Review of “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

My commute gives me time for listening to ChinesePod, APM Marketplace, and audiobooks. The most recent, and unabridged, audio I listened to was The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Symbol continues the story of Dr. Robert Langdon, whose previous adventures were chronicled in Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. Dan Brown has also written Digital Fortress and Deception Point. I have read them all.


Brown specializes in formulaic thrillers that reference history, technology, culture, and science. Brown’s work is most enjoyable when you¬†already¬†have a grounding in the field, so when he references it the feeling is like unexpectedly seeing an old friend in the news. Brown is not much of an educational writer, though, so while you will learn neat trivia about cool things like, say, Kryptos

It was totally invisible hows that possible? They used the Earth’s magnetic field X information was gathered and transmitted underground [sic] to an unknown location X does Langley know about this? They should. It’s buried out there somewhere X Who knows the exact location? Only WW This was his last message X Thirty-eight degrees fifty-seven minutes six point five seconds North seventy-seven degrees eight minutes four seconds west X layer two

… don’t expect a history lesson.

Dan Brown’s work often has a tone, that few reviewers pick up on, which I think is reflective of a frightening strain in American political life. There is a sort of authoritarian iconoclasm, a distrust of known authority and blind trust in hidden authority, that reminds me of populism and strikes me as strange.

The Lost Symbol is a fun and easy thriller. It emphasizes the romance of Washington, DC, and is the race for a ‘hidden’ location that was obvious to me at Chapter 50 (about 2/5ths of the way thru the book). Fun if empty stuff — cotton candy for the brain.

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3 thoughts on “Review of “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown
  1. I’m almost done with the book, I read it on my bus commute. I agree though, cotton candy for the brain, for me it’s also a guilty pleasure.

    Isn’t it amazing though that so little time is covered in 500+ pages? This fact and the short chapters make the the Lost Symbol a good one to read in short bursts.

  2. My problem with “The Da Vinci Code” was also not that it was pulpy, but that I had the “mystery” solved about ten pages in, as I’m sure was the case from anyone who took an undergraduate course in medieval European history.

  3. Anyone who took an undergraduate course in medieval European history would have thrown the book across the room. I am told Art History types had the same reactions. As did particle physicists regarding the later book.

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