With the movie coming out in just eight days, this is a good time to write my review of the book, which I finished reading last weekend.
The Da Vinci Code is a mediocre thriller/murder mystery about the murder of the curator of the Louvre, a college professor from Harvard named Robert Langdon, and a police cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, who is also the granddaughter of the murder victim.
I say it’s mediocre because the actions of the characters seem very unrealistic and the characters are also poorly developed, especially Robert Langdon who we learn absolutely nothing about despite the fact that he’s the main character. And regarding the mystery aspect of the book, the author Dan Brown purposely deceives you so that you have no hope of figuring things out for yourself.
I have to admit that I haven’t really read many thriller/murder mysteries. In fact, this might be my first. So maybe my above objections are par for the course and this book is actually a well written example of the genre. In any event, it sure isn’t literature.
The reason for the book’s popularity has nothing to do with the plot, but rather it has everything to do with what the characters have to say about Christianity and the Catholic Church. What we learn is that there exists historical evidence that Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God born from a virgin, but rather a regular person who was married to Mary Magdalene who bore Jesus a child. The New Testament wasn’t created until several hundred years after Jesus’ death. The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, sponsored and strongly influenced by Roman emperor Constantine, is when the religion of Christianity as we know it today (in its Catholic incarnation) was actually created. At that time, the four Gospels included in the New Testament were edited to ensure that they agree with the story of Jesus’ divinity.
That Jesus wasn’t really God should come as no shock to the majority of the world’s inhabitants who already don’t believe in the religion, but it’s shocking indeed to people who believe. This is why Christian groups are trying to boycott the movie. It’s really too bad that the West had to cave into Muslims on the Danish cartoon controversy, because now Christians think that they too should have free speech antithetical to their religion banned.
There is nothing new in The Da Vinci Code, it’s a rehash of the nonfiction book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which I haven’t read). However, The Da Vinci Code has sold a lot more copies, which is evidence that people would rather have their history served to them in the form of an easy to read novel rather than a long-winded tome.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the existence of a centuries old secret society known as the Priory of Sion, which was supposedly documented in detail in the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is believed by many to be a hoax. A secret society makes for a good addition to a thriller/murder mystery, which probably explains why Dan Brown made it an important element of The Da Vinci Code storyline. Nevertheless, if Dan Brown got his facts wrong about the Priory of Sion, this in no way invalidates that idea that Jesus was just a regular person and not a miracle performing Son of God, but some Christians don’t seem to understand that.
The idea of teaching through a novel is not new. The best example is the novel The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, in which the manager of a factory saves both his factory and his marriage with the knowledge of just-in-time supply chain management he learns from a mysterious Israeli college professor. The Da Vinci Code has both a more interesting story and a more interesting (to Christians) set of facts to teach, which explains why it’s a huge bestseller while The Goal is only popular at business schools.
I predict that the movie, to be released May 19th, will be a huge box office success.