A new novel by John Grisham will generate a print run of not quite 3 million copies; a new Stephen King, 1.5 million. 6.5 million copies of The Lost Symbol went on sale last week. There’s been a big backlash to The DaVinci Code, but when it hit the stores six years ago, it spun off a whole genre of lost ancient treasures and mysteries. It also generated several non-fiction best-sellers on topics like Mary Magdaline and the Gnostic Gospels. I’ve already ordered a couple books on noetic science and expect more to be written.
Dan Brown seems to write his novels from a template. They begin with an act of grotesque violence by a physically singular villain, which immediately involves Robert Langdon. A woman joins him, then a father figure. As Robert Langdon decodes hidden messages, Brown shows us things we’ve seen all our lives, yet missed. The pages turn. The jaw drops. The mind reels.
The story itself is pretty implausible, an impossible amount of action taking place in less than twelve hours, characters behaving in ways that are very hard to accept. Yet Brown knows that his popularity is a sort of power in itself, that whatever he writes about in a thriller this propulsive will become fascinating to countless people. If he’s right about the mysteries involved, he’s created a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that could change the world.
Or maybe it’s just a good read.