Book Review – The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

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TITLE:  The Lost Symbol

SERIES:  The Robert Langdon Series, Book 3

AUTHOR:  Dan Brown

FORMAT:  Kindle version

PAGES/LOCATIONS:  670 pages/10,354 locations

GOODREADS’ AVG. RATING:  3.60 out of 5 stars; 291,260 ratings

SYNOPSIS PROVIDED:

Famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon answers an unexpected summons to appear at the U.S. Capitol Building. His planned lecture is interrupted when a disturbing object—artfully encoded with five symbols—is discovered in the building. Langdon recognizes in the find an ancient invitation into a lost world of esoteric, potentially dangerous wisdom. When his mentor Peter Solomon—a longstanding Mason and beloved philanthropist—is kidnapped, Langdon realizes that the only way to save Solomon is to accept the mystical invitation and plunge headlong into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and one inconceivable truth . . . all under the watchful eye of Dan Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol is an intelligent, lightning-paced story with surprises at every turn–Brown’s most exciting novel yet.

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MY REVIEW:

I feel as if I am in a constant state of love-hate with Dan Brown when it comes to The Robert Langdon Series, there are moments where I am struggling to get through the book and there are others where I am just completely enthralled by what I am reading and unable to put the book down.  I find myself so drawn in by the puzzles, the mysteries, the discussions of philosophy – those are the plot points which keep bringing me back to this series.  I have so much that I want to say about this book and a lot of it is going to be very spoiler filled – so please, if you have an interest in reading this book in the future and don’t want to be spoiled please do not read anymore of this review!

Character Development

I have written before about Brown’s use of characters and character development, his most notable trope being the building up of characters in a positive light only to later discover that they were the antagonist all along.  I feel that Brown improved his character development skills in this novel because he didn’t utilize the exact same trope, though what he did with his characters does remain somewhat close.

Let’s start with the character Inoue Sato, she is built up in such a way that the reader is immediately put off by her.  The reader is made to feel as if she is hiding information which ultimately makes her seem untrustworthy.  We are then sympathetic and understanding when Langdon chooses to escape from the company of Sato and her CIA unit with Katherine Solomon, but we are ultimately left to wonder this – If Sato had shown the tape of the Masonic rituals to Langdon upon first meeting him, how different would the progression of events have been?  Running from the CIA certainly adds a layer of anticipation and suspense, but at the same time Langdon and Sato were both working towards the same goal although their motivations differed.  Oddly, I found myself really liking Sato – she is everything I would have expected of a high ranking official of the CIA, her entire demeanor was that of a person who demands respect and is deserving of it.  She managed her team well and had excellent instincts when it came to decision making, overall she was just a very interesting character and I think it would have been incredibly interesting to actually witness Langdon and Sato truly working together towards a goal as partners.

My next bit of character discussion is in regards to the Solomon family, specifically Peter and Zachary, and the character Mal’akh.  The fact that it turned out Mal’akh was actually Zachary the whole time seriously threw me for a loop, I found myself reading it over and over because I just wasn’t expecting that twist while I was reading.  Now that I have taken some time to actually reflect on it, I feel like I should have made the connection much sooner because truthfully I doubt that a stranger from a prison who just so happened to overhear the conversation Peter had with the warden about the release of his son would go to such lengths to destroy an entire family unless there were strong emotional ties to such a feat especially after acquiring the wealth that Zachary had for yourself – it just isn’t likely.  The anger and hatred that Mal’akh carried around in him towards Peter and his family was incredibly frightening because there is a potential for such strong feelings of anger, hatred, and hurt inside all of us towards those who wrong us – it is an incredibly scary thought.  Yet, through all of this Peter couldn’t bring himself to further hurt his son…he couldn’t bring himself to kill his son even after all of the wrong that Mal’akh did to him including the removal of his right hand!  I doubt that I would have had the strength that Peter had to just walk away.

Matters of Philosophy and Religion

I think this novel in The Robert Langdon Series, so far, has had the most resonating impact on me on a personal level.  I’ve spoken before about how I was raised Mormon and left the church at the age of 19 for various reasons.  One of the things I have always had a difficult time accepting when it has come to organized religion is the idea of heaven being exclusionary towards those who faith differs from your own.  I have always been of the thought that if there is a god and a heaven that all who lived their lives in a positive manner would be welcomed, regardless of what faith or religion you practice.  I found myself agreeing with a lot of the ideas and practices of the Freemasons, specifically their celebrations of their being one universally accepting god and the idea of at-one-ment (not atonement).  The very thought of at-one-ment is incredibly interesting because it truly embraces the idea of apotheosis.  Apotheosis on an individual level is fascinating, true there is its literal meaning which is “make a god of” but it also can be described as “the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax.”  What if the idea of apotheosis is an individual reaching their highest point of development, or their highest point of understanding?  One of the quotes which is mentioned multiple times is “Know ye not that ye are gods?” from Hermes Trismegistus, and it poses a very interesting question.  There have been debates that one of the faculties which most differentiates humans from animals is that humans have the ability to create – the power to create has also long been thought to be a power of the gods, so it stands to reason that perhaps humans are a type of god.  I won’t go so far to suggest that we are the gods of the entirety of the universe, but there is a little bit of god in each of us – it is in our ability to create as much as it is in our ability to destroy.

TL;DR REVIEW:  3.85 out of 5 stars.  I keep bouncing back and forth between rating this book at 4 stars, but I just can’t do it because while I enjoyed the book overall it just didn’t feel like a 4 star read to me.  There were just too many points where I found myself struggling to read the book which was frustrating because I really wanted to enjoy it and like it.  It is likely to be one of those books I’ll read once and probably not read again for a very long time.  I’ll be moving on to Inferno very soon and I am hoping that I will be impressed or at least less negative, otherwise I don’t know whether or not I will continue the series should Dan Brown choose to release another Robert Langdon novel in the future.

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