The Dan Brown Formula

If the physics adage of “What goes up must come down.” is true in terms of success then it certainly applies to Dan Brown’s. Having read his  bestseller The DaVinci Code at the age of 11, I was enthralled by art history and the secrets encased within it. Till date, it is the best book I’ve ever read but it disappoints me to say that none of Dan Brown’s other books made this sort of impression on me.

Angels and Demons was a notch below The DaVinci Code but certainly not the worst of the lot. My biggest problem while reading the book was how the action-driven plot was systematized into 4 divisions i.e earth, air, fire and water.

Then came The Lost Symbol which seemed to me like deja vu, reminding me of The DaVinci Code. With this book, characteristic elements of Dan Brown’s writing was cemented. Inferno was an attempt at breaking out of his signature yet oddly formulaic writing style. It’s as if his writing sensibility is on a loop.

On reading all of Dan Brown’s books featuring protagonist Robert Langdon, the plot can converted into a  formula consisting of the following variables:

  • A female protagonist: No matter what crisis Langdon finds himself in, he will always be accompanied by an intelligent and capable female protagonist who he just happens to meet. It was Sophie Neveu in The DaVinci Code and Sienna Brooks in Inferno. You’ll see it applies to Angels and Demons as well.
  • Short time span and nomadic plot: Langdon and his female counterpart travel from one place to another like a huge treasure hunt across cities in Europe  and in the case of The Lost Symbol, in America across museums, churches, cathedrals and piazzas, lasting for not more than a few days.
  • Secret Organisations: Dan Brown appears to be fascinated with conspiracy theories and secret organisations like The Consortium and the Illuminati.
  • European Setting: There are endless descriptions of monuments and art pieces in different parts of Europe like France, Vatican City and Italy that sometimes seem pompous and unrestrained in the middle of the book.

And voila, you’ve got yourself a Dan Brown book.


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