Monday, 16 January 2012

The Lost Symbol and My Thoughts on Fiction

It's been a long time since its release but I finally got an opportunity to read The Lost Symbol. Now that I read it I don't think i missed out on much at all.

I was thoroughly unimpressed by the book. After "Angels and Demons" and "The Da Vinci" code this book was completely underwhelming. The plot was a bit weak and I felt none of the unexpected bursts of excitement that had made his previous books so difficult to put down.

About halfway through the book (at which point I was reading simply because I hate to leave a book unfinished) I realized something about why some novels seem so enjoyable while others make us cringe.

It's how believable the story is in its own "universe". The term fiction does not give a writer the freedom to put in whatever captures their fancy. For an example take Harry Potter. It is a story about magic. But in the very fist book the "scene" is set. So the reader gets an idea of the laws of nature (or magic) in the Harry Potter universe. The rest of the books follow the laws of the new reality very strictly. The same goes for  most of the good novels I can think of. The protagonist does not pull through whatever difficulty is presented due to string of coincidences bordering on unbelievable. But this is exactly what happens in The Lost Symbol.

Another mark of a good story is how it draws you in. Many books (like Eragon and Harry Potter) talk about worlds in which, deep inside, everyone wishes to live in. Reading them makes me want to live the book so badly that sometimes I can't help laying awake at night thinking of all the cool, amazing things I would do if I were in the place of the protagonist.

Dan Brown's take on Noetic Science also spoils the book somewhat. The book is supposed to be set in the real world but the book shamelessly represents this repackaged pseudoscience as the real thing. Noetic science tries tie in quantum phenomena with the problem of consciousness but with experiments that mainly involve trying to prove that low probability fluctuations in Random Number Generators are somehow related to focused intention of many people to produce this result which to me just sounds like Deepak Chopra 2.0.

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