Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dan Brown

I just read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and I liked it. Not because it's an earth-shattering revelation, since most of what he "reveals" in the book consists of obvious stuff concerning pagan ceremonies and celebrations being embraced, extended and extinguished by the Catholic church. I mostly liked it simply because I liked the characters and their interaction, the pacing, and the twisting plot. At times, it felt like a movie made up almost entirely of chase scenes and miraculous escapes bordering on deus ex machina. This kept the tempo going, but it kept teetering on the edge of becoming ridiculous. Sometimes you really had to suspend your disbelief to enjoy it, which is much easier with movies that constantly barrage you with a flickering stream of impressive images (which means you might like the upcoming movie). Luckily, the plot was wrapped up in an adequately touching end.

Sure, there was a fun Grail theory I haven't heard before. Since it's central to the book, and one of the few actual elements of surprise, I'm not going to spoil it. Suffice to say that I enjoyed how Brown weaved art, symbology and religion into a nice little mystery.

I've just now started on another Dan Brown book, Digital Fortress. Unlike the above mentioned book, this one starts off slow, babbling on about the relationship between the two main characters. I don't know much about art and religion, but this book is about language and computers, which I know a thing or two about.

Amazingly, it doesn't take long before Brown displays his complete lack of research. At one point, one of the main characters is translating chinese characters, and when his employers aren't happy with his results, he suggests that the characters might actually be Japanese. I guess they might, except that this supposed expert linguist uses the words "kanji language" to describe the japanese usage of chinese characters. "Kanji language"?! Kanji is not a language! Brown kind of back-pedals in the next few sentences and does state that it's a japanese writing system, but then it becomes clear that he's under the misconception that the three japanese forms of writing are just three different scripts, and thus completely interchangeable.

Now, I'm almost willing to forgive this linguistic error, because out of the kindness of my heart I can replace the outrageous phrase "kanji language" with "man'yougana ". That's just because I happen to know that the first known written Japanese was actually written with only chinese characters used solely for their phonetic value. I just wish Brown would have done a little bit of homework and mentioned that in the book instead of some half-baked mumbo-jumbo, because this really puts me off from reading on.

The fact that I've now read reviews stating that Brown apparently thinks a 16-bit key consists of 16 letters doesn't make the book any more appealing...

1 comment:

DragonL said...

That only goes to show that you should never read or watch any fiction related to anything you know more than a smidgeon (sp?) about. There can be only Snowcrash.