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Dan Brown
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
Dan Brown brings us the latest story in the life of Robert Langdon. Now Brown is a bit of a Marmite author as authors go. Many hate his work and many like it and for the main I fall in to the latter group. Brown has a knack of picking a subject which can easily be turned into a controversy and in this book he has not failed us.

This story follows the well proven path of Langdon being invited, by a close friend, to a world event which will shatter the beliefs of whole population and as ever it surrounds Religion. Indeed it follows the path so closely it is almost re rewrite of the other books set in a new location! This is the first of my criticisms, but not the last.

Also Brown seems intent in annoying the old countries of Europe, one by one; France and Britain, then Italy while having a dig at his own country as well. This book is set in Spain and will no doubt have raised a few hackles amongst the good people of that country. In this book Langdon is invited to a broadcast to be done by a prominent computer scientist whose genius has made him one of the richest men in the world. This scientist, Edmond Kirsch, has said he has found the answers to the questions “Where have we come from” and “Where are we going”. He claims this is going to alter completely mankind’s understanding of his origins and destiny and change mankind completely. This is going to be done through a broadcast, by Kirsch from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and broadcast to the world via the internet. Millions (Billions) of people are expected to tune in and listen to him.

Just days prior to the broadcast he arranges to meet prominent members of the Catholic, Judaic and Islamic faiths and tells them of his findings and that he intends broadcasting this to the world. Shocked these men return to their homes to consider their actions. Two are killed in the next few days, prior to the event.

I am jumping a bit here as I don’t want to give away the plot too much as that will spoil the book for you.

Anyhoo, the event is brought forward, deliberately, by Kirsch and he arranges for the great and good to assemble at the Guggenheim for his broadcast, which as I say will also be broadcast worldwide. Each of the people attending are given a personalised audio headset which guides them round the Museum on a personal tour designed just for them. The events starts but just before he gets to the main bit, Kirsch is shot and killed plunging the event into chaos. Langdon is being guided by his remote audio feed by a computer that turns out to be so close to a living sentient being, in that it can make judgements and act just like a human, just a lot faster. This computer is named Winston, the reason for this becoming apparent later in the book, and guides Langdon not just in the museum but in the adventure that Langdon now finds himself on. Along with the Museum director and co-presenter of the event, who just happens to be a beautiful woman engaged to the Crown Prince of Spain, Langdon flees the Museum chased by the authorities. He has accepted that his task is now to reveal to the world what Kirsch had discovered, which is all pre-recorded anyway on a super computer designed and built by Kirsch and which has a 47 character password that only Kirsch knows but has left clues to what it is. This is where the formula becomes a bit repetitive, Langdon entrusted with the task to save the world while being pursued by good guys and bad guys but always with a beautiful woman in tow.

The sub-plot takes in the imminent death of the King of Spain and the young man, his son, who will replace him; the beliefs of the people and some of the most iconic of Spanish religious architecture including the Iglesia Católica Palmariana and the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família as well as one of the most curious of buildings, the Casa Mila in Barcelona. The background sub-plot involving the Spanish King who is dying, and Crown Prince of Spain, sees the story move to the Valley of the Fallen, Franco’s memorial to those who died in the Spanish Civil War. One thing I do like about Brown’s books is they make me look up Google to get the background story on these iconic places which helps place them, and some of the icons also mentioned in the story. He does however explain them well enough in the course of the story though.

The book is obviously well researched and well written; very easy to read and, in spite of reverting to Google now and again, is a pleasant and interesting read. As I said that the beginning you either like Brown or detest his books; I like them and thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if at times it felt like a bit of déjà vu. I was very disappointed with the ending though and thought that Brown had hurried the ending a bit. There were two outcomes, one from the saga that Robert Langdon and his beautiful companion go through and one from the sub-plot concerning the Spanish Royal Family. Neither seemed to compliment the other and I am a bit confused as to why the sub-plot is there, if only to bring some controversy to an already controversial story! Anyway, I won’t reveal the plot endings for obvious reasons and although I hae ma doots about them please don’t let this put you off reading this book. I started off by saying Brown’s books are a bit marmite; well I enjoyed this book and the travelogue through northern Spain and I look forward to the next instalment and wonder which part of the world Brown will be slighting then!

3.5 Mr MRHs – purely for the weak ending, otherwise a healthy 4 Mr MRHs.

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