Saturday, June 19, 2004

So much for taking my time with DVC. It certainly is a page turner. The plot is like a scavenger hunt leading from one clue to the next and is full of puzzles that the reader can get caught up in and try to solve for himself. The puzzles are relatively simple -- anagrams, riddles and substitution codes -- easy enough for the reader to be intrigued with yet solvable within the scope of the reader's abilities, if he had the time and inclination to do so. DVC keeps you hooked because you have to find out if your guesses were "correct."

The material in DVC may be disturbing to the more religious of us, but there is no new information that is presented (which was mainly what I was looking for). It's essentially a mystery story enveloped in the familiar conspiracy theories of secret societies with hidden agenda, using material from already published sources. The Code itself has little to do with Da Vinci himself, but refers to the clues left behind by a murder victim for our protagonists to follow through (so don't be fooled like I was).

Some character names are literally applied, like Fache, which means "don't f**k with me or I'll tear your head off" or something like it, although the word won't translate in Babelfish. Maybe it's an outdated usage. Sauniere is a name closely related to the Grail legends, and Sophie (as in "Sophie's World") means "wisdom," which is itself a clue to one of the major puzzles presented.

The suspense is created the usual way -- hunters being hunted, needing to finish their quest before they are stopped by one force or another. Their mandatory betrayal should also come as no surprise since there are few suspects to eliminate in the first place. Brown plays the so-near-and-yet-so-far game of "pass the parcel", a childishly simplistic, yet effective means of maintaining intrigue. Each layer either reveals a reward (plot progression) or a forfeit (a setback or obstacle to overcome). Either way, you just have to keep unwrapping the parcel until you reach the central prize. Yes, Brown does provide a final payoff although he also provides enough clues for you to guess what it is one or two layers too early before the end.

The Grail theme is used in games like the Broken Sword trilogy and in "Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned." It's fun to mess around with mythology and try and tie the old legends into our own lives. I just wish I had known DVC fell under this category before I bought the book. Duh, the book's spine says "Fiction".

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