I’ve succumbed to the Audible habit and the first audiobook (which I got for free) was Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, to save me buying it really, I was trying to convince myself not to, but Dan Brown is a habit like chocolate eating. Anyway, The Lost Symbol audiobook is unabridged (and hence very long) and the reading, well, it takes some getting used to, the narrator talks very very fast, only slowing down to labour a point, he was talking so fast that at first I had trouble understanding what he was actually saying, as if the book was so long as it was already, that the narrator had been told to read it really quickly to save time. But once you get into the story, your mind tunes into the speed of delivery and you get used to it, poor Mr. Lacer though, obviously not listening to the story, absolutely hated me listening to it, because to him it sounded liked unintelligible gibberish.
The actual story, well it’s back into the world of symbologist Professor Robert Langdon, slightly 24 style, we follow the events over one night in Washington D.C. Langdon has been called to DC by his Freemason friend Peter Solomon to give a lecture, oh and to return that mysterious tiny package whilst you’re at it. Of course all is not what it seems.
Considering the story takes place over one night and this is a long book, therefore either Robert Langdon is literally tearing from one fast moving event to another or not that much happens and he just stands around either lecturing people or being lectured at, for chapter upon chapter upon chapter, you guess which one. Yep, it’s the lecturing. Quite early on in the book Langdon discovers a severed hand, instead of trying to quickly move to find the owner of the severed hand, Langdon stands over the hand for chapters discussing very possibly everything under the sun with a director from the CIA and I’m sitting there listening it, thinking “Get a move on!”. The story does, eventually, move on from the scene with the severed hand and we have Langdon and various Freemason characters fleeing and/or aiding the CIA (between lectures) in an attempt to find Langdon’s friend Peter Solomon and the person responsible for the lack of hand, someone who is after far more.
The story looks at Freemasonary very heavily and whereas Dan Brown’s other Langdon books have a tendency to annoy their subject matter, Freemasonary is treated in an extremely positive light here. It also looks at the subject of noetic science, the study of the effects of human consciousness, looking at the human mind’s ability to control the world around them, just by thought. Brown combines the two subjects, looking at the very definition of God (yes, heavy subject matter for an ‘airport’ book) and that’s where the book gets a bit too much, a bit too preachy, specially towards the very end. It’s also a complete love story towards Washington D.C. itself, all very ‘look how great the people who built it were’, which is probably great for an American audience, maybe not so interesting for an international one.
Even for all my moaning, it was an interesting book, fun to listen to and fairly thought provoking, the actual plot (when you could dig it out from amongst all the lecturing) was quite good, even though some of the plot twists were obvious and the *shocking* reasoning why the CIA must go after the bad guy, actually not that shocking, I could understand the CIA’s reasoning but I couldn’t understand the other characters extreme reaction to it, once they had learnt it as well. As for the American public, if they had found out the ‘reason’, would they really have been that surprised? Maybe I’m too much of a Brit, naturally suspicious of the people in power anyway.
From a (trainee) writer’s prospective, I found it particularly interesting the two scenes, one where Langdon is underground in a series of basement corridors and the other in a massive dark lab with literally no light, in the book which I’ve just finished the first draft of there’s quite a few scenes involving underground passageways and one scene involving a large area (in my case a cave) with absolutely no light. It was consequently rather ‘spooky’ to see someone else use two scene set ups I had also used, although my book is set in Ancient Egypt and doesn’t (thankfully) go anywhere near the same plot line as The Lost Symbol, althoughboth manage to invoke the Egyptian God Amun. Oh well, just an interesting example about how the same (or similar) scenes can pop up unintentionally in two completely different stories.