Surprisingly, though, we were enthralled by Simon Cox's unauthorized companion book entitled Decoding the Lost Symbol. Cox, whom the BBC has referred to as "a historian of the obscure" (A Reader's Respite just loves that description), has given readers the history behind Brown's story.
As you may or may not know, this time around Brown tackled the Freemasons who have so much symbology associated with them it truly is enough to boggle our already precariously balanced mind.
Cox sorts it all out (and isn't afraid to call Brown on the carpet when something doesn't add up) and presents a lucid, highly readable explanation - and review- of Brown's resources. Presented in an encyclopedic-like format, Cox gives us the low down on everything from a history of the Freemason's themselves to the real origins of some of America's greatest landmarks, all referred to in Brown's novel.
Really, we can't imagine why the publishing team of The Lost Symbol doesn't bundle these two books together. This book makes The Lost Symbol a much more enjoyable read.
But really, we've rambled on enough here. Simon Cox himself was gracious enough to offer a far more insightful analysis of the Dan Brown pheonmenon than we ever could:
I don’t read much non fiction. I simply don’t have the time, and when I do, its not generally from the ‘thriller’ genre. So how come I have written three guide books to three thrillers? The answer is simple. Dan Brown. What Brown has managed to do brilliantly within the framework of his novels, is weave facts and fiction seamlessly together in a coherent and logical way, the like of which is rarely seen. I’m not saying its all perfect – indeed, as I point out in my guide books, some of his factual research leaves much to be desired – but he does have an uncanny knack of being able to hit the zeitgeist of the moment when it comes to historical themes and ideas.
Brown seems to follow certain pre-set rules within his Robert Langdon based novels. Generally there is a religious element and this element is stacked up against a scientific element. Then there are the codes and clues – mainly left within an historical framework – mathematical conundrums being a favorite of Mr Brown. Finally there are the secret societies that seem to be the glue that holds the stories together. In The Da Vinci Code, we see an exploration of the sacred feminine and an alternative life of Christ. In Angels & Demons, the very heart of Christendom, the Vatican is central to the story and in The Lost Symbol Brown takes it all a step further as he espouses the ideals of deism and universal godhead. Essentially what Brown has written are three books that have woven between them a central theme of tolerance to all faiths, but above all, an acknowledgement that faith plays an essential role in the development of mans consciousness and being. As a historian, I can attest to the fact that this mantra was crucial to most if not all ancient cultures. In this respect Dan Brown is carrying on a long standing tradition.
The Lost Symbol is at first glance a less remarkable book than its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code. It seems to lack the one major hook, the heart in mouth fact that suddenly makes gasp out loud as you read the page. However, this book is a slow burner. Its message of tolerance and universality is not at first obvious – but the more you read and digest the message within the pages, the more you realize that this time round, Brown has a clear and decisive meaning that he is trying to get across. When I first saw this I was aghast. A novelist trying to change the way the world thinks from inside a story of chases and code breaking. But then, think about it. Brown has an audience unlike any novelist ever has. The Lost Symbol was awaited as if it were the harbinger of a new messiah after the enormous success of The Da Vinci Code – some eighty million people the world over had become instant fans of his writing – he had an audience who patiently waited for every word on every page. What better way to change the world.
It remains to be seen if the book will have any effect at all. Its early days yet and the response, though swift in sales, has been less than that of The Da Vinci Code. However it is to be remembered that The Da Vinci Code itself was very much a slow burner of a book at first – not really exploding until some time after its launch. I have attempted to give a clear and easily understandable view of where Mr Brown researched his facts and what parts of his book are fact and what fiction. It was a writing exercise that I really enjoyed, just as I had with the other guides. Decoding The Lost Symbol is a book that I am very proud of, especially given the incredible time constraints that I was under – it was fun to do and fun to write. I hope you will enjoy it too, should you choose to pick it up and should you choose to explore some of the themes and ideas within The Lost Symbol itself. I encourage debate and criticism and can be contacted via my website at: www.decodingthelostsymbol.com
Simon and his publisher Simon & Schuster are offering you all the opportunity to win a copy of Decoding the Lost Symbol. There are four (yes, four) copies up for grabs! If you're interested, leave a comment and on November 20th, four winners will be randomly chosen to receive a copy. Make sure you check back here to see if you won!