Brown Out

Masons in Singapore gather here.

Masons in Singapore gather here.

No I’m not referring to power failures in the Philippines. (The Filipinos are masters of denial – they don’t have blackouts, instead they have brownouts.)

I’m referring to Dan Brown’s latest reappearance after six years of hiatus.

Tuesday’s email from Borders screamed “The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown Out now!”

Yup, Brown’s The Lost Symbol was released internationally last week – as with previous Brown books, The Lost Symbol should be approached as an entertaining and easy read rather than a literary masterpiece, but on those terms it is an exciting and enjoyable book.

A bizarre murder in a high-profile location, puzzles and riddles leading to clues, an irritating woman forever hanging around, trying to act smart, and trying to look cute, a wild goose chase, a group to attack – Catholics, Freemasons, take your pick, – creative license with facts, short chapters that end on breathless cliffhangers (“Something was very, very wrong”; “My God I’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake”; “What happened next, Langdon never saw coming”…), the over use of clichés – cell phones “cut the night air”; bad guys are “salivating like a lion bout to consume his injured prey,” and more than one victim is unnerved by “inky blackness”  – that seems to be Dan Brown’s formula for his last two books but readers are lapping it up for sure.

Unafraid of “sour grapes” accusations, Philip Pullman and William Sutcliffe have joined other authors criticizing Brown’s writing.

Philip Pullman, bestselling author of the trilogy His Dark Materials, attacked Brown for his “flat, stunted and ugly” prose. Pullman went on: “His basic ignorance about the way people behave is astonishing, talking in utterly implausible ways to one another.”

Brown’s unrealistic dialogue was picked up by Sutcliffe, reviewing The Lost Symbol for The Financial Times. “Brown finds his true nadir in dialogue,” said Sutcliffe, before quoting this extract from the new book:

“‘Peter’, she said, ‘you already told me that the Egyptians understood levers and pulleys long before Newton, and that the early alchemists did work on a par with modern chemistry, but so what? Today’s physics deals with concepts that would have been unimaginable to the ancients.'”

He also attacked Brown for talking down to his readers. “Dan Brown assumes his readers know nothing,” he wrote in the FT. “He refers not to the Parthenon but to ‘Athens’ ancient Parthenon’, in case you don’t know where it is or whether it is old or new.”

Salman Rushdie described Brown’s last book, The Da Vinci Code as a “book so bad it makes bad books look good” and Stephen King called it “the intellectual equivalent of Kraft macaroni and cheese.”

Despite that, Brown’s latest opus sold a million copies on day one – though that can’t beat JK Rowling’s final Harry Porter which sold over eight million copies in 24 hours – and the first print run was a staggering 6.5 million. But if it reaches the heights of The Da Vinci Code, then ten times that number will need to be churned out worldwide.

Will I read it?

You bet!

Call it guilty pleasure.

The Lost Symbol is on sale in supermarkets next to chips and salsa.

Also in book stores.

Of course.

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