When Robert Langdon receives a last-minute invitation to speak at a lecture in Washington, DC from his good friend Peter Solomon he doesn't realize that there's no lecture, that his good friend didn't invite him and that there is a fiendish villain manipulating the powerful Mason's friends and family in his pursuit of supernatural powers and revenge. Again Langdon is in a race against time but now his friend's life and national security are on the line, as well as the mystery of the lost symbol.
After reading Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code I looked forward to this book and when it finally came in the mail I set to devour it in a weekend. The beginning was very promising. Robert Langdon is once again plucked out of his academic routine by a mysterious phone call. There is an ancient secret that has to do with the Masons. The villain is especially chilling in his ability to be an outsider who is somehow in the thick of things. The police and the secret service are on Langdon's heels and it's impossible to tell whether they're the good or the bad guys. So far so good. Except that's when things started getting different.
For one thing there's not a murder. There is a kidnapping and a threat of a murder which gives the story a new level of intensity. The scientist here is a brilliant woman working in the field of revolutionary Noetic Science, who also happens to be the kidnapped man's sister. (If you're wondering what in the world Noetic Science is here's an example from the book: Katherine Solomon studies the physical, quantifiable effect of positive thinking on matter and weighs a human soul.) And finally the lost symbol is a secret glyph that stands for a word that according to legend can unlock the gates between our world and the other side and imbue the dark priest with demonic powers. Told you it was getting different.
Of course Brown is a master of weaving improbable tales into a believable narrative so I sat there white-knuckling the couch as people died, the identity of the villain was revealed and the fate of the most powerful politicians in the country hung by the thinnest thread over the abyss of unthinkable scandal. I waited with baited breath to discover what this much guarded lost symbol was and what it stood for and then... then the house of cards collapsed. I could not believe it. The elaborate structure of incredible imaginings, breathtaking plot developments and sympathetic characters crumbled in a way that made me think that Brown had to quickly wrap up the story because it didn't really have anywhere else to go and couldn't think of a good way to do it. Without giving away the exact resolution I can say that my level of dissatisfaction with the ending could only compare to the dreaded "and then he woke up and realized that it was all a dream" scenario. I quite literally turned the last page, flipped back, turned the last page again and thought to myself "Er... What?!?" Not much in terms of eloquence but that was the extent of my confusion.
So there you have it. I really did enjoy the first 4/5 of the book. It's always fun to follow Langdon in his tweeds and loafers on his mad dashes in pursuit of truth with the timer ticking; the spiritual side of me understood the whole idea of Noetic Science and I was really sorry to see those who died go (as King said, kill your darlings, and Brown does just that here); the extent of research that goes into Brown's books is staggering and the "lectures" consistently tickle my historical curiosity but the ending spoiled this book for me and there's not much I can do about this lingering sense of dissatisfaction. If you've read the book let me know what your thoughts are. If you're considering reading it don't let me dissuade you, may be you'll love it and it'll make perfect sense to you.