Hooray! Dan Brown has published a new book!

I will never read it. I’ve only managed to read one chapter of one of his books before getting annoyed with his bad writing and freakish quirks. But when Brown shits out a new turd, it means the season of Dan Brown reviews is upon us, and we get another horde of appalled English majors forced to wade through the sewage and write out disbelieving summaries. Poor Matthew Walther had to read Origin, and then attempt to write a summary. If I wanted to dissuade students from going for an English major, this is what I’d show them. It’s analogous to scaring away potential biology majors by plopping down a noisome week-old roadkill in front of them and telling them to trace the major vessels of the circulatory system.

Nor, finally, would anyone who is not going out of his way to subvert the very notion of suspense as a factor that might conceivably motivate us to turn pages attempt even as a joke what must be the most banal chapter-ending cliffhanger in the history of fiction: “‘This getaway car was hired,’ Langdon said, pointing to the stylized U on the windshield. ‘It’s an Uber.'” Nor would he dream of opening the next chapter by announcing that a police officer has responded to this utterance with “a look of wide-eyed disbelief” at “the quick decryption of the windshield sticker.” Decryption! Code-breaking! Rare feats of professorial intellect, like knowing what corporate logos are! Imagine what further wonders Langdon might perform if only his creator allowed him to visit a certain international hamburger chain or glance down at the anagogic white fruit staring up from the bottom of his cellphone. (Unimprovably, Brown follows up this masterclass in symbology from Langdon by noting himself that “Uber’s ubiquitous ‘on-demand driver’ service had taken the world by storm over the past few years. Via smartphone, anyone requiring a ride could instantly connect with a growing army of Uber drivers who made extra money by hiring out their own cars as improvised taxis.”) If this guy is trying to write thrillers, then this article is actually a piece of SpongeBob Squarepants fan fiction.

It’s terrible, but you also get an inkling of why he is popular. His hero is supposed to be this super-smart, highly educated professor in some field so esoteric that no one has ever heard of it, yet he recites banalities as if they were profound. The truly stupid reader can follow this story and assemble superficial trivia as if they were insightful…as if they too were as brilliant as Robert Langdon supposedly is. If you are reading a book to affirm that you are clever enough to be able to read a book at all, then Dan Brown will pat you on the back on every page and coo reassuringly that yes, you are just as intelligent as a Harvard professor.


  1. Matrim says

    I kinda liked Angels & Demons, it wasn’t amazing or anything, but it kept me interested enough to finish it. The Divinci Code was incredibly dull, and basically just a rehash of Angels & Demons with the Macguffins switched out. Didn’t bother to read any of his other stuff.

  2. rietpluim says

    I quit the Da Vinci Code after the first chapter. I thought it shallow and sensationalistic. I guess he was anticipating a Hollywood movie to be based on it.

  3. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    From the review:

    “Edmond chose page 163 because it’s impossible to display that page without simultaneously displaying the page next to it — page 162!” [Origin]

    Reader: If you ever come across a book in which it is possible to “display” page 163 without also displaying page 162, write to the publisher. You are almost certainly due a refund of some kind, to say nothing of an explanation.

    I can open the book I’m reading right now to p. 219 without “displaying” p. 218 because the publisher decided to stick the pictures there.

  4. feministhomemaker says

    Okay, confession time: my husband and I checked into a boutique hotel one new years eve and spent our time, when not hosting a dinner in the restaurant for close friends, reading The DaVinci Code out loud until we finished it. Great fun! That was years ago, shortly after it came out.

    I can only plea that it was a glorious antidote to years of childhood inculcation in male-only imagery for divine or spiritual power and leadership in the catholic church in which we were raised. My Goddess phase was absolutely essential for healing me from that lopsided reverence I grew up with and this book reading came at the end of that phase, sort of the cherry on top after my Marinja Gimbutas and Elaine Pagels exploration, among others.

    I have been known to get great pleasure from hearing my favorite pieces played by my school students when I taught music, thrilling to the imperfect expressions of what I heard in my head so I had no trouble ignoring the writing style and technique as I wallowed in the storyline of his book. But once we did that reading, with wine, laughter and an interruption for dinner with close friends, well, I was done and I could never read another of his books. I found the movie of Da Vinci Code disappointing and the trailer for his subsequent movie adaptation to have horribly cheesy dialogue. Did not go. But I was delighted when my little grandson read Da Vinci Code. I imagined it to be sort of like an inoculation against anyone who would suggest male-only religious power and imagery to him.

    So there you have it! Confessions of a Dan Brown fun time book experience!

  5. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I’ve read just one book from noted author and Amherst college graduate Dan Brown, who was born on June 22, 1964 at Exeter Hospital, according to Wikipedia, a site on the World Wide Web which aspires to collecting the collective knowledge of all humankind, and which allows certain designated users to edit the entries as they see fit. The book I read was “The Da Vinci Code,” which was published in 2003 by Doubleday, a publishing house in New York City that publishes books in order to make them available to members of the public who are able to afford the asking price, or who have access to a public lending library where they can borrow the book free of charge for a limited time. The book had many chapters, but they were short and so the book was easy to read fast. It had both a page 162 and 163, and one could not open the book to one page without displaying the other.

    I believe that Dan Brown was frustrated in his dreams to become a travel writer, and so he turned to novel writing to pay the bills.

  6. piscador says

    Brown’s ‘Digital Fortress’ is easily the worst mainstream novel I’ve ever read. I came away feeling stupider.

    However, it is better than ‘Battlefield Earth’, which outdoes anything that Brown ever wrote in its sheer idiocy, moronic plot, cretinous characters, boneheaded science and some of the worst writing I’ve ever had the displeasure to read.

  7. Mobius says

    I kept being told how good The Da Vinci Code was, and so I started reading it. I did finish it, mostly because I usually finish a book I start. But I wasn’t very impressed. I decided to give Brown one more chance and read Angels and Demons. I finished it too, but decided that was the last Dan Brown book I was going to read.

  8. blf says

    What a minute, you mean “Dan Brown” is a real person? I’d thought it was a name like “Alan Smithee”, an invented name used by film directors to dissociate themselves from (typically terrible) films. Given the books the name “Dan Brown” is attached to, that seemed a reasonable guess.

  9. says

    I went so far as to read the synopis on ‘The Da Vinci Code’, and it sounded so moronic, I put the book back down on the stacks. Never have read any of Brown’s, er, stuff.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Obviously, “page 162” is a reference to nazi jet fighter Heinkel 162 Salamander, meaning the crucial code phrase is “Salamander”.
    Or something.

  11. Rich Woods says

    Like Mobius, I finished The Da Vinci Code because I’d started it. I then emailed the friend who had sent me her copy (because she knew what I would think of it, and had naturally wanted to share her pain as widely as possible) to say that I’d finished the book and had put it back in the post to her. I also included several paragraphs in my email that I claimed was an excerpt from his next blockbuster, all of which I’d just made up because it was so easy to imitate his style.

    I will not be reading a Dan Brown novel ever again. The CIA can torture me all day long by playing Miley Cyrus non-stop in a cramped floodlit cell and I’ll do my best to snooze through it, but if they should throw a Dan Brown book in I will go full-on Hulk.

  12. brucej says

    Oh my dog!!! It’s all clear now form that excerpt!!!

    Dan Brown is actually the pen name for the writing team of Thomas Friedman and David Brooks!!!

    Prolix, thesaurus-larded prose?? Check!
    Name dropping 19th century philosophers?? Check!
    Breathless excitement over modern techno-culture that everyone already knows about?? Check!

    Tell me, is Applebee’s salad bar Langdon’s favorite part of his favorite restaurant???

  13. hemidactylus says

    I saw the Da Vinci Code and Angel & Demons movies. A girlfriend coerced me into the former. She was really into the book. I didn’t hate the movie. It had action, intrigue and twists. I watched A&D at a friend’s on DVD. Kinda boring.

    The Dan Brown book I actually read was Inferno, mainly because I was into Florentine history at the time, the Medici bankrolling of the Renaissance, the adjacent shenanigans of the Borgias in Rome, that vanity bonfire guy, and of course how Machiavelli ascended in this rich mix of factors…mostly that. Inferno was interesting given its arcane referencing of Florentine and Venetian history that went over my head. And it ended in Istanbul. Frustrated travel writer? Maybe.

    Brown seemed to really lay his claws into transhumanism in a very negative way. The villain was hardcore H+. But the optimism of Kurzweil was absent. This was sinister transhumanism at its worst. The biology seemed contrived in the population control virus. Brown pulls a sneaky with the denouement where the set up of mass death gets twisted into “merely” random sterilization. That in itself would be horrible for anyone with the means to inflict, but contrasted with the threatened alternative it takes the sting out. The twist where Langdon’s ally wound up being a culprit was a mindfuck too.

    Isn’t this new book supposed to be about evolution vs creationism?

  14. blf says

    Isn’t this new book supposed to be about evolution vs creationism?

    Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge indicates a fanciful recreation of abiogenesis is somehow involved which somehow means “using the basis of evolution, in roughly fifty years, humanity and technology will more or less merge”, somehow. Neither that nor anything else makes any sense — which tends to support my more plausible hypothesis “Dan Brown” is really just the “Alan Smithee” for books (see @9). Main flaw is, of course, “Alan Smithee” films rarely $Profit$.

  15. gjpetch says

    It still amuses me that Da Vinci Code has a massive great clunking mistake right there in the title; you’d never shorten Leonardo Da Vinci’s name to “Da Vinci”, that’s not his last name. It just mean “of Vinci”, the city he was from.

  16. Bernard Bumner says

    I always presumed that Langdon was a “symbologist” because Umberto Eco was a semiotician, and Brown had once read, and to some superficial extent assimilated the themes of, The Name of the Rose. It is a shame, although perhaps not for multimillionaire Brown, that he lacks the skill and rigour of Eco.

  17. bachfiend says

    I read it. It’s terrible, but not as terrible as ‘Missa Charles Darwin’, a musical work composed by Dan Brown’s brother, Gregory Brown, and publicised in ‘Origin’. It’s an unaccompanied choral work using extracts from ‘the Origin of Species’. The best thing I can say about it is that it only lasts about 20 minutes.

  18. anbheal says

    I remember when Regis’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire became so popular that ABC started running it five nights a week, torpedoing all their creative programmes for the next several years (which eventually all the networks did after the writers’ strike, feeding us all-reality-all-the-time with a smattering of 15 new CSIs and NCIs — why pay actors and writers?). Either a Boston entertainment reporter or a national Entertainment Tonight type interviewed a half dozen fans of the show as to why they adored it so much. Their answers were close to identical: “I know all the answers…..with Jeopardy, I don’t know many at all, and even the Wheel Of Fortune puzzles are too tricky sometimes, but with Regis, I can answer every one!” As with Newt Gingrich, Dan Brown speaks the way stupid people imagine a smart person talks — but a smart person who’s almost as dumb as they are, so they can understand him.

  19. shouldbeworking says

    I read the Da Vinci Code. I read better fiction when I mark high school physics lab reports.

  20. hemidactylus says

    #17- gjpetch said:
    “It still amuses me that Da Vinci Code has a massive great clunking mistake right there in the title; you’d never shorten Leonardo Da Vinci’s name to “Da Vinci”, that’s not his last name. It just mean “of Vinci”, the city he was from.”

    But then what do we do about Lamarckian evolution given weird French names? According to a respondent here: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060809184506AAPnEch

    …Chevalier de Lamarck was his title and not surname. Should Lamarckism be renamed?

    And we have those Swedes that parallel Arabs with the -son/-dotter (bin/bint). Are those surnames proper? How many guys named Sven had Svenssons? Svensdotters?

    And we have this awkward thing foisted upon us by pointy headed scientists:


    Should that have been called something else?

  21. blf says

    Speaking of batshite stooopid hypothesis, I can prove that ‘William Shakespeare’ is buried in Westminster Abbey — scholar [sic]:

    William Shakespeare was in fact Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, and is buried in Westminster Abbey, not the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon […].

    Alexander Waugh says he has deciphered encryptions in the title and dedication pages of Aspley’s edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets of 1609 that reveal the bard’s final resting place.

    It then gets even stoooopider:

    He will present his evidence at a conference at the Globe theatre in London […] show hidden geometries, grid patterns and other clues which reveal that Shakespeare’s final resting place is underneath his 1740 monument in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey and that they spell out the words Edward de Vere lies here.

    He said he had finally decoded the mysterious dedication to the sonnets. [… The] dedication page must be encrypted, because it doesn’t seem to make any sense. It’s got those funny dots all over the place and there’s something very weird about it. I’ve finally cracked it.

    He then ran around in circles, glibber glibber whee wooo wheeeeeee!

    And he gets his whiney defense in early:

    Waugh added that the Stratfordians[] would have loved this discovery. But it tells you that it’s De Vere, so they’re going to hate it.

    [… Shakespeare Beyond Doubt’s] co-editor, Paul Edmondson, an expert from the educational charity Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “These theories just seem to get more and more fantastic and take us into the realms of science fiction and fantasy novels. This has always been part of the fascination of those who are seeking to disprove authenticated history.”

    For an encore, Waugh will prove the turtles which go all the way down also cause windstorms by excessive farting. He will do this by deciphering the Voynich manuscript, showing it is written in an anarchic form of Klingon, and since Gorn are extraterrestrial UFOnauts, he must know what it is talking about.

      † “Stratfordians” say Shakespeare is the fellow from Stratford-upon-Avon; i.e., they are the ones more familiar with concepts like evidence and reason.