“The Lost Symbol” Review attempt 1

There are two purposes to a book review, I feel. One is to tell you whether it is worth your while to read the book being reviewed; the other is to tell you why I think you should or should not read the book being reviewed. I’m telling you this because I feel I can’t actually begin the review without giving away a major spoiler, and thus I think you need at least another paragraph of fluff before I tell you what the secret it is that the Freemasons are hiding.

“The Lost Symbol” is not a good book. It is, at the very most, adequately written, which is as damning with faint praise as you can get, and the plot, lifted very much from Dan Brown’s earlier (and better) work “Angels and Demons,” lacks power and punch.

Yet, no matter what I say, will this likely change whether or not you read this book.

The Secret the Freemasons have hidden is the Bible.

Well, except for that. By revealing the ‘Lost Symbol’ of “The Lost Symbol” I can, at least, make you less inclined to bother.

In “Angels and Demons” there was no real central conceit, no mystic mumbo-jumbo, only an elaborate disinformation campaign run by one man to make the Catholic Church think an ancient (and fictitious) enemy is once again on the move. In “The Da Vinci Code” the conceit is, at least, interesting (if equally false); what if the central story about the Christian Messiah had been tampered with. Both of these plot twists are surprising and work; the former because it is startling and the latter because, whether you believe it or not, it does pose a perfectly good question, “What if everything you thought you knew about Christ was wrong?”

In “The Lost Symbol” it turns out the Masons are hiding the Bible.

A book you can buy from the same bookseller you picked up “The Lost Symbol” from.

The plot of “The Lost Symbol” is the usual story; Robert Langdon, an academic specialised in occult symbols, is summoned to Washington, D.C., where he gets caught up in a series of art-related puzzles relating to an ancient order hiding an ancient secret. He is opposed by a violent assassin with strange and occult tendencies and, about halfway through the book, Langdon gets an info dump by someone with a defect.

And the secret being hidden is the Bible.

I cannot repeat this enough; the Freemason’s great secret is the Bible.

It is a little hard to review a book with a central conceit this pauce. It feels as if “The Lost Symbol” is an apology for “The Da Vinci Code.” Brown seemed legitimately surprised by just how vitriolic some of his opponents became. Not the literary critics or the historians; their criticisms were swept carefully away because, after all, “The Da Vinci Code” was just a novel. No, Brown seemed surprised by how people took his fiction to be an attack on the Christian Messiah. That was not his intention.

So, in “The Lost Symbol,” the Bible becomes the greatest secret the world has ever known.

The Bible, it seems, contains within it not just the wisdom of the ages, the power of the Ancient Mysteries, and advanced scientific knowledge, if only you knew how to access it.

Luckily, this treasure trove of information, is available in bookstores almost everywhere.

The Bible…

I just can’t do it, not just now. The book is dull. I read it. You do not have to.


Byron says:

It seems a million people who should have read this review didn’t.


If Langdon is such an expert in occult symbolism, how is it that he knows no more about iconography than would an Art History undergraduate?

In order to help me avoid reading the book, might you describe how the Bible is such a Swiss Army knife of a book, given that it is not a single text and has been subject to much revision?

‘Pauce’ is a term of art in Philosophy, in re paucity.

As to the Bible; it has, within it, the encoded secrets of the Ancient Mysteries (ala the Eysian Mysteries aka the Mystery Religions of the Mediaterrean).

Those secrets, presumably, have survived into the modern text because of God.

Or something.

Sam Finnemore says:

Sounds rather like an Australian Dan Brown ripoff I read a couple of years back: The Omega Scroll.


Same basic conceit – the One Scripture to Bind them All has been hidden somewhere by the Essenes (who apparently had some kind of advanced technology hidden for millennia, etc), and the big bad Vatican is trying to keep it all under wraps, or else all religions will forget their differences and join together in Peace and Harmony, Bro.

The writing is even worse, if you can even conceive of that.

I have a copy to lend to the morbidly curious.

I meant to say, I loved your marvelously well-crafted letter about Garth George. A work of art! You can use that as a quote if the letter gets a second print run.

How does the prose compare between Dan Brown and Adrian d’Hagé?

Sam Finnemore says:

Thanks – as I said to James at Editing the Herald, I feel bad about feeding the Garth George industry, but just couldn’t resist the chance to call him out that time.

As stated above, d’Hagé’s prose has pretty much all of the standard Dan Brown flaws turned up to 11. Some of my thoughts from a Craccum review in 2006:

“The villainy lies, naturally, in the heart of the Vatican, where Cardinal Lorenzo Petroni – know him by his steely eyes, and an unsurprising thing for small boys – is angling for the papal throne. Of all the threats that face him, none rank higher than archaeologist Allegra Bassetti’s search for the Omega Scroll, which contains a hidden prophecy that might just rock the Catholic Church to its very foundations. Just in case the importance of this has somehow escaped you, the scroll is also linked to a number of nuclear bombs acquired by al Qaeda. Hence journalists, secret agents, archaeologists and foul-mouthed alcoholic priests (I wish I was joking) are all racing to acquire the scroll. Will a nuclear holocaust be set in train, or will the virtuous prevail and a new future for all religions be revealed?

This plot plays out over several hundred pages of astonishingly bad writing and characterisation. It’s not so much that d’Hagé is an incompetent writer, but that he clearly lacked a sympathetic editor to trim out the bits which he clearly loves but which mean nothing to the reader. Internal monologues telegraph every character’s actions in advance, removing all of the moral ambiguity and tension that good thrillers rely on.

What we get instead is research. The best action writers spend months on research and then pare their books down until only the essential remains, but d’Hagé can’t resist putting everything on show, from a racing jetfighter producing 6200 kilograms of thrust from its Snecma Atar 9C powerplant to descriptions of terrorist bases that include their altitude in feet. To reveal this mind-numbing information, the characters spend weeks telling each other information they already know for our benefit. Throw in numerous queasy sex scenes and you may be close to appreciating what Adrian d’Hagé has accomplished.

Remarkably, it’s not all bad: the initial pace is furious, and the ludicrous conclusion has novelty value. It’s a pity that the former wasn’t sustained and the latter a bit more radioactive. But The Omega Scroll’s clumsy characterisation and masses of irrelevant detail prevent it from gripping the reader and sustaining interest, the most basic job of any novel from the Booker Prize to the airport bookstore.”

malik says:

these fictions do get people’s attentions and they distort the real massage wich christ was trying to communicate, yes we are not saying we must barry our heads in the sand, but those who are not scholars do not understand these internal politics of the vatican.

Maxlovsky says:

it was very interesting to read.
I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?