The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Dan Brown attempts to do for Washington D.C. and the Masons what he did for Paris, Rome and the organizations such as Opus Dei from The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. As usual, interesting, somewhat intricate story and well described places, but the ending gets a bit preachy and there is one story point that I either missed or is confusing (see the end, spoilers at that point).
Robert Langdon gets tricked into coming to D.C. thinking he is filling in for his friend Peter Solomon, who also happens to be the leader of the 33rd and highest level of the Masons. But Peter has been kidnapped and tortured by Mal’akh, a man who has infiltrated the 33rd level of the Masons and who wants Langdon to figure out where the Masons have buried the “Ancient Mysteries”, using clues the kidnapper has gotten out of Solomon, combined with an artifact Langdon was entrusted with by Solomon. Before Langdon can get started, the CIA (Director Soto) mysteriously appears, stating that this is a matter of national security.
What follows is a chase through the landmarks of D.C. and a race to diagnose a pyramid, combined with the capstone Langdon was keeping for Solomon, which shows the symbols that lead to the buried “Ancient Mysteries”.
Some minor spoilers below (but not the ending or storyline surprises).
Brown portrays the Masons as a well-meaning (preserve ancient knowledge) but somewhat easily infiltrated organization, still containing members at the highest levels of the United States political and social circles. He even gives some of his main characters the last name of Solomon, no doubt a play on the symbolism of King Solomon’s temple used by the Masons. Several interesting commentaries have, of course, already sprouted on the web, including a list of myths about the Freemasons portrayed in the book (on the National Geographic web site) and a letter from Dan Brown addressing why he portrayed the Masons in such a good light is on the web site Freemasons for Dummies (and yes, there is a Freemasons For Dummies book).
Noetic Sciences, using scientific methods to study consciousness and the power of the mind, is featured tangentially in the story, with Katherine Solomon, Peter’s sister, being featured as a “noetic scientist”. The story tries weakly to tie noetic sciences with the Mason’s ancient mysteries in the end. But it is good to see a realistic treatment of this area, versus “The Secret” and the so many “if you think it, it will come true”. In the story, Katherine Solomon does portray the different observations of being of people who have practiced these mind powers (yogis, etc.) for many years, and refers to:
“The Second Coming is the coming of man – the moment when mankind finally builds the temple of his mind.”
Wrapping this into 2012 and the Mayan and other civilizations predictions of a “new age” would have been interesting as well, and links to other texts are implied.
The story point I am referring to above that is incongruous : how does Director Soto know to be there in the first place when Langdon discovered Peter Solomon’s severed hand? She reveals that she has the video much later, it certainly doesn’t seem like the video could have been released to her earlier (the kidnapper/Mal’akh had it with him and had not revealed it anywhere). If any one can’t point out where I missed the connection, I’d be obliged.
Overall, an enjoyable read, with many pointers to other texts and concepts to explore/follow-up, and descriptions of landmarks most of us miss on trips to D.C.. Tours of the sites in D.C. have undoubtedly sprang up as they did in Paris and Rome after The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, respectively.