A couple years ago, I wrote a review of Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol. In it, I had an idea that I hadn’t seen before: Let the author speak for himself so I could have a review in his own words. Although the majority of the people reading it liked the review, there was one sourpuss. Without further adieu, I copy it verbatim.
The Lost Symbol is definitely a Dan Brown book. It breaks everything into short chapters that constantly switch scenes, has a plot twist, and has its archetypal super-nasty bad guy. It uses action at a frenetic pace to cover any weakness in facts or plot (like Star Wars). This is what one expects from Brown, and he doesn’t fail us in this book if that’s why you read his novels. As usual, he goes way out on a limb with some of the information he presents, but this time around, the limb breaks.
Except for the villain, the characters in the book are suffering from some brain-crippling disease. This makes them easy pickings for the puppet-master, who knows just how to play them until the plot twist, when he also succumbs to the same brain freeze as everyone else. I hoped for better, but I’ll accept what I got.
Rather than trying to describe what I thought was wrong, I’ll let the book speak for itself. All bracketed entries are mine, either to put the quote in context or to make some snide remark. The first quote, I liked, but after that, they go downhill rapidly.
p10: I am a masterpiece. [Mal’akh is indeed a piece of work.]
p34: The truth was that Katherine was doing science so advanced [Noetic Science – more advanced than Creation Science or even Homeopathic Science] that it no longer even resembled science. [The resemblance is indeed faint.]
p148: An unusual, fetid odor wafted out of the darkness. [Elemental sulfur smells fetid?]
p152: Ethanol fumes wafted out as she reached down into the [specimen preservation] tank and flipped a switch just above the liquid line. [It must be a special switch not to ignite the fumes. (Ethanol fumes burn violently with just a spark.)]
p182: Seventy-five feet overhead, stained-glass skylights glistened between paneled beams adorned with rare “aluminum leaf” – a metal that was considered more precious than gold at one time. [The Library of Congress (Thomas Jefferson building) was completed in 1897, when Alcoa was producing cheap aluminum using the Hall-Héroult process – far less than the price of silver and nowhere near the price of gold.]
p185: The security guard was on his way, and for some unknown reason, her attacker smelled strongly of ethanol. [Ethanol smells vaguely sweet (if you can smell it at all); water has a much stronger smell. Any other odors come from contaminants.]
p200: Normally, a two-inch-tall object would not be an issue of national security unless it was made of enriched plutonium. [Who isotopically enriches plutonium? It’s useful because it’s already enriched when it’s created.]
p208: Katherine’s work here had begun using modern science to answer ancient philosophical questions. Does anyone hear our prayers? Is there Life after death? Do humans have souls? [Does this have anything to do with science?]
p209: Mal’akh hurried now into the lab and retrieved the Pyrex jug of Bunsen-burner fuel – a viscous, highly flammable, yet noncombustible oil. [Will fuel oil also work with a Meker-Fischer burner? How do you convert it from using natural gas? And do they use Pyrex because they heat the jug rapidly?]
p268: He felt pure again, having washed off the last remaining scent of ethanol. [He probably thought that smelling sweet clashed with his personality.]
p313: Science and mysticism are very closely related, distinguishable only by their approaches. They have identical goals…but different methods. [PZ Myers needs to be notified.]
p335: Different substances incandesce at different temperatures. … Think of a mood ring. Just put it on your finger, and it changes color from body heat. [This is incandescence?]
p335: The early alchemists used organic phosphors all the time as thermal markers. [Because they incandesce so readily?]
p392: Noetic Science clearly suggested that thoughts had mass, and so it stood to reason, then, that the human soul might therefore also have mass. [Of course!]
p495: The results were conclusive and irrefutable, with the potential to transform skeptics into believers and affect global consciousness on a massive scale. […and any concerns about her methods would evaporate.]
p498: Katherine was apparently familiar with the [Capitol] dome’s startling acoustical properties…because the wall whispered back. [The focal points of a sphere are at its edge?]
p498: The science of Noetics may be new, but it’s actually the oldest science on earth – the study of human thought. …”And we’re learning that the ancients actually understood thought more profoundly than we do today.”
p499: “Your brother tried to convince me that the Bible is encoded with scientific information.” “It certainly is,” she said… [Anyone who has seen the movie Time Changer already knows that “the only science worth knowing is in the Bible“. After all, the Bible has all the details for building a time machine.]
p499 – p500: The human brain, in advanced states of focus, will physically create a waxlike substance from the pineal gland. This brain secretion is unlike anything else in the body. It has an incredible healing effect, can literally regenerate cells, and may be one of the reasons yogis live so long. This is real science. [How do you recognize fake science? Ask a fakir?]
p500: The Bible, like many ancient texts, is a detailed exposition of the most sophisticated machine ever created…the human mind.
p500: Within a matter of years, modern man will be forced to accept what is now unthinkable: our minds can generate energy capable of transforming physical matter. [Better than a philosopher’s stone.]
p501: God is very real – a mental energy that pervades everything. And we, as human beings, have been created in that image[.]