Monday, September 27, 2004

Oi! Brown! NOOOO!

Oi! Brown! NOOOO!

I mentioned last week that, against my better judgement, I am reading this year's summer blockbuster - Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code". Without shame, I have even been reading it in public, letting everybody know that I have joined the herd. It's OK though, I didn't pay for it, I just waited for one of my fellow passengers on the 0948 to Waterloo fall asleep and lifted it from his cold, dead fingers as he lay in a coma. I was doing him a favour, honest.

A lot has already been said about this book - whether it's a load of paranoid hokum, an anti-Catholic rant or a work of true genius. I cannot deny that in its context, it is a convincingly plotted novel, and the sheer pace of the action more than compensates for the holes in the storyline as large as the Channel Tunnel. On that front, I have to admit I enjoyed it.

However, "my" copy has more that its share of dents, creases, and in one unfortunate incident, stains, as I have variously thrown it at the wall, beaten it with sticks and attempted to flush it down the lav.

Dan Brown, you see, gives good action thriller. His major problem - and this from a nam who now has three major works under his belt - is that his writing style sucks. And blows. All the research in the world can't hide sloppy writing. I was pissing myself laughing after a mere four words. Not exactly, "it was a dark and stormy night", but not far off, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

His worst habit is telling the reader that he knows an important fact about a major character, and then not telling you what it is. I suppose he calls it building tension, I call it a pile of arse. When I write for a character*, if they know something, if they've seen or done something important, I damn well put it on the page, and not save it up for chapter 75, where the reader is already planning the author's unnecessarily painful death.

The worst of these is on page 383, when [bad guy's name] is trussed up in the back of [good guy's car], knowing he has failed in his mission to capture [important plot device].

"'A miracle Lord, I need a miracle.' Silas had no way of know, that hours from now, he would get one."

That was the exact moment the book ended up down the toilet. If I had written that in my O-Level English paper, I would have failed. I don't think even Archer could have written such a crap line, even if he tried.

I persevered, against the odds, to get this book finished, as unfortunately, I cared enough to see how it finished. For those of you who want to know how it ends without the pain of reading what passes for written English, the plot twist was telegraphed about three hundred pages before: Franz Beckenbauer, in the library, with the battered cod fillet.

You could do worse than seek out the work of the second greatest living Englishman.

* God, I'm a smug bastard...

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