Tag Archives: Dan Brown

Witchblade Issue 159: Saviors, Part 1

Witchblade_Issue159

First, let me say that this issue is pretty graphic. There is liberal use of red ink. While this does not bother me, it may disturb others, so I figured I’d point it out.

The story is a kind of an inverted “Da Vinci Code.” Just as there was a scion which was the bloodline of Christ and Magdalene, this comic explores the idea of an anti-Magdelena. This dark scion is embodied in a young hipster chic who is all bubbly and smiley as she manipulates others to carry out her wicked plans.

I’m not sure that this storyline is working for me, possibly because it feels a little hackneyed. I also find Dan Brown to be irritating, so something that seems to be inspired by one of Brown’s novels just isn’t all that exciting for me. That said, I didn’t hate it. The artwork is vivid and stunning as always, and the writing is solid, it’s just that the plot is not that interesting to me, but again, I am a little biased because of my feelings towards Mr. Brown.

I will read Part 2 and see where the story goes. I have not been disappointed with Witchblade yet, so I remain optimistic. Worst case scenario, I suffer through another issue strewn with “Da Vinci Code” references.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“The Book of Legendary Lands” by Umberto Eco

LegendaryLands

Let me start out by saying that I loved this book. Then again, I’m kind of an Umberto Eco fanboy. I think he is one of the most brilliant writers and scholars around today, which is why I didn’t think twice about spending the $50 for a hardcover copy of this book, and it was worth every penny. Not only is the writing superb and the quotes inspiring, but it is richly illustrated with stunning artwork. This is a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

In the book, Eco explores legendary lands which he defines as “lands and places that, now or in the past, have created chimeras, utopias, and illusions because a lot of people thought they existed or had existed somewhere.” (p. 7) Examples of legendary lands include biblical lands, places depicted in Homer’s The Odyssey, El Dorado, Atlantis, the interior of the Earth, and so forth. Eco writes about these places and the legends that grew concerning them. He then includes an array of quotes from primary sources that are lengthy enough to give you a good sense of what the writers thought concerning these realms. He also looks at the historical impact of these legends, as well as the historical facts that helped proliferate the legends, since “legends are always born on the basis of a historical truth.” (p. 44)

I found the chapter on The Odyssey to be very interesting. Eco explores theories regarding the locations of the places in the poem, and there are quite a few. There are also some beautiful maps showing the supposed locations. In the end, though, Eco concludes that there is no way to determine whether the information in the poem is accurate or whether the places truly existed or not, but emphasizes the importance that the legend has had on humanity should not be discounted.

This book is not intended to establish Ulysses’ true periplus. The poet (or poets) later made things up on the basis of legendary information. The Odyssey is a beautiful legend, and all attempts to reconstruct it on a modern map have created just as many legends. One of those we have mentioned is perhaps true or plausible, but what fascinates us is the fact that over the centuries we have been entranced by a journey that never happened. Wherever Calypso lived, a great many men have dreamed of spending a few years in her sweetest of captivities.

(p. 75)

Of course, no discussion of legendary lands would be complete without a look at the legend of Atlantis.

Of all legendary lands, Atlantis is the one that, over the centuries, has most exercised the imagination of philosophers, scientists, and seekers of mysteries (cf. Albini 2012). And naturally what has reinforced the legend more and more is the persuasion that a vanished continent really existed and that it is difficult to rediscover traces of it because it sank into the sea. The notion that there were once lands above water that subsequently vanished is by no means a crazy one. In 1915 Alfred Wegener formulated the theory of continental drift, and today it is believed that 225 million years ago, the Earth consisted of a single continent, Pangaea, which then (about 200 million years ago) began to split up slowly, giving rise to the continents we know today. And so in the course of the process, many Atlantises may have arisen and then disappeared.

(p. 182)

One of the things that really fascinated me regarding Atlantis was the effect it had on Nazi occultists who sought to discover evidence that the white Aryans were actually descendants from the Atlantean race.

Atlantis also seduced many occultists who gravitated to the Nazi party. For this, see the chapter on Thule and Hyperborea, but it is worth remembering that Hans Hörbinger’s theory of eternal ice maintained that the submersion of Atlantis and Lemuria was caused when the Earth captured the moon. In Atlantis die Urheimat der Arier (Atlantis, the Original Homeland of the Aryans, 1922), Karl Georg Zchaetzsch had written, followed by one of the maximum theorists of Nazi racism, Alfred Rosenberg, about a dominant “Nordic-Atlantean” or “Aryan-Nordic” race. It is said that in 1938 Heinrich Himmler had organized a search in Tibet with a view to finding the remains of the white Atlanteans.

(p. 199)

As a kid, I remember watching “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and thinking how cool it was, the idea that below the Earth’s surface could exist another world populated with dinosaurs and fantastic creatures. Eco points out that humans have long been fascinated with realms hidden below the ground and that this fascination has led to an abundance of legends.

The idea of penetrating the heart of the planet, beneath the crust, has always appealed to human beings, and some have seen in this passion for caves, recesses and underground passages a reaching out toward a maternal womb into which to return. No doubt we all remember how, when we were young, before falling asleep, we loved to huddle under the blankets and fantasize about some subterranean journey, isolated from the rest of the world; a cave could be a place where lurked monsters of the abyss, but also a refuge against human enemies or other monsters of the surface. With regard to caverns, people have dreamed of hidden treasures and imagined underground creatures such as gnomes; the Jesus of many traditions was not born in a stable but in a cave.

(pp. 348 – 350)

People who know me have probably heard me criticize Dan Brown, stating his books are little more than watered-down versions of Umberto Eco for the masses. For this reason, I found it ever so amusing when Eco himself criticized Brown in this book, focusing on how Brown propagated legends through books like The Da Vinci Code by claiming “Ninety-nine percent of it is true.” Eco is quick to point out that “If this really were a historical reconstruction, then there is no explanation for the umpteen blunders that Brown gaily sprinkles throughout his narrative.” (p. 420) I literally laughed out loud when I read this.

I have only scratched the surface of this book. There is a lot of great information and artwork here, but you should not be intimidated. It is written in a manner that makes these arcane legends accessible and enjoyable. If you have ever read a book and fantasized about a place being real, then this is definitely a book you will enjoy.

8 Comments

Filed under Literature

Free Download of “The Da Vinci Code” This Week

DaVinciCodeSo Dan Brown is offering free downloads of The Da Vinci Code this week. I assume this is a way to promote his upcoming book, Inferno. Regardless, it’s a nice gesture. I downloaded a copy, even though I read the book years ago. Hey, I might read it again sometime.

Here is the link to his site: danbrown.com

Once you get there, there are separate links for you to download the book in whatever format you need.

Enjoy!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

I recently went to an estate sale that advertised a huge collection of books for sale. Upon arrival, there was practically a small bookstore’s worth of books, mostly hardcover, all for $1 each. I gathered a stack and this was one of the books I picked up. I figured I couldn’t go wrong for a dollar.

As with other Dan Brown books I’ve read, there were things I liked and things that annoyed me. It’s becoming a cliché for me, how Langdon miraculously saves the day. I picture him as Indiana Jones. All he needs is a whip and a hat. The other thing that annoys me is Brown’s writing style. I call it the Doritos style of writing, where chapters are broken into little bite-sized chunks that keep you snacking. The book is 509 pages long and contains 134 chapters, which averages out to under 5 pages per chapter. It’s like it was written so that you could quickly read a chapter while sitting on the toilet.

OK, now that I have gotten my pet peeves out of the way, I have to confess that there were things about this book that I enjoyed and found very interesting, and I believe these are the things that make Dan Brown such an appealing writer. He skillfully weaves deep and arcane information into his stories, and he does so in a way that is accessible. I found myself looking things up on the internet, particularly references to artistic and literary works. The man has clearly done his research and has done it well. I was particularly fascinated with his incorporation of the works by Albrecht Durer, as well as the George Washington Zeus sculpture.

Another thing I found fascinating was Brown’s inclusion of metempsychosis (p. 391). I wrote a paper in college on metempsychosis, so this is a subject with which I was familiar. I can say it is not a topic that appears often in popular fiction, so kudos for incorporating an idea that I personally find very interesting and is in no way hackneyed. In addition, Brown also correctly explains the source of the “magic word” abracadabra (p. 408). The word is derived from the Aramaic phrase, avrah kadavrah, which translated means “I create as I speak.”

There is a great quote near the end of this book: “Time is a river… and books are boats” (p. 488). I love this quote and I can completely relate. Books provide us with a way to explore our past, present, and future, which is why I am such an avid reader and I encourage others to read widely. So keep on reading!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

“12.21” by Dustin Thomason

If you are a fan of Dan Brown, then you’ll probably like this book. As with the Dan Brown novels I have read (The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons), there were things I liked and things I hated. Well, really just one thing I hated, the ending, but more on that later. Don’t worry, I won’t include any spoilers for those of you thinking about reading the book.

The basic premise of this story is that there is an outbreak of a deadly disease associated with the discovery of an ancient Mayan text, and this all occurs in the days leading up to December 21, 2012, the supposed end of the Mayan calendar that some claim marks the end of civilization. Coincidentally, I watched the film “Contagion” while in the midst of this book and there were some definite parallels, which made me wonder if one had influenced the other.

First, I’ll tell you what I liked about this book. There were definitely some thought-provoking passages and ideas that sparked my interest, particularly regarding the progression of the disease and how it is handled by the medical field. Since Thomason went to medical school and clearly has knowledge in this area, he presented these parts in a way that was believable. I also was intrigued by the linguistic analysis of the glyphs in the Mayan codex and the way the characters deciphered their meaning. I thought that was well done. The actual Mayan mystical stuff didn’t interest me quite as much, probably because I have read books on Mayan prophecy years ago, so there was nothing really new for me there.

There is a great passage in this book that deserves inclusion in this review. It deals with the issue of overspecialization and how the myopic focus on one area stunts the ability to see things holistically.

“In our current obsession with overspecialization, everyone finds smaller and smaller niches, no one ever seeing beyond their own tiny corner of the intellectual spectrum. What a shame it is. How can true genius thrive where there’s so little opportunity for our minds to breathe?” (p. 124)

OK, now to try to explain what I hated about the ending without spoiling it. It was totally unbelievable. While the majority of the story was within the realm of reason, I felt like the ending was ridiculous. Thomason might as well have had Superman fly in to save the day. Usually I have no problem suspending belief, but I was just unable to here.

Overall, I’d rate this book as pretty good. Again, if you like Dan Brown, you’ll enjoy this. If you hate Dan Brown, then don’t even bother reading this one. I suspect you will like it even less.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature