February 23, 2011

Mini Reviews for The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Altar of Eden of James Rollins

I read two action adventure novels recently, that I have a few lingering thoughts about.  What do you expect out of action adventure fiction? Yes, I want to be thrilled and I want fast-paced action. I want to learn something, or be taken to somewhere around the world I have never heard of or thought about before...but I also want relationships developing between characters.  Is this too much to ask for in action adventure novels with all the other elements packed in? I don't think so, but its often what seems to be lacking.

Also can I just say I DESPISE this new book size for mass market paperbacks...first they had to introduce the tall format which ruined the consistent height of my collections and the spacing between my bookshelves but now they have this extra wide and shorter format, more squarish.  Don't the publishers realize they are antagonizing their readers by introducing these new sizes...I try not to buy these when at all possible.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object -artfully encoded with five symbols-is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon''s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon-a prominent Mason and philanthropist -is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations-all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

The most surprising thing about The Lost Symbol for me was unrelated to the content of the book...its actually amazingly long at over 600 pages...but look more critically and you will see that the chapters are short, very short.  I really dislike this format...making the chapters short to somehow make the book feel more fast-paced. Yes, the whole premise about the Masons and the inclusion of The Smithsonian was quite interesting but the ending dragged on a bit too much with this fluffy, rosy, bright hopefulness (I don't mind sappy but it seemed over the top for me). With all those pages you would think Robert Langdon would develop relationships with other characters but he doesn't...though I guess this is hard to do when a whole storyline falls within only a few hours. Still, its what I love about reading, the development of character's relationships...which was singularly lacking in The Lost Symbol.  There were interesting ideas and themes in The Lost Symbol, so if you like action adventure novels I would recommend reading it.

My Rating: 4.0


Altar of Eden by James Rollins
Baghdad falls . . . and armed men are seen looting the city zoo. Amid a hail of bullets, a concealed underground lab is ransacked—and something horrific is set loose upon the world.
Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk investigates an abandoned shipwrecked fishing trawler carrying exotic caged animals, part of a black market smuggling ring. But there is something disturbingly wrong with these beasts—each an unsettling mutation of the natural order, all sharing one uncanny trait: incredibly heightened intelligence. 

Joining forces with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jack Menard—a man who shares with her a dark and bloody past—Lorna sets out to uncover the truth about this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses. Because a beast escaped the shipwreck and is running amok—and what is about to be born upon the altar of Eden could threaten not only the future of the world but the very foundation of what it means to be human.

I have mentioned many times that novels with themes of technology and science rock my world and James Rollins is one of my absolute favorite action/adventure authors who incorporates these themes. Normally I'm enraptured by the scientific theories Rollins includes in his novels, but in Altar of Eden I felt I was at times being lectured to about the science rather the than the story evolving from the science (this was even more apparent after comparing Altar of Eden to Awakening by S. J. Bolton, which incorporates scientific knowledge as well, but with a more natural feel than in this novel). Maybe it was because Altar of Eden was a departure from Rollins' Sigma series that I felt this way. Other than this aspect of the novel though, I appreciated the story even though it was a bit more far out than usual for Rollins. The main characters were multi-faceted, interesting, resourceful and pulled at my emotions. Read if you are a Rollins fan but if you have never read Rollins before, I would not start with this novel.

My Rating: 4.0


Related Posts:
The Doomsday Key by James Rollins
The Last Oracle by James Rollins
Ice Hunt by James Rollins
Deep Fathom by James Rollins
Subterranean by James Rollins


  1. The short sharp chapters are very much a feature of Dan Brown's writing. It didn't bother me in his earlier books as much as it did in this one. The other thing was that it felt a lot like Brown had to cram in every single thing he learnt during research regardless of the actual story.

  2. Marg I totally agree with you...some things were explained a bit too well. The book was interesting but at the end I felt dissatisfied...it could have been more and in less pages too!

  3. I didn't care all that much for Dan Brown's latest outing, in fact I really struggled to finish it. However, I really like James Rollins, this is one that I haven't read yet but I will look out for it! :)

  4. Jules - I seemed to get sucked in by series. I read Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons (which is far superior than the other two), so I feel I had to read The Lost Symbol. But there was way too much hype - he's not that great of a writer.

    I'm also looking forward to reading The Devil Colony to see what all the Sigma characters are up to in this installment. Love Rollins!