Critics, Some Forced, Read Dan Brown

With one million copies of "The Lost Symbol" sold in the first day, the book is too big to be ignored, whether reviewers like it or not

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With one million books sold on the first day, "The Lost Symbol," another cloak-and-dagger page-turner from Dan Brown, is too big to be ignored. At least that's the tone of many critics in the highbrow heavyweight book sections, who barely seem to have overcome their reluctance about reviewing Brown--because frankly, how much could they matter for a book this massively powerful?--to produce a handful of sarcastic and unloving reviews.

  • They Made Me Review This Book, suggests Louis Bayard in the Washington Post. Bayard begins sarcastically--"Welcome to the least relevant review you will read all year" and never quite lets up. He teases Brown's penchant for philosophizing, and for requiring readers "to believe that our intellectual forebears were so fearful of our stupidity that they went about cloaking their insights in ways too elaborate and byzantine to be grasped by mortals"
  • Trading Pseudohistory for Pseudoscience, yawns Laura Miller in a long, negative review at Salon. Like many reviewers, she has to admit the book is entertaining, but is otherwise cynical, saying that Brown kept the same formulas, but changed the terms. "Pseudoscience could turn out to be even more profitable for Dan Brown than pseudohistory. It may not make for as good a story, but then again, that may be just one more thing that nobody cares about anymore."
  • Brown's Conspiracy to Sell Books, says Ben Macintyre in a mocking review in the Times Online. "A worldwide conspiracy is afoot, involving billions of pounds, millions of innocent trees and an author who has discovered a fiendishly clever way to ensure another bestseller: conspiracy theory sells...His only problem is that he is fast running out of secretive brotherhoods with arcane rituals and symbols that are hidden from the rest of us. I suggest he takes a closer look at traffic wardens."
  • The Formula, Exposed, offers the Daily Beast in a side-by-side comparison of all the similarities between "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Lost Symbol." Some of the categories include "Villain," "Grisly Scene," and "Tricky Cipher."
  • Worthy of Lavish Clichés, writes Janet Maslin in the New York Times. Maslin lays on the clichés to praise it: "He's bringing sexy back to a genre that had been left for dead." It's hard not to detect a slight smirk beneath this line: "If Langdon doesn't figure out [a puzzle's] meaning in less than 60 seconds, he'll stop breathing and something truly terrible will happen: We won't get to hyperventilate through another mind-blowing Langdon story." On the whole, however, Maslin's review is one of the kindest.

Without laying on the snark, Slate offers one of the cleverest tributes, parodies, and quasi-reviews of the Brown's formulaic brilliance with its automatic "Sequel Generator." A sample:

An ancient labyrinth deep beneath the streets of Philadelphia.
A nefarious cult determined to protect it.
A white-knuckled race to uncover the Boy Scouts of America's darkest secret.
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