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Friday, October 02, 2009

THE LOST SYMBOL READERS' GUIDE, PART FOUR

Part four of the series. Parts one, two, and three are here for your reading pleasure.

Chapters 51-52

Chapter 51 begins by answering an important question, first posed in the movie Airplane!: “Hey, Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

Except it wasn’t Joey, but Zachary Solomon, Peter’s son. He went bonkers when he turned 18 and got his share of Solomon money and ended up in the Turkish prison because of the drugs.

We find out about this in an astonishing double flashback. Speaking as a professional writer, I can tell you that a double flashback is tricky and dangerous. Like its cousin, the dream-sequence-with-a-dream-sequence, it’s a precision move. I wouldn’t try it. I’m not nearly experienced enough . . . and I have an MFA.

Katherine is thinking back to the night her mother died, and in that thinking back, thinks back to Zach in his Turkish prison . . . and then we come back to some guy breaking into the Solomon residence years later. He points a gun at them and says, “Hello, Solomons.” He was all, “Where’s the pyramid?” But he never found out, because Ma Solomon came after him with a shotgun, but ended up getting shot herself. It is hard work, being a Solomon.

Anyway, that was long ago . . . but that dude that just broke into the pod? He was that guy!

Chapters 53

One thing I love about The Lost Symbol is the room it leaves for wonder. What kind of mysteries is the book about? Ancient mysteries. What kind of discoveries is Katherine working on? Shocking ones! What kind of science? Modern science. What kind of bunny? A fluffy bunny!* DB has certainly unpacked his adjectives!



And still, despite these descriptions, we are left with so much room to imagine. This is not a stuffy book—this is the wide open prairie, where ideas can’t be caged. We aren’t squeezed into overly specific notions about what the hell is going on.

This is why I am not going to tell you what Chapter 53 is about. The moment you try to define Chapter 53, you have lost Chapter 53.

Chapter 54

Mal’akh blows up the pod.

Chapters 55-56

We are reminded again in Chapter 55 that HSRL leads a stressful life, with people constantly making weird demands on his time:

Langdon looked at this Mickey Mouse watch. 9:42 P.M. “You do realize that Peter’s captor is waiting for me to decipher this pyramid tonight and tell him what it says.”


But does Capitol Architect Warren Bellamy care? No. Bellamy doesn’t care about anyone!

“Forget Katherine!” Bellamy said, his voice commanding now. “Forget Peter! Forget everyone!”


You know there is no way HSRL is just going to let Katherine Solomon down! She’s in trouble out there! He has to save her! Luckily, she makes that task a lot easier by choosing that exact moment to drive her white Volvo right up on to the sidewalk of the library and run up the steps and directly into his arms. RL is all, “You’re safe, I have you now.” He’s probably feeling pretty stupid now that she has gone all self-rescuing princess on him. But still, it was probably a good thing, because the last thing he needs right now is to have to run again in those loafers.

Chapter 57

More flashback. We find out that Mal’akh was in that Turkish prison with Zach Solomon, and that Mal’akh killed Zach and stole all his money. Mal’akh then moved to Greece. At first, every part of his new life was great. Reading Homer made him want to lift weights. Lifting weights made him incredibly hot. Steroids apparently . . . made him taller.

But you can only go so far sailing your boat, eating arni souvlakia, and cliff diving off Mykonos.** Soon, Mal’akh felt empty. While channel surfing one night, he saw a special on Freemasons. This made him remember something he heard in passing from Zachary about a pyramid. And THAT is what made him go to America, sneak into the Solomons’ house, point his gun and say, “Hello, Solomons.” Mal’akh is very suggestible. If he had seen an infomercial instead, this story would have been very different. Then we would have been reading The Lost Snuggie.

Chapter 58-59

A special ops team is chasing Bellamy, HSRL, and Katherine through the Library of Congress and blowing things up with plastic explosives, though I would be lying if I said I knew why.

I’m also not sure why the Architect of the Capitol has a key card that operates the conveyor system under the main circulation desk of the Library of Congress. Washingon D.C. is a confusing place. Bellamy tells HSRL to get on the conveyor, and HSRL pulls a John McEnroe-perfect, “You cannot be serious.” This, after the running in the loafers thing?!?

But he is, and HSRL and Katherine just evade their pursuers by riding off on the book belt, in what has to be the nerdiest escape ever written.*** Pwned, special ops team!

Chapters 60-64

Flashback to Zach Solomon’s 18th birthday. Peter is all, “You’re a man now son, so I want you to take care of my tiny pyramid.” And Zach is all, “I don’t care about your tiny pyramid, old man! I want the drugs!” Bellamy watches this awkward family exchange, and waits.

Meanwhile, HSRL and Katherine are riding along in the dark on the little conveyor belt. Katherine has figured out that this all has something to do with the tiny pyramid, and HSRL (again, a day late and a dollar short) reveals that he has Peter’s magical box in his bag!

Katherine is all, “Why didn’t you say so?” She does the thing I’m surprised HSRL didn’t do long ago—namely, she opens the box, which contains a magic tube. (I’m a little confused because I thought the x-ray revealed that the box contained a tiny pyramid. It may have both.) If you liked that cyptex in The Da Vinci Code, it looks like you are going to be rewarded with yet another cylinder! But remember . . . as the song Boogie Boogie Hedgehog teaches us, you have to be careful when you get your head stuck on tubes.

Chapter 65

Chapter 65 is one paragraph. Mal’akh is studying his own naked body in front of the mirror again. He is a beautiful picture, framed in white space.

Chapters 66-67

The number 1514 is found on the box. Most people would think that meant a year, but HSRL knows it refers to a person. If I told you how he knows this, it would blow your mind.

Chapter 68

The first sentence of Chapter 68:

Albrecht Dürer?

The last:

“That’s not just any square,” Langdon said, grinning. “That, Ms. Solomon, is a magic square!”

Try to imagine what happened in between!

Chapter 69

Okay, just one more thing about Chapter 68 . . . you have to respect a huge chase sequence which pauses for a moment because, “Professor Langdon, the art connoisseur, was having an ethical dilemma about using the Internet an original was so nearby.” Or when the obstacle is, “There’s no icon for a browser.”

Also, there’s a paragraph that just reads:

Science . . .


So great is Chapter 68 that I cannot even bring myself to read Chapter 69, but I can see it has something to do with evil, wizened CIA Director Sato questioning Bellamy. Ever see The Incredibles? She’s just like Edna.

Chapter 70-71

While HSRL and Katherine work on some magic squares, which are apparently “Sudoku puzzles for geniuses,” Mal’akh is at home taking a shower. A really long shower. With a lot of products. I got as far as, “Hanging beneath the archway, his massive sex organs bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny.”

If that is where the lost symbol is, I want my money back.

Chapter 72-75

The CIA guys are very grouchy because they have lost HSRL, who rode off in triumph at speeds upwards of 8 mph. Outside, the city is going crazy trying to find them. There are helicopters and spotlights. Where could they be? They seem to have left heat signatures everywhere.

I’ll tell you where they are! They’re out front! Katherine and HSRL get in a cab, but the driver (who is somehow patched into CIA headquarters) gives them up.

Meanwhile, Bellamy has been hauled off to the Jungle! No, really! You see, the U.S. Botanic Garden is known as the Jungle! Can you believe that? It’s true! Why is he being interrogated at the U.S. Botanical Garden? That, I could not tell you, but if he breaks into the “I am the Lorax, and I speak for the trees” speech at any point, I am going to cry.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Katherine Solomon realizes that like the pyramid, the U.S. one dollar bill is also a map and that they are going the wrong way! “To Freedom Plaza!” she says. The CIA totally overhears.

Chapter 76

Freedom Plaza is also a map.

Chapter 77

I’m not sure if I’ve really been clear on the general course of events in this section of the book, so let me sum it up. There are two pyramid things, which apparently lead to a spiral staircase. HSRL and Katherine have these two pyramids (I think) as well as some kind of magical tube. I know they have at lease one pyramid and one magical tube. And there’s writing on them that has to be decoded. For some reason, everyone is in a big rush to do this tonight. That is why Mal’akh captured Peter Solomon and cut off his hand and sent HSRL on this scavenger hunt. Mal’akh also wanted something in Katherine’s lab. I’m not sure what, but in the process, Trish Dunne ended up in the tank with the giant squid.

Bellamy is especially urgent for HSRL to find the staircase, though I don’t know what his rush is. And fhe CIA is chasing them with plastic explosives, though I am not 100% clear on the details of that either, but I am sure there is a reason. Anyway, Bellamy gave himself up so that HSRL and Katherine could go on, and now he is being interrogated in a greenhouse by a woman who is no bigger than a pumpkin and is entirely made of anger.

What I haven’t mentioned is that there is also a Redskins game going on on this particular night, and absolutely everyone else is watching this game. Security guards, computer hackers, everyone.

I hope that clears everything up.

Oh and Chapter 77 is a flashback about a time that Mal’akh fell into a lake, and then moved to New York, and then a bird flew into his apartment, and he got a bunch of tattoos.

Chapters 78-80

The CIA just cannot catch the beloafered HSRL and Katherine! This makes them really mad. Evil CIA Chief Sato is going to make someone pay, and it looks like that person is going to be Bellamy. Sucks to be you, Bellamy!

END PART FOUR
PAGES COVERED: 201-300
PAGES LEFT TO GO: 286
CHAPTERS LEFT TO GO: 50




* My apologies. That last one is not from The Lost Symbol.

** I have a mild suspicion that DB spent some time vacationing in Greece while working on this book.

*** I am sure Ron Howard will make this look exciting in the movie.

Labels: , ,

17 Comments:

Blogger ADO said...

By discovering that there aren't any fluffy bunnies in The Lost Symbol, I gave up on buying it, for sure! However, having a character that is just like Edna from The Incredibles... that might be a good substitute for a fluffy bunny...

On the other hand, tough (don't think about handequin, don't think about handequin...), I might buy The Lost Snuggie... Tough, after finding out how does Rule 34 applies for snuggies, I should avoid snuggies for a long time...

And don't worry, nobody gets the Electoral College system. At least, nobody outside the US, you can be sure.

By googling "handequin", there are two links related to you in the front page, your blog and one tweet of yours (useless information of the day).

Re-reading my comment, I see it makes no sense. Sense is for losers.

8:41 AM  
Blogger lightforms said...

Even though it could not be, your *** comment made me think back to where the lost symbol should not be. That would be a different type of movie for Ron Howard.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

I would tiotally buy The Lost Snuggie.

Also, I shall be sending you the bill for cleaning the tea off my keyboard when reading this.

Thrillers really need more very slow chases on book conveyers, IMO.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Brittany Ann said...

Thank you, MJ. Now I don't have to bother reading "The Lost Symbol"! lol

I just have one thing to say... Mal'akh + steroids...should not really equal massive sex organs. I'm just sayin'.

5:54 PM  
Blogger a. said...

You are killing me. KILLING ME.
Thanks for reading TLS so we don't have to.


My secret word verification word is "inatorp."

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Dan Brown would agree with your last statement, ADO.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Meghan said...

Is The Lost Snuggie the sequel to The DaSquinchy Code?

Ah, selective memory...

12:16 AM  
Blogger Michael W said...

Boogie Boogie Hedgehog is now my new ringtone. Thank you, Maureen. You're welcome, people around when I get a phone call.

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Yaron said...

Maureen, you're as amazingly funny as always.
Rest assured that your self sacrifice in reading this to the end (you will, right?) is appreciated.

Also, here's a much more condensed version that I saw a few days ago. You haven't finished yet, but already I see great similarities.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Madison said...

I feel like Dan Brown just wrote down a bunch of events on small pieces of paper, threw them into a hat and then chose them at random and put them into the book in that order.

Too many running/entering building scenes. And about 1/2 the book takes place in flashbacks - or flashbacks IN flashbacks. If those events were so important maybe they should have happened in the book?

Oh, Dan Brown ...

10:37 PM  
Anonymous pamela said...

sense IS for losers/ Couldnt have said it better myself. And I kinda want to read it now

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Sierra Godfrey said...

You're totally missing further evidence of DB's landmark, influential time spent holidaying in Greece. DB has been terribly clever with Mal’akh's name--- "malacka" in Greek is a very bad word indeed! I'm thinking therefore that MAL'AKH himself is the lost symbol!!
Bet you.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Bridget said...

"If that is where the lost symbol is, I want my money back." That made me laugh SO HARD. For some reason, I don't feel like I'm missing much, just reading your guide instead of the book...

11:31 PM  
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Anonymous Jordan said...

I think Dan Brown just wrote this to be a sadistic jerk. I am, however, enjoying this guide very thouroughly.

3:50 PM  
Blogger A Clark Randt III Production said...

Maureen,

At least Columbus died thinking he invented America. I had not even gotten half way through the Great Dan Brown experiment (http://entropy2.com/) before someone informed me of your Reader's Guide.

In one way I loathe you, the way the Chinese loathe the Mongols*. But, in another way, I realized you saved me the trouble of reading the whole book myself.

In any case, your Reader's Guide is much more entertaining than my own, and I thank you for that.

I'm thinking of blogging about the dangers of American Hegemony in a multi-polar world. Think you could tackle that next?

dr

7:54 PM  

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