been Da Vinci himself and the boinked been Lucrezia Borgia no one would give a shit. Its bestseller status is an inflation based on controversy; the books debunking it only give its argument added weight and interest; and remove the hype and it’s just an average thriller.
But I held on to Angels & Demons just in case I found myself short-handed for other books to read. After the disappointment of a shitty election result (note again to Buckeyes: you fuckers suck, and I’m ashamed to count myself among you) and a family loss, I decided overhyped cheesy thriller would do just fine.
No, this is not a review of that book. Calm yourselves, haters of Dan Brown.
No, what I intend to do here is lay out the plot and do a short review of Dan Brown’s third book starring Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon. In breaking news, it was revealed that the third book would be called The Solomon Key. It would take place in Washington, D.C. And it would feature the Freemasons.
Now for those of you keeping score: Angels & Demons dealt with the Illuminati, The Da Vinci Code featured the Knights Templar, and The Solomon Key will star the Freemasons. I sense a pattern; I wonder, likewise, if there are more.
Here’s my predictions. The Solomon Key will feature religion, specifically Catholicism. It will be about secrets hitherto unrevealed from the dark history of the Church’s whispered past. Much time will be spent discussing the architecture of Washington including the National Cathedral and their Masonic roots.
The book, like his previous two Langdon books, will open with the murder of some older esoteric specialist. Like the previous two, this will be a man, single, possibly widowed, and he will have a daughter. A hot daughter, but an intellectual babe. She will have training in the same field as the now dead father. She will waste little time grieving for her dead pappy, but will instantly be caught up in a whirlwind of events.
This whirlwind will, as unlikely as it seems, somehow drag along a Harvard professor of art, who will be called out in the middle of the night because the body of the dead guy who opened the book will have the telltale marks of ritualistic symbolic murder. Why anyone would do this will never be asked or answered. Mostly people call the police. In Brown’s world, they call Harvard art professors.
There will be an attraction between Langdon and the hot daughter, without mention of the previous hot daughters Langdon hooked up with, but the hooking up will have to wait until the book’s very end. Like a good Catholic boy, Brown will hint around at this hook up, but will save it to close the book, drawing the curtains just as the scene gets interesting.
(Now personally, after you’ve shagged a direct descendant of Jesus, as Langdon did in Da Vinci, I can’t see how one improves on that, but rest assured Brown will find away. One suspects a bloodline featuring Buddha, George Washington, and Ralph Emery of Country Music Television.)
The entire book will take place in less than 48 hours and will involve the kind of travel rapidity that just isn’t likely. As I listened to Angels, I remembered visiting Rome during a slow tourist period, and let me tell you, that town is hell to cross quickly. Yet Langdon manages in Angels to wake up at Harvard, fly in a super-duper sonic jet to Geneva, Switzerland, then Rome, where he dashes around like a madman trying to stop the Illuminati from destroying the Vatican. All in 24 hours.
There will be a plot among the Freemasons to cover up something, find something, destroy something. There will be an infiltrator into the good guys, a spy from the Masons, but not who you think. There will be a man in a wheelchair or with braces or some other physical ailment. There will be hidden meanings in architecture and art. There will be long pauses in the action while Langdon races to some other cliffhanger chapter conclusion in which he reflects upon Masonic lore, history, philosophy. And while I can’t tell that this happens because I listened to his books (and I’m relying on the word of others) there will be gratuitous and promiscuous italicization at climactic moments.
Langdon will take the kind of beating that Harvard professors don’t normally get, but because he’s our dashing hero, he will overcome. Dan Brown will masturbatorily stroke his own ego as he plots the course of his obvious authorial stand in from the moment he enters the book until the moment he enters the heroine. Something potentially offensive to millions of Catholics will be said about their religion, its history, and its relevance in today’s world — because why mess with a winning system?
The world will be saved again by the art professor, Brown will make millions, I will stay a poor, bitter critic. And somewhere between now and then, our nation’s fabric will be rent asunder by religious fanaticism.