I finished reading Dan Brown’s latest best seller The Lost Symbol. Brown famously authored The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Both of these novels were crafted to include all of the factors needed for NYT best seller status- secret societies, characters solving a mystery, the chase, intelligent and attractive main characters, cryptotheological inferences,  etc. Both of the early books were quite entertaining to read and hard to put down.

It is with some disappointment and regret that I must confess that I did not care for The Lost Symbol. I found it substantially formulaic and predictable.  Interestingly, a great investment in plot design was taken by noetic science as a type of incipient breakthrough for humanity, but no meat was to be found hanging on those bones. Instead, noetic science simply served as a weak plot device to place a secret laboratory near the Mall in Washington DC.

Then there is the lengthy apology to the Masons. In fact, the book is one long apology to Masonic culture and history; perhaps for slights inferred in past Dan Brown novels? Really, the book should be titled Dan Brown’s Interminable Apology to the Masons.

Again, the hapless Harvard Symbologist Tom Hanks Robert Langdon is caught up in a cryptological extravaganza requiring the decoding of a series of symbolic puzzles, usually under duress. Dismemberment, pyramids, Masonic Temples, reluctant protagonists,crypto fu, metaphysical fu, wealthy and eccentric characters, secretive government agencies, shadowy agents, and more.

In the final chapters, Brown takes the story into what I’ll call the “Dialog on Great World Systems” (with apologies to Galileo). Using the form of the Greek playwrights, he drags the reader through the egg batter and flour of extended and pedantic dialog between characters to serve up missing information and close all of the loose ends in the story.

Dan Brown the fiction writer reassures the reader that despite what fiction writers invent concerning Masonic rites and secret knowledge, they really are godly and patriotic fellows after all. But rather than leave it there, Brown attempts to ladle some theological pan drippings into the gravy by suggesting that the Christian Bible is actually full of symbolism.  Indeed, as the gazillionaire and noeticist siblings suggest, it is mostly symbolic. D’oh!

And, along that vein, the story asserts that Noetic research has uncovered that “ancient knowledge” is substantially correct, including that encrypted into the Bible, and with that realization, mankind is now on the cusp of a new era of civilization. Interesting story idea, but it never develops the noetic stuff in a satisfactory way.