I love Dan Brown books. I do. Most of America agrees with me. But I also find it fascinating that there are many people in our country who absolutely REFUSE to read his works, most specifically The Da Vinci Code. I’ve read three of Brown’s works, Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code and most recently The Lost Symbol.
The Da Vinci Code was the book that put Dan Brown on the map, opening a door to the hidden belief that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had children, and that their descendants walk among us. He created popular interest in the secretive and historical groups such as the Knights Templar and Opus Dei as well as the missing gospels. What I found fascinating about this book was that rather than seeming blasphemous toward religion, I felt it made Jesus more real. I’ve always been someone attracted to the human side of Jesus, the fact that he was a man, that he struggled throughout life to overcome his obstacles. Being raised a Catholic and attending Catholic school for 9 years, I remember asking my mother why the Church wouldn’t allow priests to marry? I thought that would solve a lot of problems. For starters, a married man can better understand the family lives of his congregation; he’s experiencing the same ups and downs that occur when you’re compromising over what’s for dinner, how to discipline the kids, who’s turn it is drive or pick up groceries, yadda yadda. Second, it’s a smart business move. Even when I was in elementary school, the number of men attending seminary was less and less. Not many have the strength and devotion to choose a life of solitude and move around a lot. Why in the last 8 years, my family’s Catholic church has had at least 4 different priests. It seems that whenever they’ve been around long enough to know all the families, they’re sent elsewhere and another one arrives. If priests were allowed to marry, perhaps more men would devote themselves to the ministry. But, we’re not here to discuss my views on religion, and I won’t argue with yours. I do think The Da Vinci Code was a fascinating read that opened my mind to the human side of religious figures.
All of the books I read star Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks in the movies. Angels and Demons is actually the first book and again dips into the intricate and secret world of The Vatican. Brown stirred up the press with this book discussing the underground society, The Illuminati, a group founded in the 1700’s with the conspiratorial goal of undoing the Church to find true enlightenment.
Hmm, I’m beginning to see why readers are in such a tizz. Ok, so Dan Brown has a knack for finding and expounding upon ancient historical figures and the conspiracy theories and mysteries that surround them. Now, this is why I think he’s a fantastic writer! That’s adventure thriller novel gold! The man was named one of the most influential people in 2005 by TIME magazine editors for:
“keeping the publishing industry afloat; renewed interest in Leonardo da Vinci and early Christian history; spiking tourism to Paris and Rome; a growing membership in secret societies; the ire of Cardinals in Rome; eight books denying the claims of the novel and seven guides to read along with it; a flood of historical thrillers; and a major motion picture franchise.”
I’d love to have that kind of impact on the world. Sadly, I’m not sure I have the patience necessary.
In The Lost Symbol, Robert Langdon is back and immediately flying to Washington D.C. to present at a conference for a last minute request by his former teacher and mentor, Peter Solomon. No sooner does he arrive, than the life threatening forces begin to swirl around him. The bad guy is a tattooed man with a thirst for revenge and the lost word that will make him the most evil minion of the dark forces. He’s pretty much pure evil. The secret society of this novel is the Freemasons. Now, the freemasons historically consisted of many of our nation’s founding members, Presidents, and Supreme Court justices. Benjamin Franklin, a Freemason, wrote a book about them with his printing press. Mostly tied to Christianity, the Freemasons appear to be more open-minded, referring to God in a number of manners that suggest any religion could be a part of the Freemasons. What makes them so intriguing in this book is that Dan Brown delves into the secret and lost (perhaps?) rituals of the society. In the opening scene, a Freemason ritual is happening where the inductee drinks wine, meant to symbolize blood, from a real human skull. It certainly paints a different picture than what most of us know about masons, like weird hats, man lodges, and secret handshakes.
It’s no wonder Dan Brown writes about religion with intrigue. His father was a math teacher and his mom a church organist. He grew up with both a passion for science and religion. He combines the two in each of his novels. In fact, they’ve essentially become his belief system. In a Q & A he did for The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown said:
I’m fascinated by power, especially veiled power. Shadow power. The National Security Agency. The National Reconnaissance Office. Opus Dei. The idea that everything happens for reasons we’re not quite seeing. It reminds me of religion a little. The power that religion has is that you think nothing is random: If there’s a tragedy in my life, that’s God testing me or sending me a message. That’s what conspiracy theorists do. They say, “The economy’s terrible? Oh, that’s not random. That’s a bunch of rich guys in Prague who sat down and…”
Brown originally attempted a career in the music industry and lived in L.A. for awhile. Not fitting in, he moved east and became a teacher. For all you starving, struggling writers out there, listen to this schedule: When Brown decided to write a book for the first time in his life, he woke up at 4 in the morning every day, wrote until 8, then biked 12 miles to teach spanish at a grade school, biked home, showered/ate and taught English at Phillips – Exeter. He finished his book Digital Fortress a year later. By the way, if you want to get really creeped out about a secret eavesdropping society, check out the true event that inspired Dan Brown to write Digital Fortress, a novel centered around the National Security Agency.
Clearly I’ve expressed my profound admiration for the writer Dan Brown and his suspense novels. If you’ve only seen the films, you’re missing out! They have too much to tell in too short a time, and the movies almost make the story unbelievable. The hold your breath, edge of your seat reading of his books is a much better experience! ESPECIALLY for Angels and Demons, the book has a TOTALLY different ending, which I much prefer.
Have at it! What’s your opinion of Dan Brown and his franchise of religious suspense novels? Have you read his works? What’s your favorite? Has anyone read his earlier novels, how do they compare? What thoughts and opinions do you have about his subject matter? Do you ever stop on a page and wonder, you know, if it’s possible?