Review of The Lost Symbol

November 9, 2009

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At long last, I finally finished The Lost Symbol on Sunday night.  Instead of the ten days I had alloted for it, it took nearly two months to finally finish the book.  Much of the blame for the delay falls squarely upon the amount of time consumed by writing The Cell Window.

So, what did I think?

Overall Observations:

First of all, the book is long.  It is slightly more than 500 pages.  I personally see this as a positive.  I enjoy reading (when I get the time) and if the book is good, why not extend the pleasure?

When I first heard that the book would be set in Washington, DC (rather than flitting from one locale to the next) I feared that it would turn into something like National Treasure.  Mind you, I enjoyed National Treasure,  but I consider Brown’s works to be a step above it.  Both are good, but picking up a Brown novel and finding National Treasure inside would be like ordering a ribeye steak and having the waiter bring a sirloin.  You’d still enjoy the meal, but it would be missing a certain je ne sais quois.  Happily, this was not the case.

I’ve seen the book get panned by a few people.  I don’t full understood why someone would react adversely to it.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it to be in line with Brown’s other works.  The only thing that makes sense is if a person was a fan of The Da Vinci Code and not of Brown’s others work.  [Note: see my author profile of Brown for information about his other novels.]

Plot:

It’s definitely a fascinating tale.  I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t read it, but the book packs quite a bit of action and quite a few interesting locations into the plot, considering that all of the action is contain within Washington, D.C.  We also get some interesting back stories into the lives of some of the principal characters.  And, once again, Robert Langdon is romantically linked to a female character.  Come on, Langdon, settle down!

Characters:

I’m of fan of the character of Langdon.  The fact that he wears a Mickey Mouse watch as a way to make sure he never takes himself too seriously coincides quite nicely with the fact that I have stuffed versions of Pooh and Eeyore in my cubicle (as well as a small menagerie of stuffed animals) for much the same reason.

The antagonist in the book is also very well developed.  It takes a brilliantly warped mind to develop the sorts of antagonists that find their way into Brown’s novels.

There are quite a few other fairly well developed characters in the book.  Quite a few of them are rather exceptional individuals.  Brown captured their essence well enough that I can imagine them quite well in my mind.

Moral / Philosophy / Controversy:

Many of Brown’s books contain a moral and/or philosophical thoughts.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that a major facet of the moral in The Lost Symbol is a philosophy that I have been advocating for several years.  I don’t think the messages within The Lost Symbol will be as controversial as those within The Da Vinci Code, but hopefully it will make people stop and think.

The Masons and masonic traditions and rituals are prominently featured in the book.  They are generally portrayed in a positive manner.

Closing thoughts:

This book initially had the working title The Solomon Key.  It quickly became apparent why – it is the surname of key characters in the plot.  I think I would have preferred for the book to keep that name.

I nailed a couple of the surprises at the end of the book.  I figured out the “mysterious location” quite early.

Buy it!

If you plan to buy the book, please considering buying it (and the other Dan Brown books) though the links below.  If you do, I’ll get a small referral bonus from Amazon.  Your price will be the same as if you entered through Amazon’s main site.

The Lost Symbol

Da Vinci Code

Angels & Demons

Deception Point

Digital Fortress

Lots of Topics

September 21, 2009

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Story Time

The third quarter of the year is winding down.  With it comes the deadline for finishing up the work for volume 2 of “The Fiction of Kosmo”.  Consolidating the short stories into the document isn’t difficult – but writing the longer, capstone story is quite a bit of work.  I strive for a story of at least 10,000 words for this story.  The capstone story for volume one (Key Relationships) took more than a week of work (in various small pieces of spare time) to complete.  Hopefully I can finish the new story in a similar amount of time.  Currently, I have fewer than a thousand words written (just the ending), so I need to buckle down and finish the story.  This might result in me skipping a few article in the course of the next two weeks.  I’ll try to make the story worth the wait.

Rockies Update

Friday night, the Rockies had their wild card lead cut just 2 1/2 games.  With wins on Saturday and Sunday, couple with Dodgers wins over the Giants, the Rockies now stand 4 1/2 games clear of their nearest pursuers.  With just 12 games remaining in the season, this is a solid lead, but not insurmountable, especially with series left against the first place Cardinals and Dodgers.  It feels weird to be a fan of the team that is being chased.  In 2007, the Rockies were behind until the tail end of the season.  The other times my teams have made the playoffs (1984 and 1989 Cubs, 1995 Rockies) are too far in the distant past to remember the race with any clarity.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki deserves some MVP consideration.  After a dreadful start to the season, Tulo turned around his season at nearly exactly the same time that the Rockies turned around the season.  It is doubtful that this is a coincidence.  Tulo now stands just one homer short of reaching 30 for the season.

Annie Le

The authorities seem to be keeping a pretty good lid on the information in this case, but theories are being bandied about.  Apparently, suspect Raymond Clark had warned Annie Le that the cages that housed her mice were too dirty.  While I agree that cleanliness is a good thing, is it really possible that Annie Le was killed because there were too much mouse poop in the cages?

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol, the latest book by Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, hit the shelves on Thursday.  My daughter loves the book.  She wanted me to read from the book.  I complied, and read the dust jacket and a few other short snippets.

Why didn’t I read more of the book to her?  Well, she’s only two, and the material might be a bit too mature for her.  Honestly, I think she likes the cover.

Lazy Man vs MonaVie

Lazy Man of Lazy Man and Money is a friend of The Soap Boxers.  A benefactor, actually, as he is providing free hosting and invaluable technical support and advice.  Lazy has been critical of the MonaVie corporation, questioning whether or not the product actually provides the benefits that the company and MonaVie distributors claim.

Lazy has been sent not one, but two, cease and desist letters.  When The Consumerist questioned MonaVie, they agreed that the first letter was incorrect.  They subsequently sent a second cease and desist later.  The complaint?  That Lazy Man and Money was using the trademarked term (MonaVie) in the meta keywords for Lazy’s article on the company.  Considering how meta keywords are using by search engines (to create the blurb you see listed in the search results, but typically not used to determine the page’s ranking) it seems perfectly natural to use the company name in the meta keywords.  In fact, it would be a bit strange to NOT use it.

Lazy has written about MonaVie on several occasions (see the complete list here).  The original article has attracted a pretty incredible 3300+ comments in the course of the last 18 months (note the comment at the bottom about archived comments).  By comparison, The Soap Boxers sometimes gets 5 comments on an article …

Spam Comments

Lots of porno-spam in the comments lately (all of which have been caught by my spam filter).  I guess I should be proud of the fact that the blog is successful enough to attract spammers?

Initial Reactions to The Lost Symbol

September 16, 2009

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I know what you’re thinking.

“Kosmo – The Lost Symbol has been out for more than a day.  Where’s the review?”

I do indeed have my copy of the book.  I have not yet had the opportunity to read it.  Yesterday was spent getting Direct TV installed, and the next few days will probably be spent in a Direct TV induced coma.  I don’t typically watch much TV at all, but the availability of baseball will be very tempting.  (More on Direct TV in a later article).  However, I plan to finish the book in the next ten days or so, and will publish a review when I’m done.

I do, however, have some initial reactions.

  • The book smells really good.  The trees used for the paper were clearly harvested at precisely the correct time.
  • When picking up the book, remember to lift with your legs, not your back.  It’s fairly hefty – 509 pages.
  • The cover is très chic

Interested in other books by Dan Brown?  Read my author profile (written back in May)

On an unrelated note … I am taking suggestions for Fiction Friday articles.  If you have an idea that you would like to see turned into a short story, let me know (leave a comment below).  While I am perfectly content to keep coming up with my own ideas, I’m also open to the writing about things that are outside of my typical comfort zone.  The ideas can be just a few words, such as “dinosaurs“, “lesbian wedding“, or “attacked by a shark“.  (Note: the links point to stories I have written on those topics).

I can’t guarantee that I will have the time (or interest) to turn every idea into a story, but I will make an effort to use a bunch of the ideas.

Dan Brown profile

May 14, 2009

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Dan Brown’s first foray into the world of entertainment was as a singer and songwriter. He released two CDs before turning his attention to writing – a very wise decision. His fourth novel made him a literary rock star. Perhaps you have heard of it – The Da Vinci Code.

There is some great news regarding Brown. His fifth novel, The Lost Symbol (formerly referred to as The Solomon Key) will hit shelves on September 15! Pre-orders are being taken on several sites, and I’ll be pre-ordering my own copy very soon. As is his nature, Brown is being secretive about much of the plot. It will feature cryptologist Robert Langdon and will be set in Washington, D.C. The jacket of The Da Vinci code holds clues to the plot.

Oh, yes. The other news. The movie Angels and Demons, based on the novel of the same name, will be in theaters on Friday. I doubt that it will come close to the success of Da Vinci Code, but spillover popularity should still turn it into a very successful film.

I’m a big fan of Brown’s work. Let’s do a mini-review of his previous novels.

Digital Fortress, 1998. Digital Fortress focuses very heavily on cryptography. A rebellious, genius programmer develops an uncrackable encryption algorithm and offers to auction it off to the highest bidder. This could be a huge problem for the United State government, which has just finished work on TRANSLTR, a computer capable of cracking any encryption algorithm known to man. It is imperative that the code not fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, the programmer dies – bringing into play the threat that his partner would publicly release the code if he should die. He is not the only person to die in a high stakes battle to control the code. Opinion: a reasonable understanding of computers makes the book more enjoyable, but it isn’t mandatory. There is a lot of action in the book that is unrelated to the technical issues.

Angels and Demons, 2000. Angels and Demons introduces us to world renowned cryptologist Robert Langdon. A dangerous weapon – a canister of anti-matter – is stolen from CERN and a scientist is murdered. The symbol of the mysterious Illuminati group – a group though to have died out long ago – is left branded on the chest of the victim. The head of the lab calls in Langdon to try to track down the missing canister. Langdon reaches the conclusion that the missing canister is connected to the election of a new pope. As Langdon races against the clock to find the canister, leading papal candidates begin turning up dead. Opinion: this is the prequel to Da Vinci Code, and is a pretty good book in its own right. It might come up a bit short of Da Vinci Code in some respects, but it does take readers on a nice tour of Rome.

Deception Point , 2001. Deception Point takes place in the arctic, where Rachel Sexton is sent to join a team that will analyze a meteorite. Evidence of life is contained with the meteorite – possible proof of extraterrestrial life. But Rachel soon realizes that things aren’t quite what they seem – and very soon, her life is in danger. Opinion: an interesting story with a good mix of science and politics.

The Da Vinci Code, 2003. Robert Langdon is once again awakened in the middle of the night to be informed of a grisly death, this time at the Louvre. A beautiful police cryptologist (Sophie) secretly informs Langdon that the police are not merely using him as a consultant in the case, but that he is the prime suspect. Langdon and Sophie make a tricky exit from the Louvre and elude the police. They combine forces in an attempt to solve the murder. As they put more pieces together, more complex puzzles appear. They eventually discover a truth that could rock Christianity to its core. Opinion: This is a great book, with clever ciphers and lots of twists and turns. It is, of course, a work of fiction. As a Catholic, I believe that the Catholic Church contributed to the success of the book and movie by attacking the book. Had they simply ignored the book – as they ignore many books that contain content related to the church – much of the furor could have been avoided.

The Lost Symbol

Da Vinci Code

Angels & Demons

Deception Point

Digital Fortress