The da Vinci Code - A Review

The Da Vinci Code
Anchor, 496 pages

Yeah, I finally got around to reading this, finishing it this morning. I generally stay away from hyped books because I figure the hype is over the top. If I do decide to read a bestseller, I usually wait months or years to see what all the fuss was about.

Say what you will about 2-dimensional characters or stilted writing or whatever - it hooked me in right from the start. It's a thriller about the Holy Grail, and the lengths some people will go to either keep its secrets quiet or shout it from the rooftops.

Some Observations

In my view, the purpose of the characters is second to the puzzle: what the heck was the dead guy trying to tell Langdon? And, alternately, to the French cryptographer, Sophie Neveu? I had some interest in Neveu's background and felt sad for her at times, but if you're looking for a character study, you're reading the wrong book.

The beginning hooked me because it starts out with action: The almost-dead guy trying to deal with the guy with the gun. Okay, maybe it's farfetched to expect the Louvre guy to write out his scree on the Louvre floor and position his body in a certain way. Supposedly, his death was slow going.

Implausible? Could be, dahling. But Mr. Brown makes it sound like it could happen. It's the believability factor. Writing fantasy, that's a major concern. Am I going to pull this off so that people actually believe demons/goddesses/whatever walk the Earth? Or whatever else is fantastic in my story? Again, say what you will about word choice or stilted this or that, Mr. Brown made it believable in my mind.

The pace of this story made me almost breathless at times. Langdon and Neveu (and others) move around an awful lot - in only a few hours' time! This doesn't take place in a week or three days; this takes place late at night, into the early morning hours, finishing up (the major part of the story, anyway) later that day. One day, at most. This, I felt, kept the story well focused; there were lags, but there weren't many.

The epilogue made total sense, especially keeping in mind what a certain woman told Langdon in the very last chapter. It actually ends on a fairly quiet note, which I hadn't expected (most of the stuff I didn't figure out; I was blindsided by who the Teacher turned out to be). But it made total sense.

I was thinking: Yeah, that's what I want in my stories. The ending might be violent or quiet, but it should make sense to the story at hand. Throw in a twist or two along the way, and it makes for a good read.

So, What Did I Get Out of It?

Good question, grasshopper.

If nothing else, I read an example of what makes a bestseller: An interesting beginning, suspense, a fast pace, and an intriguing puzzle to keep people guessing. This won't necessarily work for every story (and who can pick out the next bestseller, anyway?), but the ingredients sure added up in this one.

Besides a couple of days of turning the pages and wondering what would happen next (some I guessed, some came from out of nowhere), this was a sorta learning experience for me. Would I have written it this way? Probably not. But I might just further analyze certain parts of it to see what hooked me in to begin with and what kept me turning the pages.

We should all be so fortunate to have a page turner, eh?

~Nancy Beck


Kristin said...

I found this review from your comment on Kristin Nelson's blog. I am of the complete opposite POV. I really did not like this book. The 'mystery' was a bunch of poorly strung together 'puzzles,' many of which I was able to solve before the characters themselves. Which, to me, meant the main character...a cryptology expert...was an idiot.

The only part I really liked was exploring the woman's background (I forget the character's name)...who her grandfather was. That was well done and gave us some insight into her character.

But even the start to the puzzle was so over-the-top ridiculous...that was all I could think about. A man wandering around the louvre...creating clues while bleeding to death? It seemed like it was backwards plotting. Make the murder fit the book you want to write.

Plus, a little bit of character development for the main character was something I would have liked.

I knew it was going to be bad when the very first scene was the main character waking up...and looking at himself in the mirror! Amateur writer moment #25. Ugh.