I’m not sure whether to go full out and hate Dan Brown’s boring, repetitive and predictable novels. Whenever I talk about The Da Vinci Code, Deception Point or any of his other books, it’s quite clear that I harbour a certain distaste for his prose. So why is it I can’t seem to cross the final frontier and actively start hating the eagerly gobbled up crap he pumps out?
I’ve previously enjoyed his books. Around the time The Da Vinci Code came out, I had enjoyed Angels & Demons and was looking forward to reading more of his works. Years passed and I read them from time-to-time, enjoying my dip back into the supernatural elements hidden within normal history.
But things were starting to bug me. Small details that were nagging at my brain.
Take the lazy way he writes. How often in the last week have you winked or have seen someone winking at someone else? I’m willing to bet it wasn’t anywhere near as often as people wink in Brown’s novels. Winks are a way of communicating that winker is making fun of the winkee, or are communicating other hidden agendas. Why don’t people use this more often in real life? Because we have numerous more subtle ways of making our intentions known. Body language expresses in clearer terms what we actually mean. We don’t wink because it’s completely unneeded. Very rarely, we might actually find a time where a wink is needed, and then, we wink.
I can’t believe I’ve just spent over a 100 words talking about winking.
The point is, it’s a symptom of the lazy way he writes. I believe in showing rather than telling, but winking? Who winks? No-one. No-one bloody winks. Have you ever managed to look suave or sophisticated whilst winking? I haven’t. It’s barely even possible to wink properly without opening your mouth and looking like a complete twat. The best you can do is add a gun-finger and a “click-click” noise, and even that makes you look like a sleazy businessman.
Y’know what else gets at me? His use of details. I don’t need to know the amount of steps in that famous minaret. You know why? Because I don’t care. I’ve never cared and I never will. It’s not even as if anyone’ll be impressed by that knowledge. They’ll just think you’re a bit strange.
At some point, I had an epiphany. I realised that there was going to be a twist at the end of the novel I was reading. I could predict that the apparent antagonist would turn out to be good in the end, and the real bad guy would be someone I’d previously thought was a protagonist. And I could narrow down the list of potential bad guys; it would be someone I liked, but hadn’t been behind the eyes of, and who it made sense for the twist to be based around.
And I was right.
It was the most damaging thing to happen to a book series around the final twist, and it bleeds over into other books of the same genre.
And that’s perhaps the real reason I can’t bring myself to fully despise Brown’s works. Because at the end of the day, it’s not his fault. He’s trapped within his genre’s limitations and tropes. I can dislike him for lazily adhering to the tropes, but I can’t hate him for it. I hate the fact that he can release the same plot over and over again, with Langdon running from a monster at the behest of a shadowy secret society, finding a clever-but-hot companion to fall in love with, before conveniently managing to solve the vast mystery despite having been unwittingly dragged into the whole ordeal by a tragic event. Usually a murder.
I hate the fact that the various things I hate about the novels are the parts that make them work. The random details are used to mask the details that actually are relevant to the plot. The twist has to be someone we like, or it won’t be a shock, and there’s only a small pool of characters to draw from because… well, by that point, most of the others are dead. Hell, sometimes the true antagonist will pretend to be dead only to Jesus his way back to life as part of the twist. Even the winking probably has some bearing on the plot. Probably just to point out the twats who’ll survive the novel.
I hate the fact that this genre is so transparent because I used to enjoy them. They were fun. And now they’re ruined, simply because the plot devices are so damn transparent. The genre needs someone to come along and really shake it up. At the moment, there are quick and shitty novels being thrown out and sold in supermarkets. And they make money, purely because people buy this crap. I buy this crap occasionally. I wish I didn’t, but sometimes I have hope. And I’m usually disappointed.
I haven’t read Inferno. I’m sure I will, once I find it in a charity shop. But I’m equally sure that it’ll be the same plotline that it always is.
I know that Dan Brown won’t be the one to change the genre; why would he? He’s making pots of cash off the stuff he writes, and he’s not gonna bother to change that. Perhaps I can bring myself to hate him for that. Probably not.
But at least I’ll remember now every time I wink.