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May 16 2013

Leave Dan Brown Alone!

Dan Brown is the tiresome hack who wrote The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and other books that have sold millions of copies. Those books go over territory that was explored in much more interesting ways by far more talented writers (most obviously Umberto Eco). Michael Deacon mocks Brown beautifully:

The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. They said it was full of unnecessary tautology. They said his prose was swamped in a sea of mixed metaphors. For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.” They even say my books are packed with banal and superfluous description, thought the 5ft 9in man. He particularly hated it when they said his imagery was nonsensical. It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket.

Renowned author Dan Brown got out of his luxurious four-poster bed in his expensive $10 million house and paced the bedroom, using the feet located at the ends of his two legs to propel him forwards. He knew he shouldn’t care what a few jealous critics thought. His new book Inferno was coming out on Tuesday, and the 480-page hardback published by Doubleday with a recommended US retail price of $29.95 was sure to be a hit. Wasn’t it?

I’ll call my agent, pondered the prosperous scribe. He reached for the telephone using one of his two hands. “Hello, this is renowned author Dan Brown,” spoke renowned author Dan Brown. “I want to talk to literary agent John Unconvincingname.”

“Mr Unconvincingname, it’s renowned author Dan Brown,” told the voice at the other end of the line. Instantly the voice at the other end of the line was replaced by a different voice at the other end of the line. “Hello, it’s literary agent John Unconvincingname,” informed the new voice at the other end of the line.

“Hello agent John, it’s client Dan,” commented the pecunious scribbler. “I’m worried about new book Inferno. I think critics are going to say it’s badly written.”

Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark. Bravo!

99 comments

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  1. 1
    Worldtraveller

    Ok, that was funny.

  2. 2
    marcus

    @1 Funny for you. I have to try to sell that tripe.

  3. 3
    Reginald Selkirk

    Can’t post a long comment, the shark next to me just turned white.

  4. 4
    Draken

    I think I’ll wait for the film.

  5. 5
    democommie

    I read the “DaVinci Code”, with the eyes that are in my head, because somebody I trusted recommended it (we are no longer on speaking terms!). It WAS badly written. I had read a few pages of it when somebody sitting across from me on the commuter rail said, “How is it?”. I told them it was the opposite of Hemingway and most other writing I’ve enjoyed.

    It had the word, “edifice”, twice, on one page, IIRC.

  6. 6
    Alverant

    Larry Niven (and another author who’s name I forget) already redid Dante and wrote a sequel. In the book, the protagonist dies, goes to hell, and is escorted through the punishment zones by **spolier** to the bottom of hell meeting a bunch of celebrities along the way. He decides to become a guide to help other souls escape hell and let his own escort accend upwards. In the sequel (which was not as good) there’s a new zone of hell where the planners and the builders fight to make new buildings before they’re destroyed by terrorists. The book ends when one of the scientists on the Manhatten project runs into a suscide bomber in the bottom level of hell causing mutual annihilation and an explosion that even singed Satan. Satan then kicks him out.

    Not one of his best books, but amusing in a way.

  7. 7
    Kevin

    I thought Da Vinci Code was all right. I thought the religious response to it was hilarious.

    The problem is you can tell that it was the only book he really spent any extended amount of time researching and writing.

    I read one other of his, and a piece of a third — can’t remember the names. Boring. Not well researched. Not well written. Put him down — haven’t picked him up again. Probably won’t.

    This isn’t just a Dan Brown problem, however. I thought Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire was fantastic. Then, she had to write book after book after book after book after book after book in shorter and shorter and shorter and shorter turn-around times in order to keep cashing in on the franchise.

    I think most “franchise” writers have this problem. Even “serious” novelists can have a clunker or two in between good stuff. Not everything Hemingway wrote was stellar. Nor Faulkner, either. But the likelihood of a “franchise” novelist having a series of clunkers is in direct proportion to the number of novels they churn out. Especially if they retread the same themes.

  8. 8
    deltamachineries2

    what about you? PZ the biggest creep of them all

    randiparanormalchallenge.tumblr.com/

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    Dan Brown is the tiresome hack

    He’s not that good.

  10. 10
    Draken

    I tawt I taw a Markuze post.

  11. 11
    Draken

    @Kevin: I also read Interview with the vampire and thought it was quite original. I never bothered with the sequels because I couldn’t imagine them to contain any new ideas.

  12. 12
    slc1

    As they like to say, Brown cried all the way to the bank.

  13. 13
    Raging Bee

    Dan Brown’s writing is so stiff and undistinctive that even a parody of it doesn’t work. At least Deacon’s didn’t work, IMHO. Try my review of the movie instead.

    The thing about Brown, IMO, is that he wants to write about spiritual and metaphysical ideas, but feels the need to package them in shoot-em-up novels and movies to get the masses to appreciate them. That’s just one reason his fiction is so bad — it’s not really what he wants to write.

  14. 14
    timgueguen

    Wow, if that’s how Brown’s writing actually reads it makes him sound like a bad fanfiction writer.

  15. 15
    Raging Bee

    Larry Niven (and another author who’s name I forget) already redid Dante and wrote a sequel.

    Jerry Pournelle, with whom Niven has collaborated on manhy other novels, none of them as good as “Inferno.”

    In the book, the protagonist dies, goes to hell, and is escorted through the punishment zones by **spolier** to the bottom of hell meeting a bunch of celebrities along the way.

    I knew who it was the minute the protagonist described whom he saw: a heavyset man, round head, square jaw, Mediterranian looking, Italian accent, calling himself Benito. Our Hero, however, doesn’t figure out who he is until two-thirds of the way through the book, when someone else has to tell him.

    In the sequel (which was not as good) there’s a new zone of hell where the planners and the builders fight to make new buildings before they’re destroyed by terrorists. The book ends when one of the scientists on the Manhatten project runs into a suscide bomber in the bottom level of hell causing mutual annihilation and an explosion that even singed Satan. Satan then kicks him out.

    Huh?

  16. 16
    Raging Bee

    Wow, if that’s how Brown’s writing actually reads it makes him sound like a bad fanfiction writer.

    Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what he is: a big fan of certain spiritual/metaphysical ideas centered around Goddess-worship and its suppression by the Patriarchal Church, writing fanfic around those ideas.

  17. 17
    Kevin

    @11. Yeah, that was the problem. There were no new ideas. She had one great idea which fostered one pretty good book.

    The rest was for the cash.

    Which is OK I guess, if you like being fabulously wealthy.

    I keep thinking about writing my own vampire book — but every time I try, it comes out porn. Which I thought would be a deal-killer. And then 50 Shades of Gray came out — who knew? But of course, now the market is flooded with vampire porn. So, it’s onto the next idea that I’ll have too late to cash in on.

    Maybe something about wizards — can’t be too many wizard books about, can there?

  18. 18
    Draken

    If you want an enormously overrated book of Scandinavian origin, try The girl with the dragon tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor). It’s a bit too late, and this comment box probably too short, to lay out the ways in which that book sucks.

    (And the English title is completely beyond me as well.)

  19. 19
    democommie

    The “Da Vince Code” is to good writing what Chris Elliott’s “Cabin Boy” is to good cinema–except I think that Elliott is much better at what he does.

  20. 20
    Noadi

    Wow, if that’s how Brown’s writing actually reads it makes him sound like a bad fanfiction writer.

    Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what he is: a big fan of certain spiritual/metaphysical ideas centered around Goddess-worship and its suppression by the Patriarchal Church, writing fanfic around those ideas.

    Which is especially terrible because there are good fan fiction writers out there and some of them have managed to take that to a career (Stephen Moffat).

  21. 21
    democommie

    The talk about Niven and Pournelle’s collaboration (I quit reading both of them, years ago) reminded me of a series of anthologies, all with the word, “Hell”, in the title. I read three of them and they’re a bit like Phillip Jose Farmer’s, “Riverworld” series with lots of historical figures including Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Wellington (they’re neighbors who live next to the “New Hell Country Club”, Attilla the Hun, Mata Hari, Herman Goering and, of course, HITLER!!

    This link does a better job than I can, explaining it all:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Hell

    The 13th book, “Lawyers in Hell” might be a fun read.

  22. 22
    d.c.wilson

    I read The DaVinci Code a while back just to see what all the hype was about. The best thing I could say about it is that it was a breezy read they didn’t take me long to get through. I’d have been pissed if that drivel had actually consumed a significant portion of my life.

  23. 23
    weaver

    Brilliant.

    I picked up Brown’s Deception Point while travelling back to Iraq. Reading it made me long for the sanity and reality of combat – it was quite simply the worst book I ever read. Filled with supposed subject matter experts explaining why something was impossible, then it happens, and the SME says “Well, it COULD happen in rare cases” or some such. Builds a world then tears it down all within a couple pages – over and over throughout the book.

  24. 24
    d.c.wilson

    The thing about Brown, IMO, is that he wants to write about spiritual and metaphysical ideas, but feels the need to package them in shoot-em-up novels and movies to get the masses to appreciate them. That’s just one reason his fiction is so bad — it’s not really what he wants to write.

    I can only go by the one book of his I read, but the impression I got was that he was writing with both eyes firmly on getting the movie option sold. That’s why he didn’t bother with unnecessary filler material like characterization.

  25. 25
    Raging Bee

    The 13th book, “Lawyers in Hell” might be a fun read.

    13th?! That’s starting to sound like that apparently endless “Gor” series.

    I couldn’t stand Philip Jose Farmer: all nonstop action, no point.

    And neither Niven nor Pournelle could write, either singly or together. I have no idea why they ever thought to collaborate — maybe they liked each other’s wierd ideas? Pournelle seems to have always been a world-class right-wing technocratic asshole, and a VERY early proponent of ballistic-missile defense, who always has “liberal” characters in his stories trying to stop all technological progress and take Mankind back to the Dark Ages. He also wrote an alien-invasion story, “Footfall,” in which only the white people can deal with the new reality, while the token African ambassador just curls up and dies when the war starts.

  26. 26
    Kevin

    @24: And that, to me was an even bigger problem. The Davinci Code movie was truly and utterly awful. Horrid beyond redemption (see what I did there?).

    Even with Tom Hanks and the delicious Audrey Tatou in it.

    Unredeemable.

  27. 27
    busterggi

    Tiresome hack maybe, but still better than L.Ron Hubbard.

  28. 28
    Carlos Cabanita

    In the first few pages of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ I couldn’t help laughing out loud when I found out the author was taking the Priory of Sion seriously. No way!
    Later I picked up ‘Digital Fortress’ and found out someone was locked up in total darkness in an apparently very advanced computer room. I work with trivial computers in a trivial office and it has emergency lights that are mandatory by law. At least in Europe they are. I suppose in the US the same rules apply. No fkng way!

  29. 29
    Modusoperandi

    marcus “I have to try to sell that tripe.”
    YOU’VE GOT TRIPE?! HERE, TAKE MY MONEY!

  30. 30
    slc1

    Anyone who things that Dan Brown is a lousy writer should try to read something by Joel C. Rosenberg. Not only is Rosenberg a terrible writer, he’s also insane.

  31. 31
    tommykey

    You haven’t truly experienced awful pop literature until you’ve read The Celestine Prophecy!

  32. 32
    flatlander100

    Oh, good grief. The man writes potboiler thrillers. And very successful potboiler thrillers. Why so much animus? Don’t like reading his stuff as escape lit, don’t read it.

    More than a little cultural snobbery popping through on this thread.

  33. 33
    pacal

    She was as majestic as the finest sculpture by Caravaggio or the most coveted portrait by Rodin.

    Ouch! I

  34. 34
    d.c.wilson

    Flatlander100:

    “Successful” is not a synonym for “good.”

  35. 35
    Ichthyic

    For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.”

    I’m sure Dan Brown learned most of what he knows about sharks from Robert Shaw…

    still, it is correct to say that most sharks either close their nictitating membranes to protect their eyes when they attack, or else in the case of some sharks… like Carcharodon carcharias, roll their eyes back to protect them instead.

  36. 36
    timgueguen

    flatlander100, the fiction I read consists of bad action-adventure novels and fanfiction, so I’m hardly sitting here sneering because Brown isn’t Gore Vidal or Kingsley Amis. My standards are quite low.

  37. 37
    Ichthyic

    Why so much animus?

    yeah, I think the animus is towards the idea that such poor writing can end up still making one rich, and thus be encouraged to the detriment of actual good writers.

    it’s really a fair cop, and not so much snobbery as you imply.

  38. 38
    Ichthyic

    Dan Brown’s stuff reminds me of a refined Clive Cussler!

    I’m not sure what that means, in the end, other than that I sincerely doubt Brown will be the last trashy novelist to make it big.

  39. 39
    neonsequitur

    Marcus @ #2: “I have to try to sell that tripe.”

    Most major bookstores seem to sell a shitload of Brown’s tripe without really trying.

    All I can say is, just do whatever they’re doing.

  40. 40
    heddle

    Raging Bee, #15

    I knew who it was the minute the protagonist described whom he saw: a heavyset man, round head, square jaw, Mediterranian looking, Italian accent, calling himself Benito. Our Hero, however, doesn’t figure out who he is until two-thirds of the way through the book, when someone else has to tell him.

    Exactly! That was the only serious flaw in Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno. I mean really, you (the protagonist) couldn’t figure out who Benito was? Really?

  41. 41
    piscador

    Indeed, “The Da Vinci Code” was one of the worst novels I’ve ever read – hours of my life wasted, never to be regained. Then I compounded my error by reading “Digital Fortress”. Have you ever come away from a book feeling a little bit stupider than before you read it? That’s what DD did for me. To this day, I can’t go past a copy of a Dan brown book without feeling nauseous.

    However, for the most absolutely appalling, face-palming stupidity in written fiction, I still think you can’t go past L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth”.

  42. 42
    matthewhodson

    @Kevin#7 and Draken(11):
    I have a minor disagreement. The first two sequels, The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned, are better than Interview. In these books Rice uses history as a backdrop to a character study. The later books continue to have interesting backdrops but less and less substance in the forground.

    As for Dan Brown meh.

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    Most major bookstores seem to sell a shitload of Brown’s tripe

    Brown has signed his name to a line of tripe products now?

    and they sell them at bookstores?

    what next, Anne Rice signs off on a line of blood sausage?

    :)

  44. 44
    Randomfactor

    I’ve read three of Brown’s books and they were tolerable. I’ve read worse. Although I began to doubt that in “Angels & Demons” when I read a line which began (as I recall) “Little did he know that later this information would come in handy.”

    What I decided at that point is that Brown needed, and did not have, a good editor.

  45. 45
    steve84

    I’ve read The Davinci Code and Angels & Demons. I didn’t mind the sometimes outrageous plot so much, but he really isn’t a good reader. I also didn’t like that the chapters are very short and get even shorter towards the climax of the book. Then he has this weird obsession to end every chapter with a mini-cliffhanger. It gets tiresome.

  46. 46
    steve84

    reader = writer

    Gah

  47. 47
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    And yet, as wretched as Dan Brown’s writing is, it’s still better than Stephanie (Twilight) Meyer’s is.

  48. 48
    vmanis1

    Several points.

    1. Brown had a book on quantum computing that was so stupid I had to finish it just to see how many howlers he would commit. (Yes, the quantum computer gets a virus, and no, I have no idea how that could happen.) As in the OP, I often mention Eco (especially Name Of The Rose) as the standard of comparison, with which Brown suffers immeasurably.

    2. I heard Brown interviewed on CBC radio yesterday. He said he loves researching (see previous point) but finds writing painful, that he often throws away 10 drafts of a page before he `gets it right’. I would pay money to see those drafts, something worse than what he publishes has to be something to behold.

    3. Larry Niven was once a decent author, his Tales of Known Space stories were often pretty good. Gradually he’s declined to the point that I have trouble finishing anything he writes now. As for Pournelle, I used to find his BYTE Magazine columns amusing if not illuminating `The Acme Computer Company sent me this brand-new 386 system, which is worth $9000, but they sent it to me for free. It didn’t work, but that was no problem, the president of the company came out by helicopter and personally fixed it for me! And they don’t even expect me to do anything in exchange. ACME is spelled A-C-M-E.’ My favorite Niven/Pournelle stupidity: in Footfall, they needed somewhere remote to place their spaceship launch site; the aliens were watching all the citiers. So they chose Bellingham, WA, which was as remote as one can be in the U.S. No way the aliens would be watching there. Unfortunately, the authorsdidn’t realize that Bellingham is essentially a suburb of Vancouver (30km from the border). What makes it even funnier, is that the authors thank the people of Bellingham for being gracious hosts. Apparently, they never noticed, during their research trip, the mileage signs on I-5. (And yes, that does close a circle with the research topic mentioned above.)

  49. 49
    sqlrob

    Tiresome hack maybe, but still better than L.Ron Hubbard.

    Ugh. Don’t remind me. I didn’t mind Battlefield Earth, I cheesy, but I kind of liked it. My wife couldn’t make it through it.

    Somehow, I’m not entirely sure how, I made it through all ten volumes of Mission: Earth. What drek.

  50. 50
    Trebuchet

    My favorite Niven/Pournelle stupidity: in Footfall, they needed somewhere remote to place their spaceship launch site; the aliens were watching all the citiers. So they chose Bellingham, WA, which was as remote as one can be in the U.S.

    As a Washingtonian, I’ll respond with the mandatory “which Vancouver?”

    I’ve started reading Footfall about four times. Can’t get through the survivalist crap at the beginning. I liked NIven’s older stuff, the “known space” series.

  51. 51
    observer

    This is the book from which Dan Brown stole the narrative structure for all his novels: http://www.amazon.com/Fortunately-Remy-Charlip/dp/0689716605

  52. 52
    democommie

    “Oh, good grief. The man writes potboiler thrillers. And very successful potboiler thrillers. Why so much animus? Don’t like reading his stuff as escape lit, don’t read it.”

    I read, among others, Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Laurence Shaimes, Dave Barry and Robert Crais. They all write things that are interesting and they entertain. Dan Brown isn’t fit to sharpen their pencils.

  53. 53
    lofgren

    I do think that some books get a bad rap in part because they get shelved improperly in the public consciousness. Something like Fifty Shades of Gray blows up in popularity, and suddenly reviewers are treating it like it was ever meant to be high literature instead of the raunch it was intended to be all along. And I think The DaVinci Code suffered a bit from that effect, aided by Brown who for some reason refused to admit it was nothing more than escapist beach reading and insisted that it was meant to present a viable historical thesis. That said, even to those of us who enjoy a good formulaic paperback adventure story, Dan Brown is crap writing.

    Honestly though, I’ve never met anybody who thought DaVinci Code was good because of its writing. Fans seem to fall into two categories in my experience: those who think Brown invented the alternate history of the Rosicrucians all on his own and are impressed with the sheer magnitude of it, and those who already believed it and think Brown’s courageous truth-telling is more important than any flaws in his prose.

  54. 54
    Owlmirror

    Exactly! That was the only serious flaw in Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno. I mean really, you (the protagonist) couldn’t figure out who Benito was? Really?

    Sometimes your sarcasm obscures your point.

    Do you think that it was a terrible book, and the flaw mentioned was a minor tip of the facepalm iceberg, or that it was a good book, and that complaining about not recognizing Benito was picayune?

  55. 55
    Ichthyic

    I think The DaVinci Code suffered a bit from that effect, aided by Brown who for some reason refused to admit it was nothing more than escapist beach reading and insisted that it was meant to present a viable historical thesis. That said, even to those of us who enjoy a good formulaic paperback adventure story, Dan Brown is crap writing.

    good summary.

    Do you think that it was a terrible book, and the flaw mentioned was a minor tip of the facepalm iceberg, or that it was a good book, and that complaining about not recognizing Benito was picayune?

    I interpreted it as them saying that the author must expect the readers to be as dumb as the character who couldn’t recognize who benito was at first glance. …and that the writing a character so blind to something so obvious is poor storytelling at best.

  56. 56
    martinc

    Ah, crap books! I could go on at length. I fact, I think I will.

    The only thing entertaining about Brown, and frankly the only reason he outsells similar ‘airport novelists’ was that the whole ‘descent of Jesus’ stuff caught the public’s imagination. And that of course, was the stuff he lifted holus-bolus from Baigent and Leigh’s “Holy Blood Holy Grail”, a purportedly scholarly non-fiction work … Brown’s villain ‘Leigh Teabing’ is simply ‘Leigh and an anagram of ‘Baigent’, which is a rather two-edged literary compliment, I suppose. HBHG actually is deeply researched. However, deeply GULLIBLY researched. Each new chapter, I found myself wondering: “hmm, what cock and bull story will the authors swallow whole THIS time?”

    Da Vinci Code actually made a rather disparaging mention of HBHG, which made me cringe just as I do when characters in a sci-fi book or movie reference things in a sci-fi book or movie:

    Jenny: “Johnny, it’s a SPACESHIP!”
    Johnny (sneering): “What … like in Star Trek?”
    Jenny: “Yes Johnny. EXACTLY like in Star Trek.”

    Raging Bee @ 25:

    “That’s starting to sound like that apparently endless ‘Gor’ series.”

    Marauders of Gor, Raiders of Gor, Nomads of Gor … all of them carbon copy Sword and Sorcery epics, with severed limbs and spurting blood a-plenty. I was always waiting for one to be called ‘Buckets of Gor’.

    The only other thing of note in them was the incredible misogyny. Most of the women are slave girls. And no, not the kind who fetch water or do the cleaning. John Norman made sure to spend a great deal of time describing them and what they do, before eventually reluctantly dragging himself back to the stuff about the blokes hacking each other’s limbs off. Then in ‘Slave Girl of Gor’, a woman of Earth gets kidnapped and taken to Gor (Gor rotates about the sun exactly opposite Earth, so we can’t see it: a nice cheap literary hiding place). As a caricature of a successful businesswoman, she conflicts with the misogynistic Gor society … and resolves it by finally accepting that being a woman means her role IS sexual servitude to men, so she becomes a slave girl. I wish I was making this up.

    Now, Anne Rice … there’s a website called ‘I Write Like’ where you put a swatch of your own fervid prose in, and it tells you what famous author you write like. Ever keen to experiment, I cut and pasted the word “sex” a few hundred times into it, and it said: “You write like Anne Rice.”

  57. 57
    vmanis1

    Trebuchet: logic would suggest that I was not referring to Vancouver, WA, which is approximately 250 miles from Bellingham, which would stretch the concept of `suburb’ somewhat. Vancouver WA is of course a suburb of Portland (OR, not ME :).

  58. 58
    gmacs

    I told them it was the opposite of Hemingway and most other writing I’ve enjoyed.

    So that’s why I enjoyed it. I have depression. I can handle other depressing literature, but Hemingway makes my head fill with all sorts of dark thoughts.

    BTW, if anyone wants to read a really shittily written book with unnaturally cryptic characters, but based on an interesting premise, I suggest The Darwin Conspiracy. (No, it is not creationist musings.)

  59. 59
    RickR

    I enjoyed “Inferno”. A quick, funny, action-adventure-escape tale set in the infernal depths? With demons and devils and bureaucrats in the walls of Dis? What’s not to love?

    I always thought it would make a smashing B-movie. Only problem is it would cost about 800 million dollars to produce.

  60. 60
    M can help you with that.

    IIRC, on my first attempt at Dan Brown I got as far as “symbologist” before taking the “not a book to be tossed aside lightly” approach. It’s like Brown read a two-paragraph description of semiotics and then decided to get it utterly wrong and completely backwards at the same time. Which is, of course, why Foucault’s Pendulum reads like such a great parody of The Da Vinci Code, except that it was published 15 years earlier.

  61. 61
    Alex

    IIRC, on my first attempt at Dan Brown I got as far as “symbologist” before taking the “not a book to be tossed aside lightly” approach. It’s like Brown read a two-paragraph description of semiotics and then decided to get it utterly wrong and completely backwards at the same time. Which is, of course, why Foucault’s Pendulum reads like such a great parody of The Da Vinci Code, except that it was published 15 years earlier.

    The same happened with particle physics in Angels&Demons. It’s almost cargo cult writing – he takes some concepts from particle physics, some philosophical or theological stuff, and what comes out is an almost dadaistic word salad with pseudophilosophical sauce poured over it, which somehow serves as a barely inch-deep simulation of a philosophical background.

    “You are talking about the moment of creation”

    No she isn’t you idiot. No, you aren’t, ms. scientist, and the higgs boson is not the same as antimatter, and antimatter is not the same as the big bang. *pulls out hair*

    The portrayal of physics, and of CERN for that matter, is so hilariously wrong, it left me wondering whether his description of the vatican and history is similarly ridiculous.

    In the movie at least there are some wonderful inside jokes for the aficionado, like “Let’s hope the heavy ion guys didn’t mess up”, which can propably be credited to their visit to cern, and I suppose were not in the book.

    THAT BEING SAID,

    I really enjoyed both the TDC and A&D book, the latter of which is basically a dry run of the former with some names changed, for the campy escapist pseudo-science-philosophy fun they are. Come on, charging in on some millenia old conspiracy at some glamorous places to safe the world in the eternal struggle between religion and rationality, who wouldn’t enjoy that? Of course, had I been Langdon, I would’ve just let them blow up the Vatican after that mind-numbingly silly level of contempt he meets upon his reception there.

  62. 62
    steve84

    Aside from the huge amounts of anti-matter in A&D is of the silliest things in the novel is that CERN somehow owns an X-33 spaceplane. An aircraft that didn’t even have a finished prototype (though they almost completed one) before it was cancelled. Like he couldn’t just fly there commercially.

  63. 63
    Alex

    “Aside from the huge amounts of anti-matter in A&D is of the silliest things in the novel is that CERN somehow owns an X-33 spaceplane. ”

    Yes… apparently, that part of the novel was written by a12 year old.

  64. 64
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    … I actually liked Dan Brown’s books. The ones I’ve read, anyway. *shrug*.

  65. 65
    Matrim

    I’m honestly a little puzzled by the sudden outpouring of venom toward Brown. Granted, he’s not all that good a writer, but even during the height of the DVC “controversy” I never really heard anyone say he was anything better than adequate. I only ever read Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code, I enjoyed the former and was bored by the latter, but nothing in his writing was so egregious that I even bothered to think of him in the intervening years. There are some authors so bad that I will never forget them, Brown is not one of them. I’m not going to tell you what you should think, nor do I believe that just because there are worse examples of something that you shouldn’t deride things that you think are bad, I’m just honestly puzzled that so many people were apparently affected so much by writing I largely consider forgettable.

  66. 66
    birgerjohansson

    The good part of the Da Vinci Code is that it paved the way for Garth Ennis’ “Preacher” graphic novel series. The baddies are also into “descendant of Christ” stuff, the boss baddie actually is a dead ringer for Moebius’ Metabaron.

    @11, 17
    Her new book series about a werewolf (well-written!) is a complete reboot, without gods or devils. Anne Rice turned her back on organised religion some time ago, because of the hateful way fundies act towards gay people.

    Philip Jose Farmer did other work that was better, especially the world of tiers series. But he did a lot of pot-boilers in his later work.

    My favourite among all science fiction is Stanislaw Lem, whose work has passed the test of time.

    Action; the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child is quite good, overall. And James Lee Burke -now 75- still writes well about his southern cop
    .For stuff with a smidgeon of paranormal stuff I would recommend John Connolly. A haunted P I fights evil -mortal and diabolical alike- with his two retired hitmen friends.

  67. 67
    birgerjohansson

    Matrim @ 5
    Yes, Dan Brown is just another Meh! writer, not worth getting upset about.
    If you want to get upset, read the self-published “White Apocalypse” , a racist power fantasy based on misunderstood archaeology with writing that is so bad you start laughing after the initial fury.

  68. 68
    democommie

    Having read maybe 11 of the “Gor” series before I realized it was never going to be good (sometimes I invest more than I should in failed projects) I can say it is not the “Hell” series.

    Dan Brown deserves ridicule for the same reason that other people who do crap work, make a ton of money and CONTINUE to do crap work when they no longer have to worry about a paycheck.

  69. 69
    eric

    Agree with both @19 and @32 – yeah, its schlock. Sometimes I like schlock. Eco may be beautiful, but if the only fiction I was allowed to read was Eco, I’d put a drill to my head in short order.

    Not every movie has to be Citizen Kane – there is room in my universe for Ahnold. Similarly, not every novel has to be War and Peace. There is room in my literary universe for Brown, the Ahnold of the pen. Sometimes all I want in terms of plot complexity and dialogue is “consider that a divorce.”

  70. 70
    eric

    Ah, having said that, I should add that Deacon’s send-up is excellent. The one truism about schlock is that it should never take itself too seriously. B movies and literature that knows its B-quality can be fun. B movies and literature that thinks its A-quality is typically painful to watch/read.

  71. 71
    Adrian W.

    @ gmacs #58:

    BTW, if anyone wants to read a really shittily written book with unnaturally cryptic characters, but based on an interesting premise, I suggest The Darwin Conspiracy. (No, it is not creationist musings.)

    I hate you so much for reminding me of that book. My sister bought it for me for Christmas one year, I think because it had “Darwin” in the title and she knew I liked me some science. It was the only book I deliberately didn’t pack when I moved out of my parents’ house (yes, that includes a couple Dan Brown paperbacks).

  72. 72
    Eurasian magpie

    I have read both The Da Vinci Code and the pseudo-historical tome it is based on, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The tome was much more entertaining.

  73. 73
    Ichthyic

    Hemingway makes my head fill with all sorts of dark thoughts

    Yes, if anyone can get through “Farewell to Arms” and not want to shoot themselves in the head, they must be made of sterner stuff than I.

    OTOH, while I always hated Hemingway’s novels, his short stories were elegant pieces of often cutting satire.

    try:

    A Clean, Well Lighted Place

    and

    The Short But Happy Life of Francis McComber.

  74. 74
    Raging Bee

    …of the silliest things in the novel is that CERN somehow owns an X-33 spaceplane.

    I thought it was the Vatican who owned that spaceplane. That, of course, is much more credible because we all know the Vatican has huge amounts of hidden wealth and secret power. As one character in the movie said, “they’re men of God, they’re capable of anything!” But a bunch of blah secular scientists owning a piece of technology the rest of us didn’t think existed? Don’t make me laugh.

    Oh, and does anyone else want to join me in mocking “Gorky Park” by Martin Cruz Smith? Once you get past the novelty of a murder mystery set in the USSR (ooooh, wow, didn’t think the KGB allowed that!), all you get is writing at least as clunky as Brown’s.

    Which is, of course, why Foucault’s Pendulum reads like such a great parody of The Da Vinci Code, except that it was published 15 years earlier.

    As a parody/cautionary tale of the conspiracy-theory mindset, FP was gripping and downright creepy! My second-favorite part of that book was where they spun out this elaborate conspiracy theory; and my favorite bit was where the protagonist’s girlfriend spent less than two pages describing a perfectly ordinary, plausible alternative explanation of the same evidence. But by then it’s too late, because the idiots who dreamed up the conspiracy got caught up in their own delusion, and the movement they’d kickstarted.

  75. 75
    heddle

    Sometimes your sarcasm obscures your point.

    No sarcasm. I loved Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno, enough to overlook the impossibility that the Benito tour guide was not recognized. I especially loved the dialog between the protagonist (Carpenter?) and various demons.

  76. 76
    Raging Bee

    And yet, as wretched as Dan Brown’s writing is, it’s still better than Stephanie (Twilight) Meyer’s is.

    If the movies based on those people’s writings are any indication, I totally agree. An agnostic Harvard symbologist running all over Rome looking for an antimatter containment field before the battery dies is a LOT better than Bella staring helplessly/wistfully at the dorkiest lily-white vampire ever imagined, for, what, FOUR movies?

  77. 77
    Raging Bee

    I always thought ["Inferno"] would make a smashing B-movie. Only problem is it would cost about 800 million dollars to produce.

    And it would probably offend everyone who saw it. Just like Dante’s original book. And who would make this movie? Quentin Tarantino? Joss Wheedon? Maybe with Bruce Willis as Carpentier? Or Steve Buscemi?

    And no, you probably wouldn’t need that much money, unless you were a Christian Reich loony who wanted to make Hell as real as possible. (And such loonies wouldn’t touch it, since it shows their kind in Hell.) Just think of it as a standard zombie-movie knock-off with enough special effects to look really scary.

  78. 78
    Trebuchet

    Trebuchet: logic would suggest that I was not referring to Vancouver, WA, which is approximately 250 miles from Bellingham, which would stretch the concept of `suburb’ somewhat. Vancouver WA is of course a suburb of Portland (OR, not ME :).

    Oh, your meaning was clear enough but you sense of humor may need checking.

    Was I the only one here who saw Brown on The Daily Show, which I don’t even watch regularly? He didn’t seem to be sure whether Stewart was mocking him or not. He was.

  79. 79
    Raging Bee

    Oh look, now I’m seeing ads on this site for Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” I’m sure the parodies are writing themselves even as we speak…

  80. 80
    eric

    And it would probably offend everyone who saw it. Just like Dante’s original book. And who would make this movie? Quentin Tarantino?

    Djante Unchained. :)

  81. 81
    Raging Bee

    Pulped Sinners?

  82. 82
    birgerjohansson

    The trip through hell ends with the mother of all shoot-outs leaving the devil, 99% of the demons, half the heavenly host, and god dead. One morally ambigious character survives, and scampers off with a suitcase full of heroin.

    X-33 failed because the aluminum-lithium alloy cracked at the temperature of liquid hydrogen. Today you can make lightweight aluminum alloys with carbon nanotubes instead of lithium. If this is not brittle at LH temperatures you could probably make the X-33 fly.

    “Satan then kicks him out
    For some reason I start thinking of “Lobo; A Contract On Gawd” and “Lobo’s Back”.

  83. 83
    RickR

    Heddle-

    No sarcasm. I loved Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno, enough to overlook the impossibility that the Benito tour guide was not recognized. I especially loved the dialog between the protagonist (Carpenter?) and various demons.

    This. I love the little matter-of-fact chit chats Carpentier would engage in when his curiosity about the particulars of a certain punishment or aspect of Hell became too much. Come to think of it, the tone of “Inferno” is a lot like “Buffy/ Angel”, and Joss Whedon would be a great choice for the movie version.
    I loved all the scifi theorizing Carpentier engages in as he tries to come up with a rational explanation for all the violations of physical laws in Hell. Super-advanced yet monstrously sadistic aliens who built a giant amusement park modeled after Dante, was his working hypothesis.

  84. 84
    Trebuchet

    X-33 failed because the aluminum-lithium alloy cracked at the temperature of liquid hydrogen. Today you can make lightweight aluminum alloys with carbon nanotubes instead of lithium. If this is not brittle at LH temperatures you could probably make the X-33 fly.

    Completely off topic, of course, but the failed tank was actually composite as opposed to Al-Li. The failure was due more to the weird shape than the material.

  85. 85
    Owlmirror

    I interpreted it as them saying that the author must expect the readers to be as dumb as the character who couldn’t recognize who benito was at first glance. …and that the writing a character so blind to something so obvious is poor storytelling at best.

    Even when it’s pointed out, I can’t really think of it as a huge problem.

    First of all, I’m really not sure I myself would necessarily recognize someone who I’ve only seen in very specific contexts (wearing a uniform, making fiery pronouncements, possibly in a language I don’t speak) in a completely different context (wearing a plain robe, speaking normally and calmly, in a language I do understand). Live!Mussolini was nationalistic and politically passionate, and Dead!Benito is almost painfully Catholic; speaking in terms of sin and redemption.

    Secondly, Alan Carpenter is presented as being very self-centered, and incredibly focused on getting out. Some things he doesn’t notice until his nose is smacked with them repeatedly. And he thinks that at least some of the other denizens of hell — including possibly Benito — are fake; realistic androids.

    I do think it’s a bit contrived that Alan never asked Benito who he’d been in life.

    ========

    No sarcasm. I loved Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno, enough to overlook the impossibility that the Benito tour guide was not recognized. I especially loved the dialog between the protagonist (Carpenter?) and various demons.

    I liked it as well, when I was younger, but I perceive it as more problematic now. Of course, part of the problem is the setting itself; I’m not sure they could have told the story any other way than they did.

  86. 86
    slavdude

    Raging Bee @15:

    Actually, I kind of liked Lucifer’s Hammer and The Mote in God’s Eye, though on further reflection they weren’t that great after all.

  87. 87
    slavdude

    I thought The DaVinci Code was okay, but as someone else (not me, sadly) said on a discussion thread several years ago at Alicublog, “It is very much like a work of genius, except it sucks.”

  88. 88
    slavdude

    Me @87:

    The quote, by the way, was in reference to a bad movie not related to this book, but it still applies.

  89. 89
    Raging Bee

    Owlmirror: I’m pretty sure the name Benito, at least, would have tipped me off, and caused me to notice all the other distinctive features. But then, I was raised by liberals who had grown up during and right after WW-II, and who had studied some history and thought it important. And I never met another science-fiction reader or writer who had never heard of a particular famous Italian dude named Benito. (Seriously, that name seems as rare as Adolf.) And this novel’s protagonist had grown up in much the same period.

  90. 90
    slavdude

    Piscador @41:

    However, for the most absolutely appalling, face-palming stupidity in written fiction, I still think you can’t go past L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth”.

    You want worse? Try Hubbard’s absolutely unspeakable “dekalogy” (yes, 10 volumes!!) Mission Earth. I don’t usually get rid of books, but this bunch I did. *Shudder*

  91. 91
    Raging Bee

    You haven’t truly experienced awful pop literature until you’ve read The Celestine Prophecy!

    Not only was the author of that book an even lamer writer than Dan Brown, but the actual ideas he/she was trying to describe/dramatize were just less substantial and interesting than the ones Brown was working with. DVC talked about important ideas of Jesus and Mary Magdalene that were buried by a nefarious Church, but the CP was about…I dunno, something so blah and derivative and vanilla-new-agey that I can’t even remember it. And not even a car-chase to keep me awake, just a customs guy ordering the protagonist to get on a plane and never come back. Coudn’t they at least bring an Opus Dei thug into the game?

  92. 92
    RickR

    Owlmirror- Yes, Carpenter is drawn as a self-centered lout for much of the story, and singularly focused on getting out of Hell, so his not recognizing Benito didn’t really seem like much of a stretch. Also, Carpenter doesn’t strike me as the brightest bulb in the chandelier, either. I’m thinking of the specific events surrounding his demise. Though I thought his musings on a science fiction explanation for Hell were pretty great. And his idea for the glider was genius.

  93. 93
    mikeym

    I remember the 26-year-old me reading Inferno in a single sitting and enjoying it a great deal. I especially liked how Carpenter reacted to what he thought was an undeserved tribute to Vonnegut.

  94. 94
    Raging Bee

    And his idea for the glider was genius.

    I thought that was Benito’s idea.

    And yes, Carpentier did know enough history to figure out who Benito was — he just didn’t remember any of it until three-fourths of the way through the book.

    I especially liked how Carpenter reacted to what he thought was an undeserved tribute to Vonnegut.

    That was kinda amusing, especially since there was both God’s alleged opinion of Vonnegut, and Carpentier’s reaction to it.

  95. 95
    democommie

    Maybe some smart alecky university (Hello, San Diego State, I’m lookin’ at YOU!) could start a contest like the “Bulwer Lytton” Dark & Stormy thing only make it about Dan Brown.

  96. 96
    Nick Gotts

    martinc@56,

    Two of the authors of The Wholly Crud and the Wholly Fail sued Dan Brown in 2005 for plagiarism. They were unsuccessful, but the trial reportedly boosted sales of their book.

  97. 97
    Owlmirror

    And I never met another science-fiction reader or writer who had never heard of a particular famous Italian dude named Benito. (Seriously, that name seems as rare as Adolf.)

    I thought both names were reasonably common in their respective countries. Wikipedia says that “Adolf” has acquired a stigma since the end of WWII, but the name “Benito” does not appear to have anything particularly negative associated with it.

    And his idea for the glider was genius.

    I thought that was Benito’s idea.

    No, absolutely not. Benito wanted to go down, not up or out. But he had no problem humoring and aiding Carpenter’s idea (since his aid was given on condition of Carpenter promising to go down if the idea failed).

    And yes, Carpentier did know enough history to figure out who Benito was — he just didn’t remember any of it until three-fourths of the way through the book.

    Hints kept being dropped, and Carpenter half-remembers something when Benito reminisces about gliders, but … stuff happens and he just sort of drops it.

  98. 98
    democommie

    Ummmm, airships.

    In one of the books in the “Hell” series, Umberto Nobile and Ezra Pound are co-conspirator’s in the resistance organization fighting against Satan for dominion of Hades–working on building an airship to use to reach paradise.

  99. 99
    birgerjohansson

    In Scandinavia, many men born during the 1930s were named Adolf. My late neighbour was named Benita.
    — — — — — — — —
    Trebuchet, thank you for the info. A straightforward DC-X derivative might actually work, considering the simplicity of the shape.
    — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
    “Ummmm, airships. ”
    -Check out the spherical, highly manouverable airship of Hokan Colting.

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