THE DA VINCI CODE
This book sucks.
I really wanted to like it. It’s the literary sensation of 03-04, after all (28 weeks at #1 and counting!) and I genuinely enjoyed the last pop sensation, Harry Potter. I expected riveting action, great writing, and interesting ideas about Christian history. It wouldn’t be steak, but it could at least be a ham sandwich.
What I got was a big, nasty bag of pork rinds. You know they’re unhealthy, but they’re pretty good, so you stay intrigued and keep on eating. Then you find out what they’re made of, and the dream dies.
The first thing that bothered me was the writing. Given the same plot, characters, and background information, I could have made a much better novel. The pacing is jerky, the characters are cliches, and the descriptions are non-existent. The biggest failure in this regard is the characterization. Subtlety and humanity are beyond Brown; he explains absolutely everything his characters do because he judges his readers too stupid to figure it out for themselves. The “romance” between Langdon and Sophie feels like a limp handshake, the whole of it filling one page in 454. Langdon was slightly boring; his vacillations between total genius and absolute stupidity for the convenience of the plot were somewhat grating. I’m not a cryptographer, but I know the Fibonacci sequence and backwards English when I see them. Using an albino character was an interesting touch of color (ha ha), but considering the retinal degeneration associated with the condition, I would be a bit nervous about giving him a gun and asking him to shoot people.
Pacing is a big problem. Brown sets his tempo and volume at the beginning and never changes it. There is neither a development nor a climax, but there are 105 chapters. If the book bores you, fear not, for a scene change is swiftly on the way! This facet is a boon for caffeine-addled, concentration-deprived Americans. It lends a general air of anticipation to the story but robs it of a real emotional payoff. The story skips the exposition phase but never escapes it. After a while, I got bored of the cycle of “She remembered something in her past that was really shocking and key to the plot..but I won’t tell you about that for another 50 pages!”. Another unfortunate consequence of this pacing is that the characters do not eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom at least 24 hours, and the only effect is that they “look a little tired.” Uh…guys? Guys?
I came to the conclusion that Brown neglected these important artistic details because he was so excited about showing the world his amazing research. It’s the primary reason for the popularity of the book and will surely inspire a lot of thoughtful discussion on the subjects of the Church and feminism. If you want to discuss such things with a reasonable person, though, I would strongly advise you NOT to use any of the information from this book. Most of the historical information is BS. Even before I did any research, I knew that claims that it was Constantine’s idea to make Jesus a deity and that the Church had killed 5 million witches (actually 50,000) were inaccurate. It was not until I researched the book this afternoon, though, that I realized how deep the rabbit-hole really goes. Brown cannot even keep his geography straight, let alone his theology; in the story, the Hotel de Crillon is a mile away from the American Embassy, but the buildings are actually right across the street from each other. It pains me that most of the people who read this book will accept its words as truth. It’s not historical fiction. It’s revisionist history. (For more information, check the links below.)
The one positive thing about “The Da Vinci Code” is that it will encourage more debate about the role of women in the church and society. I look forward to discussing these issues, but they must be based on fact. The Catholic Church as steeped in blood and shame as some say it is. The Church actually greatly respects women, as evidenced by the huge number of female saints and its reverence for the Virgin Mary who lived a completely sinless life and is a model for everyone. Though elements of misogyny still exist, these are the faults of society as a whole, not specifically the Church. Hopefully, by talking about these issues, we can continue to grow in understanding, respect, and faith. “The Da Vinci Code” is not popular based on its own merits; it just arrived in the right place at the right time.
Refutations of “Facts”
Various Newspaper Reviews (Catalogued on OD’s Website)