Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Lost Symbol

The book concentrates on Freemasonry, and takes place over a time span of 12 hours in Washington, D.C. Robert Langdon would be called to give a lecture in National Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol, with the invitation apparently from his mentor, a 33rd degree Mason named Peter Solomon, who is the head of the Smithsonian Institution. However, when Langdon arrives at the Capitol, instead of an audience for his lecture, he finds the severed right hand of Peter Solomon tattooed into a symbolic Hand of the Mysteries, and pointing straight upwards.

Solomon would’ve been kidnapped by the villain Mal'akh, who demands that Langdon unlock the Ancient Mysteries in return for Solomon's life.

This leads to a game of cat and mouse throughout the museums and buildings of Washington. Langdon joins hands with Solomon's sister, Katherine, a scientist studying noetic science in a secret laboratory in the Smithsonian Museum Support Center. Langdon and Katherine are pursued by both Mal'akh, and Inoue Sato, the head of the CIA's Office of Security. Sato's demand is that Langdon solve the mystery as a matter of national security, since Mal'akh would be planning to release a delusive video of Washington powerbrokers engaged in secret Masonic rituals.

The chase and the clues to the puzzles lead through the sub-basement of the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Freedom Plaza, the United States Botanical Garden, and Washington National Cathedral. The clues center around a small stone pyramid, entrusted several years ago by Solomon to Langdon. The pyramid and the box which holds it reveal several puzzles.

Mal'akh succeeds in capturing both Katherine and Langdon, torturing both of them, and then takes Peter Solomon to the top floor of the Masonic headquarters House of the Temple. Langdon and Katherine Solomon are rescued by the CIA, while in the meantime Mal'akh reveals to Peter Solomon that he is in fact Peter's own son, Zachary. (Well, the moment I read Zachary dies in Turkish prison and Mal’akh gets his rebirth, I knew they are not two different individuals. I am learning Dan Brown’s way of thinkingJ)

As a young man, Zachary would be unhappy with the way he had been treated by his father, so he would fake his own death in a Turkish prison. He then experiences a religious revelation, finding the need to learn the The Lost Word.

He plans to complete his transformation into a godlike being by inscribing his scalp with what he mistakenly believes to be the symbol for the Ancient Mysteries, the circumpunct.Trying to recreate the Biblical story of Abraham on the verge of sacrificing his son, Zachary attempts to force his father into killing him with Abraham' sacrificial Akedah knife on the altar of the Freemasons.

But Langdon intrudes, and a CIA helicopter interrupts the data connection to prevent the distribution of the video. Zachary is fatally injured when the helicopter accidentally shatters a skylight above him, and the falling shards pierce his body.

Peter Solomon then takes Langdon to the Washington Monument, viewed from above, a dot in a circular plaza, with a Bible in its cornerstone. Peter tells him that The Word that Mal'akh was seeking was in all holy books such as the Bible, Koran, and Bhagavad Gita. The Ancient Mystery is the realization that people are not God's subjects, but in fact possess the ability to be gods themselves. Langdon realizes that the lost symbol is God, standing for limitless human potential. The book is much slow paced compared to The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. It allows the reader to digest the myths and puzzles. For the first time in the Dan Brown’s books, I found the motive to be realistic. There is only one villain as compared to organizations and institutions becoming the villains in the other books.

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