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Dan Brown

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Tiki Tom, Sep 20, 2017.

  1. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    It looks like Dan Brown has a new one about to be released. Either you love him or you hate him.


    My first DB book was Angels and Demons, which I enjoyed very much. I devoured it in a couple of days.

    I refused to read The Da Vinci code, primarily because I had already read Holy Blood, Holy Grail and (without following the plagiarism trial very closely) had sympathy for its authors.

    Then, in prep for a trip to Florence, I reluctantly picked up Inferno. Again, I enjoyed it a lot, despite myself. (Also saw the movie, which completely "flipped" the ending.)

    His stuff is definitely formulaic. Origin will no doubt be more of the same: A chase through Europe, trying to decipher clues, learning a lot of fascinating information about some obscure historic or religious topic, and ---of course--- some aspect of cutting edge modernity will be tossed in for an added "wow" factor.

    This time the location is Bilbao, Spain, and "as they navigate extreme religion and hidden history" they are searching for a "cryptic password" that will unlock "two of the fundamental questions of human existence" and reveal a "breathtaking truth that has long eluded" humanity.

    Sigh. I'm in. I'm a total softy for European travel, obscure history, and high-stakes races against time. Now if only Mr. Brown could do something about Robert Langdon's wardrobe.

    Any other Dan Brown readers out there, reluctant or otherwise? Any comments on his plots, characters, movies, or controversies? Fire away!
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  2. Count me in the "hate him" group. i place him in the Harold Robbins, Sydney Shelton class writers....yes I admit to being a snob of letters.
  3. I picked the Da Vinci Code up in Malta airport in 2006, for no better reason than I had nothing to read on the plane, and people kept expecting me to have an opinion on it because I'm religious. Being charitable, I'd say it was a cracking b-movie yarn, very, very badly told. (Granted, I'm sure there are those who feel the same way about the Bible!) The pop culture references (in particular, the one that sticks in the mind is Eyes Wide Shut) were perhaps the clumsiest I've ever read. It's claims to 'truth' in its statements about the art grated on me as they are no more "truth" or "proven" thqan my theory that the Mona Lisa's smile was down to her having experienced a bout of flatulence while sitting for the portrait and being amused by that. The fact that so many people took it seriously.... meh. Give me the jack the Ripper Diaries, or The Hitler diaries if we're talking about made-up truths... Where it ultimately falls apart for me, though, is why - if you had irrefutable proof that Christianity as we know it is bunk - you would hide away and keep that secret, rather than exposing the church which characters like Leigh Teabing see as such a great evil..... Needless to say, I've not sought out any of his other books having been so singularly unimpressed by that one. I did watch the film - flawed, still, but vastly superior in terms of its narrative (and interesting as to how they deal with some of the themes in the book, presumably with a paticular eye on what will and will not fly in the US market). The seond film - the one about how Washington was established by the Freemasons and the US government is a Freemasonry conspiracy or some such - was a bitg of fun foregettable fluff I saw on a plane, though I doubt I'll see out the book. It's such a shame really, as it's such a cracking conspiracy theory story that it really deserved to have been told well.

    In terms of the copyright dispute over whether Brown ripped off Holy Blood and Holy Grail, it's worth noting that the latter had dropped into obscurity after its 1980s publication, but sold many, many copies off the back of the publicity around the legal action. There was a lovely conspiracy theory at one point that both of them were ultimately owned by the same publishing interest at the top level, and it was all generated purely to help sell both books. Amsuing, though I'm not au fait enough with the ownership of the various publishing houses to be able to pick that up.
    scotrace likes this.
  4. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Oh, I don't know that he is as horrible as all that. Thankfully he spares us from graphic and gratuitous sex scenes (at least I don't recall coming across one). As far as his writing goes, it is workman-like enough. Sometimes he repeats himself to make sure we got it, which can be annoying. Sometimes his sentences are awkward. He's no great prose stylist; but adventure stories aren't usually shooting for the Nobel Prize. It is hard to argue that he doesn't grind out interesting stories that keep a lot of people on the edge of their seats. His whole schtick is to tell a tall tale with danger and mystery that is tied to some little-known aspect of history; to take his readers into an exciting alternative world for a couple of hours. Inferno did not change my life, but it was a fun bit of escapism... and I did learn a lot about Florence and Dante in the process. I get it that people might shrug and say "Dan Brown is not my cup of tea", but that's different from actually despising him. Oh well. One thing is for sure: With a new book coming out, he is guaranteed to be savaged by the literary critics. In a way, the guy has been cursed by his own immoderate success. Hard to feel too sorry for him. But still.
    I, for one, am curious to find out what "breathtaking truth" will be expounded upon in Origin. I tend to pile up small things to look forward to in life, and this new bout of escapism is on my list.

    Foch likes this.
  5. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

    Hi Tom, how you doing?

    I'm going to sound like a snob, so I'll straight up apologize for that and assure you that it isn't my intention.
    I like Dan's books but I always feel that he's only writing books with the aim of them being made into movies. Kind of the same with Micheal Crichton. There's nothing especially wrong with that, but it's kind of the McDonalds end of the genre.
    If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Umberto Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum', which covers all of the ground Brown covers, and a whole, whole lot more. It's very dark, and clever, and (surprisingly for a major award winning book) out of print the last time I checked- how's that for a book about grand conspiracies!
    belfastboy, Tiki Tom and Harris HTM like this.
  6. Harris HTM

    Harris HTM Practically Family

    well, you actually can NOT compare one of the greatest writers of all time such as Eco with Brown (of which I am a hater)....
    When I first read "The Name of the Rose" 20+ years ago I was never the same again - I actually had the last sentence of this masterpiece tattooed in my arm.
    Tiki Tom likes this.
  7. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Hi, Big J. I think you pretty much nailed it. Dan Brown writes like he is setting up scenes for a movie. As for the McDonalds end of the spectrum: maybe. But my view is that so few people read these days and, out of that small group, it is an even smaller percentage who are interested in foreign cities and arcane trivia about history... with the end result that "the McDonald's end of the spectrum" is still a fairly sophisticated bunch. On my typical train ride each morning, I see 2 people reading books and 48 with their noses in their smart phones.

    Mr Harris, I'm also a fan of Umberto Eco. Have read both The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum and enjoyed them both. (I'm going to have to go tack to TNOTR and revisit the last sentence!) which maybe points out why I will pick up Dan Brown in a pinch. I'm a voracious addict for yarns that weave ancient mysteries into modern plot lines. Or good stories rooted in history. I've purchased MUCH worse than DB in my effort to feed that monkey on my back.

    Interesting discussion. Best regards to you both!
    Harris HTM likes this.
  8. Harris HTM

    Harris HTM Practically Family

    10-15 years ago in any train between Rotterdam and Amsterdam you could see literally every single person reading a book or a newspaper. Nowadays I'm probably the only nerd reading a book and not wasting my time on Instagram.

    Nomina Nuda Tenemus = we are left with naked names.

    I can imagine. Since the early 00's when the Da Vinci code became a trend, every single person who wrote something about ancient mysteries, conspiracies, etc, got immediately published.
    If you want something similar to Brown but much better then I'd advise Arturo Perez Reverte from Spain. Not on par with Eco (or any of my favourite writers) but miles ahead of Brown who indeed writes with the subsequent movie in mind!
  9. Harris HTM

    Harris HTM Practically Family

    By the way, I just noticed you come from Austria. I'm currently reading the Man Without Qualities by Musil.
  10. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

    @Harris, yeah, Eco's work is world class, and that's why I kind of think of Brown as the McDonald's version.

    @Tom, before smartphones, everyone here read the printed word in trains. You almost never see that anymore, I agree. And I guess it is good if Brown can get people to pick up a book and put down their phone (says he, writing on his phone!). But I think that ultimately we'll all end up reading ebooks and paper books will be as frowned upon as clubbing seal cubs for their fur due to ecological reasons. It's that old thing of having to cut down every tree in the planet to give everyone in India one roll of toilet paper (or something).
  11. Interstingly, here in London I'm also seeing many more electronic devices, but (perhaps because so much of the network is underground and, as of yet, has no mobile signal) it's as likely to be an ebook as anything else. I prefer a "real" book when I have the option, myself, but an eBoois great for trasvelling - and I'm all for folks reading, no matter ho they get the words in front of them.
  12. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Mr. Harris... We seem to have similar reading habits. I've also read Arturo Perez. Particularly "The Club Dumas" some years ago. I recall being a little disappointed by it, although I can't remember why (it was 10 years ago or more, after all.) Speaking of Dumas, next in my line-up is "The Black Count" by Tom Reiss, the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Dumas' swashbuckling father who rode with Napoleon. Can't wait. But I admit to throwing in a little trash, too, if the plot appeals to me. "Kingdom" by Tom Martin comes to mind about the search for Shambala in the Himalayas. It got terrible reviews on Amazon, but I enjoyed it for what it was: an adventure romp littered with strange historic trivia. Great fun, if not great literature. And that's okay too.

    Edward... I'm feeling more and more like a dinosaur for my antique and dowdy love for actual paper books. But I am okay with Kindles and the like. What I really need to get over is my stereotype that young people don't read anymore. It is probably not really true. Although it sometimes seems that EVERYONE is working on a book or a screenplay, but NO ONE is reading them. Again, probably not quite true.

    But, back to Dan Brown, I'm curious as to how he landed his first book deal and how he has risen to such fame/money/popularity. It somehow seems improbable.

    P.S. -- Look at the locations taking part in this discussion. I'm impressed with how the Fedora Lounge has become something of a "Fedoras without Borders". Pretty neat.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
    Edward likes this.
  13. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

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  14. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    I usually don't read the "book of the moment", but I caved and decided to read The DaVinci Code because I was curious what everyone was talking about. I didn't finish it. In fact, I literally threw it against the wall because I was so frustrated with it. I'll never read another Dan Brown book again.
    DNO, tropicalbob, Big J and 1 other person like this.
  15. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, the NY Times gave the new book a fairly positive/decent review:


    (One of my colleagues bought it in hard back and says that he is enjoying it so far. And he says he is doing a lot of Googling to fact check DB, so my colleague claims to be learning a lot in the process. Being a cheapskate, I'll probably wait for the paperback edition.)
  16. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

    @Tiki Tom, that review from The Guardian was brilliant! If the whole book was really written in that style, I'd definitely read it!
    Dan Brown is into a good thing, why shouldn't he milk it for all it's worth? Better than letting all his knowledge go to waste. Just not my cup of tea.
    At least he isn't just regurgitating Wikipedia pages like some other authors (Haruki Murakami, I'm looking at you, you overrated hack).
  17. Cocker

    Cocker Practically Family

    Thought about it when we were in London last month. I've never seen so many kindle or other digital readers for years!

    As for the mobile phone, some people are actually reading on them. I have the Kindle app on my smartphone, as well as an ePub reader, and altough I prefer paper books, I also read some on it. I cannot help feeling that I'd better see someone read a book on his phone than not reading at all.
    Edward likes this.
  18. tropicalbob

    tropicalbob My Mail is Forwarded Here

    What a great writer. His description of the nightclub singer, early in the book, is one of the best things of its kind I've ever read. I've also been reading everything I can find (in English, unfortunately) by Robert Walser, another Austrian. I had no idea there were punks in the 1920's.
  19. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    Brown didn't really come from nowhere, he wrote three unexceptional and only modestly successful novels before DaVinci. I suspect that some of his impetus to write TdVC and the research behind it were several non-fiction books on Freemasonry that came out just before. One of them was The Hiram Key. It's important to note that these books were very successful for non-fiction works and paved the way for the interest in The DaVinci Code. It was perfect timing more than anything else.
  20. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    I just want to close the loop on this thread.

    I received a copy of Dan Brown’s new thriller, Origin, for Christmas. I just finished reading it. Well, what can I say? It was good. Better than Inferno, I’d say, and I liked that one too.

    This time I was very conscious of Brown’s stylistic writing ticks, which were a little bit distracting. Thinking important thoughts in italics was the main one.

    That minor negative aside, I have to give Mr Brown credit for his audaciousness. This book really tries to tackles the BIG questions that humanity has. Plenty of cutting edge science that I was unaware of. More than once I went to Google and discovered it was all true. No spoilers, but if you want to be “spoiled” about how life may have begun, Google “Jeremy England”. Don’t go there if you plan to read the book, which explains it much better than Wikipedia does.

    Plenty of plot twists (and some ultimately pointless diversions). I didn’t figure out who was responsible for the crime(s) until quite close to the end. Dan Brown is a futurist in this one, and at one point I was thinking “nothing new about that prediction”, but then he twisted the blade and had me thinking about it from a different perspective. He’s more philosophical in this one and ---as you’d expect--- it starts with an anti-religious tone, but softens and even becomes ambiguous by the end. In total, I found it thoughtful and balanced. I won’t spoil it, but Robert Langdon’s character receives a few unpleasant surprises and its oddly pleasurable to see him intellectually thrown off balance.

    There is plenty for the Dan Brown Haters to complain about: Robert Langdon is just a prop to hang gee-whiz facts and trivia on. I can already imagine Tom Hanks in the role. His beautiful companion is just a one-dimensional sounding board. There's a romantic side-plot that is pretty silly. The book pretty much follows the treasure hunt formula of the other books in the series. There are a couple of points where it gets a little preachy, and once or twice it was over-written. (Also once or twice he did a good job of shutting up and letting the reader figure it out.)

    Still, I was afraid that he had bitten off more than he could chew with the subject matter. Nope. He handled it expertly and even dished out a few surprises. In total, Origin is interesting, thought provoking escapism. The writing is workmanlike enough. Pretty solid. I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read. In two words: Geeky and fun. I’ll be thinking about its conclusions long after I’ve loaned the copy to someone else.

    Now I have to go out and find something to read next!
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018

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