Based on the early returns from critics, my plan to see the movie of The Da Vinci Code instead of reading the novel has backfired. So I broke down and read the book. Diagnosis: sufficient. The book I'm currently reading (Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson) does a better job of weaving a fictitious interpretation of religious history, but DVC stands out as compared to other commuter-rail novels in its ambitions and its intellectual subject matter. So, despite my reservations, I give it its due.
Anyway, I'll break my opinion up to this point into the good (Pork) and the bad (Beef). Bad news first, because my feelings on the book are best summarized by this sentence: "it sucked, but it was still pretty OK."
1) I really hate the potboiler genre's ridiculous emphasis on one- and two-page chapters. "Mommy, I wrote a chapter today!" It's like when I'd pump my high school history essays up to the 14-point font, so I could fill a page faster than 12-point type would have. Just as I artificially created a full two pages, Brown artificially creates suspense in the reading process without actually having as much suspense in the story.*
2) Brown's flashes of "Style!" really piss me off. Boy, was I surprised to find out that Sophie has a mysterious past. No kidding! For someone who came up with some really convoluted codes and conspiracy theories, his character development is awfully transparent.
3) Also, those revelations are just unendingly self-congratulatory. Does every chapter have to end with a cliffhanger? Someone has a mysterious revelation, but he/she doesn't feel like sharing until after a chapter break? Gee, you made me wade through a whole two-paragraph chapter before revealing your secrets. Dan Brown, you are a magnificent bastard!
4) Okay, you know what? If you want to write short chapters, so you can things keep moving along, artificially manufacture some suspense, and juggle the interweaving storylines, knock yourself out. I give you permission to write two chapters per page. I'll deal. But don't number them. Sweet phenomenal Christ, that drives me apeshit. You're basically admitting that your readers have too short an attention span to read three actual chapters... but you want them to feel good about having read three chapters anyway. "Hey, it's Chapter 112! Dan Brown sure packs a lot of chapters into eighty pages."
5) Do people still say "what the devil?" in conversation? How can a novel that takes place in the era of cell phones actually have that expression as serious dialogue? What's next? Is Robert Langdon gonna say "oh, fiddlesticks!" in the next book? There's only two groups of people who should be licensed to say "what the devil?" without it being tongue-in-cheek: barbershop quartet singers and Civil War reenactors. Langdon's not on either list.
6) Robert Langdon is as boring a franchise hero as you could ever imagine. Aren't characters supposed to have traits? I cannot describe Langdon beyond his vocation ("symbology" professor). Langdon is the literary equivalent of Textured Vegetable Protein... he contains all the nutritional requirements to be a hero-like substance, but he has absolutely no taste. Water is flavorful and zesty compared to Robert Langdon. Although, in his defense, he does say "what the devil?" a lot. That's kinda like character development, right?
Despite all that beef, I did enjoy reading the book. In a sea of diarrheal thrillers, it at least has some fiber.
1) It helps when the author actually has a message to send, and has done his research. I know nothing about art history, but his narrator does speak from a position of authority. He may not have been entirely accurate, as Wikipedia tells us, but he was certainly convincing. In a book where the subject matter is so much more interesting than the goings on, it's easy to get sucked in.
2) You have to respect the heaping helping of subversive, anti-establishment, intellectual discourse that has been dumped on the doorstep of the common potboiler reader. Anything that pisses off the Catholic church so much has got to be good... there's no greater endorsement than the Catholics denouncing you as a heretic.
* - I suspect this will come up when I see the film. But to speculate is unfair to everyone, so forget I said that. But not really... cause I didn't remove that sentence! Wink wink!