Customer Review

189 of 237 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Serviceable Thriller, Atrocious History, January 3, 2005
This review is from: The Da Vinci Code (Hardcover)
This is a pretty formulaic page turner, a fun quick read. Written at about the level of the average Nancy Drew mystery, it is best appreciated at that level. As far as the content, there are howlers on virtually every page (starting with the hero who looks like "Harrison Ford in Harris tweed" and is a "Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard" -- good work if you can find it). You have to ignore very pulpy, cheesy writing to enjoy this romantic thriller.

Intended as a book that a dedicated reader could finish in a day, or something you take to the beach and casually finish in a weekend, "The Da Vinci Code" makes for a reasonable airline novel, so much so that it is often a bit clunky in its desire to ensure that no intellectual effort on the reader's part will be required. Here's a recurring example in this novel: a bit of unfamiliar terminology, say "crux gemmata" (jeweled cross) will will be explained on page N, then on page N+1, a character will finger his jeweled cross and explain, "Oh, yes -- this is a crux gemmata." I've read dinner menus that were more demanding on the reader. My wife and I both read about a third of it in a day, sharing the same copy, and that's a full work day plus taking care of kids, bedtime, etc. That's also a kind of virtue, I guess -- it's fast and peppy.

As far as history goes, Dan Brown apparently thinks that "most historians" give credence to the forgeries and frauds promoted in hoary best-sellers like "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." This author gets the best of both worlds: simultaneously claiming that "it's just fiction," while introducing the novel with claims that the historical record contained within is "fact." That claim is ridiculous. To pluck a random example, he spends some time talking about the Council of Nicaea, and incorrectly summarizes it as the origin of the doctrine of Christ's divinity by Constantine. He ignores the Arian controversy out of which it arose, which is like trying to explain the Treaty of Versailles without mentioning World War I. He ignores the documented fact, agreed upon even by the cheerleaders of the gnostics that he is sympathetic to, that the earliest gnostic doctrines held that Christ was *purely* God, and not really man -- the very reverse of the doctrine that serves as the lynchpin of his novel's intellectual base (such as it is). This is a bad novel for weak or misinformed Christians, but anyone familiar with history should spot the train wreck of Brown's ideas a mile off.

Oh yes, and in Brown's world, Opus Dei has shadowy assassin "monks" (in real life, Opus Dei is not a monastic order -- there are no Opus Dei monks, let alone trained assassins), and the Catholic Church has been promulgating known lies as its central dogmas, promotes violence throughout the world, and has been retarding the progress of science and knowledge for 2 millennia. Brown leaves the reader with the impression that this, too, is a matter of settled historical record. Oh, but then again, it's just fiction. Except when it's not.

In general, if you're looking for a heady thriller wrapped around Christian arcana, I'd recommend Umberto Eco's excellent "Name of the Rose," not this dumbed down, by-the-numbers novel.
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Comments

Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 9, 2006 4:36:55 PM PST
Luis G. Osio says:
You'll be interested in www.veritasliberabit.blogspot.com

Posted on Jan 27, 2008 10:29:46 AM PST
Kallisto says:
Very, very well put.
I appreciate anyone who, by their articulate reviews, have spared me A LOT of time. ;)

Posted on Aug 27, 2008 12:25:36 PM PDT
The dinner menu line made me chuckle. Thanks for the great review.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2009 12:54:56 PM PDT
Oh cool, another Stanton. And that line made me laugh too

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 1:02:07 PM PDT
MomNMore says:
Wish I had read this before I read that. What drivel...your review was spot-on. Four years later I remain astonished that Dan Brown was so widely lauded for this foolishness. This could have been written by a high school student it was that formulaic. I was brought reeling back to 'DaVinci' when reading a review of an equally awful book by Ken Follett, "Pillars of the Earth" in which the reviewer referenced this book. A very apt comparison.

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 4:04:41 PM PDT
Js Banks says:
I read this before I knew about Amazon Reviews. Still, if you look at the ratings, a lot of people find this an enjoyable read. And there are books I love that the majority hate. Just goes to show you that you have to read the thing yourself and learn to quite a third of the way in 'cause it isn't going to get any better. It isn't even the misinformation; heck, I don't care. Monk Assassins? ... bring 'em on. It is the bad bad writing that repels me. I try to understand that tastes differ, yet part of me wants to yell at all the 5-star reviewers: "WHAT are you smoking!?"
Thanks for the review; I lose all will to live/critique after a few (hundred) pages of this kind of pap, and appreciate the energy you could devote to it.

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 1:09:16 PM PST
Jason says:
great review. When this came out I thought I was the only one that found it formulaic, and written for elementary school kids.
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