Review: The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol

Author: Dan Brown

Price: $30 (Rs 700)

Publisher: Doubleday (US)

Transworld (UK)

Bantam Press (India)

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery, Boredom

Dan Brown has penned down an international bestseller

Bestsellers are not always good.

Dan Brown is back. And so is Robert Langdon. In another “fast-paced” thriller. The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown is known to almost the entire world. He happens to be the best-selling author of the very famous The Da Vinci Code, though I thought his finest work was Deception Point. The Lost Symbol is based in Washington D.C this time, in contrast to his other novels which are based in Spain, Vatican City, The Arctic and Europe. Langdon is summoned to DC by a mysterious caller, who seems to impersonate his friend Peter Solomon’s secretary. Langdon has to decipher a large number of clues (including a lone hand) and unveil the Ancient Truth of Freemasonry, the society around which this book is based upon. Sadly, although the plot seems promising, the book is too long in various parts and is such a big bore, that you’d be surprised that you’re not reading from an encyclopedia.

The plot is ingenious and also quite gripping. But the problem is stuff like this is very, very old now. It’s that typical Langdon+Scientist-cum-chick-cum-love-interest+Assassin+Ancient-Brotherhood formula, which Dan Brown has tried and tested for two books. It may successful once, like in The Da Vinci Code, but not always.

Also, half the stuff is almost entirely unnecessary. Instead of simply stating “Langdon suffered from claustrophobia”, Brown goes on to give a full and long, detailed explanation of how he got it. Even though he already has mentioned it in his previous books. And even more stuff on him doing fifty laps in the Harvard pool, and him wearing a Tweed coat. Its boring now. Really. I know it may be for the first-timers but come on now. It’s too much. Have a look at the Harry Potter trilogy. Rowling just gives a sweeping mention of Harry’s past and gets down to real business. Now Brown. He wants to write a big novel. He knows that he can keep you gripped to it. This is exactly the place where the book succeeds. It is addictive. Excessively. In fact, my curiosity had arisen to such a great extent, that I sat up at even one-thirty in the night to read it.

But it really is those cliched verses which frustrate you till eternity. Picture this conversation between X and Y

X- Have you heard about Z?

Y- Of course. <five-line long history on Z follows> …and its known as <this> by the Mayans, <that> by the Hindus, <whatever> by the Greeks and — <stops short>

X- What happened?

Suddenly is was crystal clear. Everything was falling into place. It was in front of us all the time, and yet we didn’t catch it X thought. How ingenious.

<end of chapter>

That happens almost every two chapters. Plus, the book is full of descriptions of rituals and acts of crime, which are really not relevant to the plot at all. They’re just… there. There are too many words such as “odd”, “bizarre” and, especially “double take” that are used too often.

In the end, The Lost Symbol turns out to be a good experience, but it is also a really, really boring book. Read it only if you’re love the Dan Brown style, although it is quite old now. It is nowhere near as good as Deception Point, which, I feel, is Dan Brown’s greatest book yet.

Rating: 5.8/10 (So-so)

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In Our World, 2=1

Let us take two variables a and b

Let a=b

Therefore, a2=ab

Therefore, a2-b2=ab-b2 (Subtracting b2 from both sides)
Therefore, (a+b)(a-b)=b(a-b) (using identiy a2-b2 = (a+b)(a-b)

Therefore, a+b=b (Dividing (a-b) from both sides)

Since a=b, we can substitute a in place of b

Therefore, a+a=a

Therefore, 2a=a

Therefore, 2=1

In out world, two is equal to one.

Hence, proved.

Stuff You MUST Try Out

There are a lot of movies/games/software out there, which may be unknown to a majority of people. People are hardly interested in this kind of stuff, and ignore it purely based on public reactions. I don’t think they’re bad at all.

PS: I’ve included a Criticism characterisitc with each topic to explain why it is criticised by people, and my counter-point as well.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The Metal Gear Solid [MGS] series by Hideo Kojima of Konami Computer Entertainment Japan is quite famous. But this is one of the games on the series you just have to try out. It was initially planned for the PlayStation 3, but released for its predecessor due to launch delay. So you can imagine how great the graphics will be. Cinematic cutscenes with a movable-and-zoom camera option, superb music, brilliant physics and an amazing storyline make Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater one of the coolest, if not best, PlayStation 2 game ever made. The game does have it flaws though. The O button is the X button and vice-verca, so you have to press O to accept and X to cancel. Camera controls are cumbersome too. However, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater makes you realise that the PlayStation 2 has pressure-sensitive controls! Pressing O lightly will suffocate an enemy, while hammering it will sever his throat with your knife.
Criticism: Metal Gear Solid games are no different than movies.
True. Quite true. And this is often a line used by MGS haters. But play the game and you realise “Hey… This is like a movie, but I can haz like to be a hero in the movie!!11111111!!!” Who wouldn’t want to play a lead role in films? Metal Gear Solid 3 allows you to do just that.

Burnout Dominator

Burnout Dominator

Burnout Dominator

I reviewed Burnout Dominator in the past, and gave it about 8/10. Burnout Dominator isn’t a bad game at all. Its absolutely amazing. However, it leaves you disappointed only because you’d have expected more from the successor of such an awesome game like Burnout Revenge.

Criticism:Burnout Dominator is extremely difficult, and hence, is a pain to play.
It may be tougher than its predecessors, but difficulty is the major criteria for playing! Anybody with amateurish driving skills can rule Burnout Revenge overnight, but it requires gaming expertise and concentration and determination to achieve the same for Burnout Dominator. Only a hardcore gamer can do this.

Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb aired on Disney Channel a couple of months ago, and is probably the best cartoon I have seen in a long time. The lead characters Phineas and Ferb are extremely cute and always have some of the naugtiest inventions up their sleeves. In fact, their title track says it all:

Building a rocket or fighting a mummy

Or climbing up the Eiffel tower

Discovering something that doesn’t exist

Or giving a monkey a shower

Yes. They really do all that. Without their parents getting to know. But their nosey sister tries to bust them, but always fails. Also, there’s a song in every episode, which is not at all childish. In fact, all of them are catchy, especially the title track. It also involves a side plot, where Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus doubles up as a secret agent to foil the evil scientist Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s plans.

Criticism: Phineas and Ferb is a cartoon for kids. You’re a baby if you watch that crap!
Wrong. Completely. Wrong. Its like you’re saying South Park is for kids. Phineas and Ferb may not be that vulgar, but is certainly witty. Kids can watch it as well, but people of all ages must give it a shot. In fact, its got all those witty takes on many fields, such as fashion, reality shows (such as one named as “America’s Next Teen Pop Star Idol!” taking a dig at ridiculously named reality shows. The winner even performs a one-hit wonder. Phenomenons only adults or teenagers can understand), evil scientists, and even mammals. You must see the season opener episode “Rollercoaster” which I’ll put up here.

Rebecca

Rebecca

Rebecca

Rebecca is an Alfred Hitchcock film made entirely in black and white. Its that old. Many enthusiasts may already know about this one, but many don’t. Rebecca won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1940, but chances are it’ll win any year. The actors deliver spectacular performances, and the horror will really freak you out. It may not be as gory or deadly as your Grudges or Hannibals, but it is Hitchcock’s superior directorial skills which will keep you glued to the edge of your seats.

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My Reactions To Slumdog Millionaire

After Slumdog Millionaire began its winning streak throughout the world by winning BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and more famously, eight Oscars, most of the Indian (like me) and film critics (again, like me) liked it, India being the land of controversies had other ideas. They started slamming the film and called director Danny Boyle many dirty names which would be uncouth to mention here, as I would risk receiving an R rating for Shadow Line, which some controversy-lover would definitely like to give. I’ll try looking at some of these aspects and sort them out according to my understanding.

 

Movies like Taare Zammen Par were better movies than Slumdog Millionaire and should have won the Oscar.

 

Ignorant fools, behold! Can’t you understand that Slumdog Millionaire is a HOLLYWOOD film, and Taare Zameen Par is a BOLLYWOOD film? Get it? The Academy Awards are only for American films, and not for Indian ones. Indian films can only win an Oscar if they meet certain conditions. Did we give a Filmfare for Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, even though it won eleven Oscars? Did Titanic receive a Stardust award? No! Because they aren’t made for Indian audiences – the main target is Amercians! It is directed by a foreign director. So what if it was shot in India? When Kal Ho Na Ho was shot entirely in New York, did the Americans say complain about a foreign language film being shot on their soil? I hope you get my point.

 

Slumdog Millionaire did not deserve to get so many awards.

 

Why? Why does it not deserve so many awards? Other films nominated for the Best Picture category in the Oscars had certain flaws. The Reader had an unnecessary excess amount of lovemaking, Frost/Nixon was boring for many, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is quite boring too, although the storyline was damn strong. Milk had a strong message to give, but many were against its controversial topic. This leaves you with Slumdog Millionaire. Although the story line is pretty unbelievable, yet it is a great fantasy about love and hope during despair, which the world really needs during this financial crisis.  It captivated hearts even though a third of the film is a foreign language, and it had a cast composed of no big stars. It had a great music score, for which Rahman deserved two Oscars. The sound mixing had trains arriving on tracks, which accurately resembled trains. Danny Boyle did an awesome job as a director, handling real people from slums without a common language to communicate. The screenplay was aptly modified to make the movie more pleasing and interesting. So there you are.

 

The blind(ed) kid could not possibly know of Benjamin Franklin’s existence on a hundred dollar bill.

 

Ok that, I agree, is a wee bit tough to justify. You must remember, Jamal and Salim (Malik) used to go to school. Similary, that child (Arvind) might also have learned about it in school. That does sound far-fetched, I agree. Another possible explanation could be that after begging for such a long time on the streets, he might have learnt about this fact from some American he must have come across. Remember – Salim and Jamal were very small when they left Maman, and now there were in their mid-teens – big enough to wander around Mumbai and work in restaurants.

 

Jamal did not mention Surdas in the flashback.

 

Even I was stumped at this one, but after watching it again, I found the answer. We need to me a bit more careful while listening to dialogues.  

[Maman calls Jamal to sing that bhajan song]

Maman- “Yaar Jamal, wo Darshan Do Ghanshyaam wala gaana suna de; woh Surdas wala. Mera favourite bhajan hai woh.

Big mistake here. Sorry fellas.

 

India has been showcased as a poor country full of slums. 

 

Well, people, wake up. Look around you. There are so many slums and poor people living way below the Poverty Line (which Rs 434 per month). Nearly 4.2 % of the population is food insecure. Children are really mutilated and forced to beg as shown aptly in the movie. And slums appear only for a mere fifteen to twenty minutes in the film.

 

Well, that pretty much sums it up. Comment about this, and we’ll debate.

Book Review: Eragon

This book has been out for a long time and I read it about a year ago. But I didn’t have a blog to post a review on.

Eragon

Author: Cristopher Paolini

Language: English

Series: Inheritance Cycle

Pages: 509

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Cover Artist: John Jude Palencar

Main Protagonist: Eragon [human]

Saphira [dragon]

Genre: Young Adult

Fantasy

Christopher Paolini debuts with Eragon, a book written and targeted mainly at teenagers. And oh, what a stunning debut it is. Paolini was only 20 years old when he wrote this book, and I must say he has made extensive use of words from the English language.

The Plot

It’s kinda similar to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. There’s this kid, called Eragon (surprise, surprise!) who lives in a country called Alagaёsia, in a village called Palancar Valley (oddly enough, the cover artist’s name is Palencar, which bears a striking resemblence to Palancar). The entire story is set in Alagaёsia. Eragon discovers a bright blue “stone” which he later discovers to be a dragon egg, and hatches exclusively for him. He is a poor orphan (reminds me of Harry Potter) living with his uncle Garrow and cousin Roran, when he stumbles upon the egg in the forest called The Spine. With the dragon, he becomes a dragon rider – someone with extraordinary powers of magic and immortality. Eragon, aided by the elderly and knowledgable Brom (reminds me of Dumbledore), has to set out and destroy the evil tyrant king of Alagaёsia – Galbatorix. Eragon has to travel miles from Carvahall in Palancar Valley, after creatures known as the Ra’zac killed his uncle, to Urû’baen – which is the throne of Galbatorix and the capital of Alagaёsia.

Of course, like any tyrant king, he cannot be easily destroyed, has vast skills and knowledge of magic, is very evil blah blah blah.

The Feel

Now here is where Eragon excels. Paolini’s exquisite writing style and use of powerful words helps readers to actually understand Eragon’s feelings towards his uncle, his family, the Ra’zac, and for his dragon, Saphira. You actually begin to feel the pain (like I did) and feel pity for Eragon, who shoulders such a massive responsibility as such a tender age. He is the only Dragon Rider in the entire land (other than Galbatorix) and Saphira his only dragon (other than Shruikan, Galbatorix’s dragon) and is the only hope to defeat Galbatorix, something like the chosen one in Harry Potter.

The coolest thing about the book is magic, which can only be performed using difficult words from the “ancient language” and with utmost concentration. Different spells absorb different amounts of energy and may even kill a person if he depletes his energy. The book also provides you with translation of words from the ancient language to English.

All in all, Eragon is a good read, but it’s a little childish. But that’s probably ‘coz Eragon was a kid. And also the book was unnecessarily long and excessively detailed, which is sometimes frustrating to read. But the climax is great and

Rating: 3/5 [Good]