Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Book Review

.:Book Review: The Da Vinci Code:.

It took me a little over a day to complete reading Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code”, and I must say that I really loved this book. I can't wait to get paid so I can start buying the other books in the series already...

Anyways, as this is a book review, we all know the drill: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The Da Vinci Code
Hit rages, sit!

Of course, I meant to say “this is great” in my line there, but I decided to mix it up as some sort of anagram... in any case, The Da Vinci Code is one book that is rife with so many double meanings, wordplays, and mind games than one could possibly conceive. Some call it “the thinking man's Harry Potter”, and there is some legitimacy to that assertion.

In this book, Robert Langdon is a renowned Harvard symbologist who goes to France to deliver a lecture and later on meet up with the brilliant curator of the Louvre, Rene Sauniere. However, things go topsy-turvy when a mysterious person kills Sauniere, and a cryptic message seems to point to Langdon as the culprit. Sauniere's granddaughter, Sophie Neveu, a gifted cryptologist, realizes that Langdon is innocent, and helps him escape arrest, in their quest to both exonerate Langdon and bring justice to Sauniere.

Unfortunately, they have more to do than just that. Sauniere's dying message to them was not merely a link to the identity of his assailant, but more importantly, a guide that will lead them to a powerful secret that Sauniere has kept for decades: the Holy Grail. Whether it be a clue hidden in one of Leonardo Da Vinci's centuries-old paintings, or whether it be an ingenious cryptex that contains the keystone map to the Holy Grail, Sophie and Robert must now race against time and many other forces that wish to find the Holy Grail: some to harness it, others to destroy it.

Even the Vatican and the Opus Dei are deeply involved in the conflict, yet behind it all, a mysterious man known only as The Teacher seems to have everything under control. Unfortunately, he's not working on the side of Sophie or Robert.

This premise for the story is very interesting, and the way Brown has researched the pertinent information for this story is nothing short of meticulous. He tries to explain the purpose of the Priory of Sion, Sauniere's secret organization, sworn keepers of the Grail, and then posits the Holy Grail as a person, which is equally mystifying, as it seems to make so much sense, and for the weaker of faith, even challenge one's conceptions of a Christian God. It would be so easy to tell you the rest of the story and the other facts and figures that he has uncovered in a book of fiction, but I think I should concentrate more on the elements of the story.

If you're looking for page after page of suspense that doesn't drag the way Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix did, then this is the book just for you. It contains a lot of action that proves to sufficiently keep you on the edge of your seat, as there are twists and turns in the plot aplenty. Dan Brown has mastered the power of keeping people guessing until the last moment, and provides more or less satisfying answers to the questions his writing inevitably poses.

While a lot is said about the “invalidity” of Christianity and the questionable methods and practices of the Opus Dei Brown was also subtle enough to give these people some redemption, whether it be Langdon's declaration that faith goes beyond evidence, or the fact that the Opus Dei may have questionable methods and practices, but they are still clearly not evil. Perhaps there are some mistakes on their part, but Dan Brown does not condemn them, nor should he. Character development goes a mile long here, as by the end of the book, one cannot help but think that the Opus Dei can't be that bad...

The plot is deep, and the puzzles are brilliant. It's quite satisfying from time to time to actually be able to solve some of the puzzles here and there, but overall, don't beat yourself up if you couldn't figure the mystery out on your own. Part of the fun is a suspension of disbelief, which the book manages to elicit quite well enough, really. I especially liked how they managed to solve the Cryptex each time. I can't wait to see what's in store for Angels and Demons, as some people actually claim that it's better than The Da Vinci Code.

There are two possible gripes that I find about the book, though they require quite some measure of justification...

First of all, I was not a fan of how they twisted things around just so one couldn't guess the identity of the Teacher until when they reveal it. While they drop a lot of hints here and there about his identity (And really now, the more you rule people out, the less you are inclined to believe that this Teacher would be a new character. It makes more sense that you already know who the Teacher is even before, though you don't know exactly who he or she is...), but there were some moments that just the addition of a word or two would already mean that they were lying outright about the Teacher just to cover up this particular character who was already showing signs of being the Teacher...

If you haven't read the book, but was still tempted to read this review, I'm sure you'd get what I mean when you do read it. I really felt that they were lying to me, and that they deliberately misled you the way they did it. While I know that if I took them to court they could twist things around, I think that I still have a valid case to complain that they were really almost lying about the identity of the Teacher...

Secondly, though I guess I understand what this is about, I realized that the ending was quite... lacking. A better term would be bitin, in the vernacular. Why I say this is simply because I felt that by revealing where the Holy Grail was but not saying what it was, or showing Langdon or anyone attempt to find it outright, was sort of a letdown. Then again. What could Dan Brown depict the Holy Grail to be without proving to be either a close-ended letdown or an overestimation? This discretion may seem like such a foolish move, but good luck pleasing anybody with that ending, anyway.

I love this book, and I especially like how it doubles as a small challenge to one's faith The characters in the book may be fictional, but the discussions on Jesus having a wife and children may shock more close-minded Christians or Catholics. Stuff about the demonizing of the sacred feminine, goddess worship, and fertility rituals may likewise prove to be points of contention, as well as the depiction of the Opus Dei. All in all, there will be tongues wagging whenever this book is read by close-minded people, but the beauty of this book is simply that it will really keep your eyes peeled, lest you beat yourself up over missing a key observation that would help you break the Da Vinci Code yourself.

Marcelle’s Evaluation: A+

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