The Lost Symbol is Dan Brown’s third Robert Langdon thriller. I’ve read the first two books in the series, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, and, in what I consider to be an act of real moral courage I also saw the movie The Da Vinci Code, in which Tom Hanks portrays a man stranded on a desert island with nothing but a deflated volleyball for company.
The Lost Symbol, on the other hand, takes place in Washington D.C. and explores the secrets of Freemasonry. I have not read the book, but The Daily Sam asked me to review it anyhow, since I am a Mason. That’s right. I became a Mason in Omaha, Nebraska because a nice, gentle old fellow named Mort kept asking me to. Mort was one of the members of the little church I served, and I am pretty sure he asked me after every service for about four years if I would become a Mason. One day I just cracked. “Okay, okay—the Holy Grail is that woman over there next to Tom Hanks!” I cried.
Becoming a Mason was actually kind of fun. I’d go over to Mort’s and memorize a bunch of answers to questions, some of which made sense and some of which didn’t, and none of which really mattered in the real world—really, it was a lot like my college education, only friendlier—and then sometimes we’d go to the Lodge and do some interesting little ceremonies.
Finally the big day came for my test. They gave me some funny clothes to put on, blindfolded me, and guided me into the Lodge of Instruction, where I was led around the room from point to point, knocked over, threatened with death (in a theatrical sense), and then asked the series of questions by a mysterious figure (it was Mort). I passed the test, everyone shook my hand, and then we went down to the kitchen and ate ham sandwiches. Later on I went to other Omaha temples and even did some speaking. The Masons were really very nice guys. However, after I moved away from Omaha I stopped attending Masonic events. I even forgot the handshake. So I can’t really say that I am a Mason in good standing.
But to get back to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: as I said, I haven’t read it, but my experience with real Masons would indicate that the idea that they would be thriller material and the source of a grand conspiracy strikes me as comical. Mort and his friends were more interested in how local business and the crops were doing, whether the boiler in the building was going to last a while longer, and if the Huskers were winning or losing than they were in matters of State. I had the same reaction when I watched the movie National Treasure, starring Ben Stiller and set in New York City’s Museum of Natural History, which was also about Masons.
So I can’t really recommend The Lost Symbol. But then how could I? I never read it. But if you want to read a book that is a real thriller, then you should run, not walk, to your neighborhood bookstore and get a copy of Sam Barry’s How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons. This book is a real page-turner. In fact, don’t run—get into a sports car and speed to the nearest bookstore. Or, if you are stuck on a desert island, build a raft that can make it across thousands of miles of ocean and float to your neighborhood bookstore. Or, in that case, you might be better off getting it online.