The religious undertones of this book would normally have had me running for cover, but when Fliss‘ dad offered it to me for a read, I figured I should give it a go. I had a rough idea what it was about, due to the amount of hype the book had generated, and still found the winding plot quite compelling despite spoilers I’d stumbled across on the web.
However, as compelling as the story is, the characters are as stereotypical as they come, with your chiselled, handsome american hero, your beauty with a brain at his side, pompous police chief, and a pip-pip, jolly hockey sticks english aristocrat thrown in for good measure. Considering the amount of research that has gone into the rest of the book, the one dimensional character development is piss poor to say the least, and something that surprised me considering the media attention the book has enjoyed.
Brown seems to suffer from that 24 season one issue, whereby all the characters he wants you to think are bad, well, they’re portrayed as shifty and unscrupulous. And all the characters he wants you to think are the good guys, they come across as whiter than white. It fails miserably on all counts, as the lack of subtlety sets alarm bells ringing almost right away. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the overly shifty, must-be-involved-with-the-bad-guys police chief is so obviously going to be clean as a whistle when it’s all said and done. The same and opposite is true of the too good to be true, overly helpful character, to the point where I ended up just coasting through the story wondering when the “good guy” was going to finally fuck them all over.
Still, maybe if you can spin a good yarn then it doesn’t really matter if all your characters are flat? And I do feel slightly harsh in pouring scorn on someone with immeasurably more writing talent than myself. I mean, the story contains some captivating, foreboding material that seems quite probable in some cases, keeping the intrigue and pulling you back for more.
Then it’ll go and ruin it all with a complete ass-pull in order to get Brown out of a tricky situation in a way that’ll have you rolling your eyes and wondering what all the fuss is about. It does appear sometimes that the intellectual level drops by a fair amount to the point where the reader is assumed to be a captive, easy audience. Which is a bit of a crime in a novel that provokes quite a lot of thought about the beliefs of modern society.
The whole book hangs together quite tenuously at times due to the above, and that’s a major bug bear of mine. If it was a hollywood movie, then fair enough – capricious plot devices are par for the course. However, when it’s an otherwise well conceived novel there’s not much excuse for getting your story into a bit of a knot and then relying on an-ass pull to get the ball rolling again.
To cut a long story short, as Brown could probably have done by skipping the overly descriptive passages that lent nothing to the overall story, the Da Vinci Code is a victim of its own hype. It’s a good story in very loose terms, and will probably make a decent movie. But it’s not the kind of book that’s going to open too many minds or lead to any kind of revolution in the way the modern world perceives religion. Turns out the hype was just that.