Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Da Vinci Code

Link of the day: The Da Vinci Code Game

It's been a long time since I've read a book that's grabbed me by the neck and refused, absolutely refused, to let me go. "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown is hands down one of the best books I've read this year, if not the best (I'm debating between this and "Life of Pi"). "The Da Vinci Code" is the "it" book this year, and there was even a special on ABC (hosted by Elizabeth Vargas) about some of the ideas in the book. After my recent experience with Mary Magdalene fanfiction, I was apprehensive on taking up another book on the subject.


From the first page to the last, "The Da Vinci Code" refuses to let go. If you're a fan of mystery thrillers, this is a good one. The sum of all the action takes place in less than 24 hours and this novel has some of the best pacing I've seen in fiction. Nothing drags and the action moves along very, very quickly. Just when you think you've gotten to the absolute climax of a moment, bam! Here comes something else to mess things up yet again.

"The Da Vinci Code" stars Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, who is studying the sacred feminine. He interprets literature, art and architecture to derive clues about the truth about the Bible. His (literal) partner-in-crime is Sophie Neveu, a French cryptologist. Drawn together by the murder of the curator of the Louvre, Sophie and Robert embark on their own journey to discover the truth behind one of the most fascinating quests in history. They are joined along the way by Leigh Teabing, a Royal British historian, and Remy, Teabing's manservant. Bezu Fache, an ambitious and powerful officer in the French Judicial Police, is hot on their heels. Throw in a secret Catholic society, an albino monk, and a top-secret French brotherhood whose members include Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton, and you've got the makings of the next mall-movie blockbuster.

What saves this book from being the next John Grisham though is its intelligence. Along with a well-paced mystery thriller, the book does a superb job of interweaving architecture, literature, religion and suspense. The author has done an amazing research job, pulling out obscure facts from various artistic disciplines, and no doubt, there are many who will disagree with his interpretation of those facts -- especially the religious angles (there's no doubt that Brown's view on Jesus Christ is revisionist). The religious emphasis is on the sacred feminine in the Bible and lest you think Brown is making this stuff up, he backs up all of his theories with historical/Biblical fact.

Every detail -- from architectural descriptions to those of the famous "Last Supper" -- is artfully written and history well-explained. Despite the mass quantity of information (Brown doesn't shirk his responsbility as an author and make the reader do the work), Brown always manages to shake things up so it doesn't feel like an info dump. On a slightly negative note, the book spends so much time on explanation that you don't really get a feel for the characters. Teabing is the most colorful and most developed, while Sophie and Robert are mostly there to provide information and brainstorm the clues provided along the way by the murdered man. Both Sophie and Robert are competent people, but you never really get to know them.

All in all, a compelling read all the way through. If you've always been wondering what exactly it is Mona Lisa has been smiling about all of these years, this book holds a potential answer to that question.

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