Dan Brown should not write novels

by Ahalya on October 7, 2009

(Don’t worry, no spoilers here)

So, I just finished reading two Dan Browns (Deception Point, and The Lost Symbol). It took me three days, and I read while I ate, while I listened to my sister on the phone, in the bus, while making breakfast.. you get the idea.
Now, the reason why I mention this is not because I want to show you how crazy I am about reading, but to point out that I couldn’t keep the book down.

And it is not because Dan Brown is a good writer. This bears repeating, Dan Brown is not a good writer… when it comes to novels. The thing is… the information he gives, about spiritualism, the ancient texts, symbolism and history — that’s what keeps me reading, each word. But, the problem is, his plots seem to be hastily contrived, made to order to fit the information and the characters seem amazingly stereotypical.

I would prefer if Brown wrote books on symbolism, without having to write about car chases and sudden knocking on the door. All that is very annoying. Reading a Dan Brown novel feels like reading a screenplay and this author loves chapters, a book of 500 pages and more than 100 chapters?! Nah! I kept rolling my eyes after each twist in the story.

Very few authors can make history come alive the way Brown can, I think his books are interesting, but with all the cliffhanger-bits taken out.

Have you read the latest Brown? (Take care don’t give the plot away). Incidentally, can you recommend authors who can make history sound interesting? I am especially interested in Indian history (already read William Dalrymple and John Keay).

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

kunal October 8, 2009 at 3:06 pm

i had to study a great history book in school. history of modern man by f .g pearce. besides that i cant think of history[ hate it, cause all history is taking place just now, as they say it repeats itself…when? right now. so look now and u have history :)]


kunal October 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm

history according to women :). by whom i dont remember. history written by women. damn. cant remember. all history is by thew winners anyways. and so distorted.or is it dithro-orteeeed :)))


Puja October 8, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Hey Ahalya, good to see u again after ur date with Dan… and a Dan Brown is just what u said… unputdownable… i read The lost Symbol in a day and a half… its another thing i didn’t do much else ….and again u r right in saying that the history bit is so exciting and the stuff u wanna get to the bottom of…that the action just ssems to be a frivolous add on… u wish he would give u the meat and keep the bones…

And coming onto people who make history come alive.. there are two authors who weave astory and history very well…. Valerio Massimo Manfredi… with his books like The Oracle, Pharoah, The Tower and manny others… the other is Barbara Erskine.. she entwines the supernatural with history and tells u a tale that u hear echoing in ur mind along after the read… for those wanting to get introduced to an Erskine.. collections of short stories such as Encounters , Distant voices … may provide the stepping stone…

U can’t however ignore non fiction and if u are into ancient civilisations… u know Atlantis, Shangri-La and other mythical lands…or maybe just alternate history.. then Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods is an immensely engrossing read….

Waiting to hear more on such authors cocs this genre happens to be a personal fav… meanwhile starting with A.S.Byatt’s Possession…


Aditya October 8, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Not sure of the historical accuracy of everything in Dan Brown. What I liked was how audacious his plots are. Not read the latest one yet but I think the whole symbology bit is like numerology. Kushwant’s Singh’s Delhi has history from a totally different perspective. Wish our textbooks were written from first person POV – Shivaji and Aurangazeb, what they were thinking. But apart from that, don’t know any other history authors. However, Moorcock’s alternate storylines put our real history in great perspective. Black dictator of the world meets a white guy. White guy tells Black dictator that the Blacks were stigmatized because they were oppressed. Black guy retorts that the Whites are stigmatized because they were the oppressors. Good stuff.


kunal October 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

i like vonneguts presentation of history, yes yes, he is not a history writer, and has his own colors to add. but the interesting thing is. we can easily say that of him. but the ”real” history writers, no what they say is a sort of truth…with a twist no doubt. for anyone who has played Chinese whisper, u would know how easily one word can sound like any other word 🙂
i remember gurdjieff saying once of a map, that it was beautiful drawn, with a great deal of details,etc. but with one key element missing, the mountain was on the wrong side of the picture… so when u expect warm weather and go prepared it based on the lovely map, u wil be hit by snow and vice versa 🙂 interesting err…;) 😉 😉


Aditya Panse February 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Just stumbled upon your blog. As regards your question “authors who can make history sound interesting”, the name which springs to my mind is that of Manohar Malgonkar.

We writes an amazing piece on turmoil of partition in “A Bend in the Ganges”; about princely states in India in “The Princes” and about life in Maratha Light Infantry in “Distant Drums”. But, to cap them all, his two non-fiction books are more readable, viz. “The men who killed Gandhi” (about Nathuram et all) and a book about Kanhoji Angre, the Maratha admiral (I forget the name of the book).

On a separate note, I remember reading “Tamas” by Bhishm Sahani, a good read. And there are some in Marathi too, but I don’t think you know the language…

Pleasure reading your blog.



admin February 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Welcome to the site Aditya. It is a pleasure to read your comment. I had heard of Mr. Malgonkar, and a friend had promised to give me her copy of one of his books, but then she left the country =( But now, your comment makes me want to hunt down the books for myself. And please do talk about Marathi books as well. I may be a slow reader in the language, but I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who delightfully reads out excerpts from her favourite books to me (and some of her own stuff) and explains the difficult words to me as we go along. So please do go ahead, I will enjoy hearing her read them. About the book on Kanhoji Angre, did you mean, The Sea Hawk: Life and Battles of Kanhoji Angrey? What amazing research must go into his books right! Brilliant! Thanks for coming by, do write in again!


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