Thursday, January 6, 2005

This is a bad bad book. I'm a little surprised it has done as well. It is a cheesily written pot-boiler, with paper thin cartoonish characters. Its plot twist and turns get progressively sillier, until it becomes too hard to suspend one's disbelief over them. And of course, the worst is that it is hard to put down because you want to know what the Big Secret is.

Of course, if you have to, you can read this book very very fast, because there is not much there beyond the plot and the secrets.

What seems to be driving this book is its game of secrets and ciphers. But they're not really hard ciphers and the secrets are quite silly. The plot revolves around some documents that would "prove" that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had offspring whose descendants are alive today. Naturally evil elements in the Catholic Church are ready to murder and steal to keep this information suppressed, because it would ... well, I don't really know what it would do. But everyone in the book seems very concerned about what it would do. I doubt any fundamentalists Christians would believe evidence they didn't like, and I doubt any mainstream Christians would find their spirituality altered by what may or may not have happened in Judea two thousand years ago. I mean, it's not exactly the Ark of the Covenant as a superweapon...

If you want to see this sort of thing done really well, read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon. There's the same mix of esoteric ancient knowledge and modern technology. But the ancient stuff is more clever, and the modern tech is more imaginative.

I suspect though that people like The Da Vinci Code because it makes them feel smart to read it. It's very easy to read, and not at all hard to understand, and yet if you enter into it, you feel like you are smart for understanding its mysteries. You feel like you've learned some big secrets. If the book had real secrets and clever ciphers, it would be much harder to read. I don't think they'll be making a movie of Snow Crash any time soon. I think the Da Vinci Code flick is already in the works, though.



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