Friday, May 1, 2009

The Problems with Dan Brown

Spoiler alert - if you plan on seeing Angels & Demons and/or haven't seen/read The DaVinci Code and plan on doing either, you may want to skip this post as it will definitely contain spoilers.

I don't hate Dan Brown or his books (hence why it is not in a Two Minute Hate post...more of a annoyance). I've read Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. I thought they were OK. Decent enough for what they were. I liked how he show cased artwork around both and got many people looking and and thinking about art. I thought that was great. I enjoyed the puzzles and riddles. I enjoyed the ambigrams. But a few things have always bothered me about him.

  1. Dan Brown's ideas on the grail are not really new or original. 20 years ago when I was in 7th and 8th grade, I was really into knights and the Arthurian legends. I know I read several books around this time about the grail and the possibility that it was possibly a person and the bloodline of Christ. I know it is not Dan Brown's fault that many people think this is his original idea, but it bugs me that so many people thought it was such a new and novel idea. I guess it is good that he is raising people's consciousness about it though and if it gets them thinking all the better.

  2. Dan Brown writes really short chapters. This style of writing tricks people into thinking a book is more exciting than it really is because there is like a mini-cliffhanger every few pages. People keep wanting to read "just one more chapter." I think it is great that people are reading and want to keep reading, however, I always thought this kind of writing seemed more of a cheat to readers. It makes the pace of the book fast but it doesn't allow the readers to really think about the story. Just look at the movie, it was just the opposite - long, boring, and full of plot holes...and yet it had everything the book had, your brain just wasn't tricked by short chapters. Reading a book written in this style always makes me feel like I am reading a book written for 6th graders (not that that is bad because I love young adult literature). I just don't feel like my brain is being utilized. James Patterson writes in a similar style, and I don't like it there either.

  3. Dan Brown doesn't seem to like handicapped people. Leigh Teabing, the mastermind of the evil plot in The DaVinci Code, walked with a cane and a limp due to polio. Maximillian Kohler in Angels and Demons, is paralyzed and in a wheel chair. I guess he isn't the "bad guy" per se because he is not trying to blow up millions of people, but he's not really a "good guy" since he is trying to destroy the Christian religion. Now, I don't think people with handicaps should be excluded from being villains, but two books in a row in the series with villains being physically challenged seems a little above average. Especially since they are the only handicapped people in the books (from what I remember).

  4. The books are way too similar. Example, read the first chapter of each book back to back...Robert Langdon awoken in the middle of the night to look at picture of a body with a symbol on it... I seriously thought to myself "Haven't I already read this?" when I picked up The DaVinci Code.

That all being said, will I read his new Robert Langdon book when it comes out? Yes, but I'll probably bum a used copy from someone. Will I see the new Angels & Demons movie? Possibly but not till it is on cable.

PS - although his ambigrams were good (like Earth, Air, Fire above). It doesn't come close to the Princess Bride DVD cover that was created last year. It is one of my favorite images for a movie in a long time. Nice work design department on the new cover! I am impressed that a studio would spend so much time on a 20+ year old movie. It made me buy the DVD. Here it is both ways.


Aetraxx said...

I have to agree. All of Dan Brown's books are that way. His writing is really not that great when you get down to it - he is terribly formulaic. Once you figure out the books formula (about 50 pages or so in), you can predict everything that will happen. No suspense.
Anyone looking for an interesting read about the stuff Dan Brown stumbles through with hollow characters should pick up anything by Jim Marrs. Though nonfiction and rambling at times, his books (Rule By Secrecy is a personal favorite) are quite thought provoking. Had I not been a Marrs fan/reader, I may have found Brown's juvenile plots more interesting.
Maybe if I wasn't so into da Vinci or history these two would have been better. Maybe if I had been raised in a Catholic household growing up these books would have shocked me more.
Then again, I've always been contemptuous about an organization that strictly forbids its female employees any sexual conduct and merely shruggs its shoulders when its male employees molest young boys...

kelly said...

You forgot another "handicapped" evil character. Silas. Damn albinos.

I think these books were really written for junior high kids but people are so dumbed down anymore that they qualify as adult reading. I mean, you can't tell me the Twilight series and Harry Potter books are "adult". I'm actually embarrassed for all of these 30-something middle aged women running around swooning for Edward Cullen and talking about muggles and such.

Dean Koontz is a adolescent writer in my book too. Weak sauce, formulaic, annoying characters. But then again, we were reading LoTR and Shakespeare in 5th grade so we're probably not qualified to judge.

Michael said...

I don't know if I count albino-ism as a true handicap...unless you are one of those kids that has to wear a spacesuit every time they go outside. But Dan Brown obviously hates anyone who is different.
I know what you mean about middle age people raving about Harry Potter and stuff. I'm not saying they aren't good books, they are...I've read and enjoyed them all. But if you were out of high school by the time they were published, they should not be your FAVORITE books. You should probably not be dressing up and going to the movies on opening day or going to the midnight sale to buy the new book. Enjoy the books for what they are but know your age. Seeing people "my age" drooling over these kid books is like seeing the 45 year old drunk chick in the bar wearing the extra short mini-skirt and tube top and hitting on everything that moves...just kinda sad.

Michael said...

I've seen Rule by Secrecy on the shelf a few times while browsing. I always thought it looked interesting but never purchased it. I'll have to give it a try when I am looking for something new to read...right now I have a pile I need to get through first, but maybe this fall.