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Da Vinci Code, The (2003)
Fiction Review by The Mortician

Da Vinci Code, The (2003) THE DA VINCI CODE, by Dan Brown, is one of the most popular and controversial books of the last decade. It sits on the bestseller list after well over a year and has gone into over 56 printings, headed for 10 million copies sold. Ron Howard is directing the movie version starring Tom Hanks, which will hit theaters sometime soon and over the recent holidays, I recently had time to sit down and finally read it.The plot deals with Harvard historian and author Robert Langdon, who while on vacation in Paris, inadvertently gets caught up in a huge conspiracy that begins with the murder of a curator and three other people, culminating in the search for Christianity's Holy Grail, the definition of which is turned on its ear.
Along the way, Langdon teams up with a French cryptologist named Sophie and a rich acquaintance of his whom has been searching for the Holy Grail his entire life.THE DA VINCI CODE's title refers to a series of paintings that Leonardo Da Vinci committed to canvas (in particular THE LAST SUPPER painting, which portrays Jesus and his disciples on the night Christ was betrayed by Judas) in the 1500's, which allegedly provide our protagonists with clues to the truth of a Secret Society called The Priority of Sion which protects the Secret Of The Holy Grail. The Holy Grail, as portrayed in movies like INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, is the chalice that Christ drank from during the Last Supper, and legend has it that someone scooped up some of Christ's blood in it before he was buried after the crucifixion. *SPOILER* In this book, the Holy Grail turns out to REALLY be Mary Magdalene's (the former prostitute at the Last Supper who washed Christ's feet in perfume and dried them with her hair) tomb where the written evidence of the Gnostic gospels exists, explaining that Mary was really Jesus' wife and they had children together, and to this day, there is a line of blood relatives that can be traced back to Christ himself. The book also proposes, in the guise of 'historical fact', that Christ was just a mere mortal prophet, not the Divine himself in human flesh, and that the Catholic Church (in the year 500 A.D. or so) rewrote the Bible, making Christ their 'male' God and suppressing the REAL Goddesses of life (women), who are represented in all females as the species who can physically give birth and should be worshipped. And of course, the way males can 'worship' and 'see God and be at peace' is by having sex with females in an orgy-like s Šance where people watch and participate, dressed in robes and masks, a'la the Tom Crusie movie EYES WIDE SHUT. (While this might seem appealing to today's scandal-loving public, I can't help but recall my readings of the Old Testament where God continually punished Israelites who kept backsliding into Godess worshipping orgies. This was the Priority Number One thing that eventually fueled God's wrath over and over again on his people---their refusal to listen to his truth and their penchant for indulging themselves in the false idolatry of extreme sexual pleasure.)So you can see why this book is so controversial---I've only hit on a few of the issues and themes that it deals with. I will say this: THE DA VINCI CODE is a smooth read, a real page-turning thriller, and moves like lightning. There's chases galore, last minute escapes, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and enough conspiracy theories thrown around that would make even Oliver Stone's head spin! The novel cleverly uses many historical facts as its backbone and some of the information is quite interesting: how Friday the 13th became such a 'cursed' day because of the Catholic Church, how Sir Isaac Newton and even Walt Disney himself are involved in the cover-up of Christ being just a prophet and Woman being God (think subliminal messages in all the Disney movies of woman as 'true fertility Goddesses'---everything from THE LITTLE MERMAID to THE LION KING screams this fact out, according to the author!), and that Christianity itself is nothing more than 'vestiges of pagan religions that it stole the best elements from.' (Everything from dates to symbols to rituals are included in this last bit of theoretical 'history'.)The problem with all this is Brown's agenda in distorting the historical 'facts' he so casually throws around in the name of telling a very MAKE-BELIEVE story. At the heart of THE DA VINCI CODE, here is his message: 'Every faith in the world is based on fabrication and problems arise when we (humans) begin to literally believe in our own metaphors.' Also this nugget of gold: 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon' By its very nature, history is always a one-sided account written by the winner of two cultures clashing. The winner writes the history books---books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe.' Some of this even has a MATRIX-like sound to it, does it not'My biggest problem with THE DA VINCI CODE is that quietly, subliminally, and intelligently, it does everything it can to make the reader question the validity of Christianity in the name of historical fact---while quietly hiding in the guise of 'pop culture fiction.' It's one thing to create concepts and ideas for a story and use historical fact (even skewing it a bit for various character motivations and point-of-views) to propel the action, but author Brown takes this 'writer's license' right to a whole new level, giving the reader only one side of the 'facts' he reveals. In various interviews, Brown states that all of the historical things mentioned in his book are fact and that readers should question everything, including their beliefs. (And along the way, Brown really disses the Catholic Church, something he seems to enjoy doing in every one of his novels.)Is this a good thing? At first, it may seem harmless, but from what I've read, quite a many people are questioning their faith because of this book alone. People in America are easily persuaded by reality television and pulp fiction. And society as a whole is very lazy and impressionable. In other words, we don't think for ourselves, we don't research things, we Americans tend to take information at face value and not question what we're seeing or reading. I'm still running into people who think THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was real because they 'they saw it on a TV documentary' and now I'm running into people who think Jesus was definitely nothing more than 'a great man' because of the 'facts presented' in Dan Brown's DA VINCI CODE, which they just finished reading...So it becomes apparent that Mr. Brown may indeed have an ulterior motive with his work, doesn't it? I did some research on some of the 'facts' that the author presents in his book, and here's a quick list of things that immediately sprang up: the book that Brown bases a lot of his 'historical facts' on is the 1983 nonfiction work HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL, which presents the exact same conspiracies outlined in THE DA VINCI CODE. HOLY BLOOD has been proven by scholars to have been based on fraudulent manuscripts. The Gnostic gospels that both books cite as 'the bigger picture of Christ' were penned by a group of unbelievers who were desperately trying to undermine Christ as the Risen Savior from the very beginning. Gnostics were not Christians. They were a cult that used Jesus to attack the Bible and Christianity. And the things they recorded as 'unaltered gospels' were obviously so distorted and wacky that general common sense tells you they don't fit in with the Holy Bible. One Gnostic gospel section quoted in THE DA VINCI CODE has Jesus graphically giving Mary Magdalene an opened mouthed kiss in front of his male disciples and Peter getting jealous over this! In our soap-operatic, Paris Hilton, sex-obsessed pop culture, this 'scandal' might easily be accepted as an earth shattering truth, but the fact is, when you really think it through, it's obviously just early non-believers trying to taint Christ's divinity NATIONAL ENQUIRER style! Ah, how far we have progressed in thousands of years, eh? Brown also completely ignores the fact that most of the writings of the New Testament were penned by those who actually SAW the events happen'so he completely discounts the EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Cleverly, Brown also ignores the archeological proof that backs up so much of the New Testament and the prophetic aspects of the Old Testament that solidly point to Jesus in the New Testament as the Divine Savior some four hundred years before he walked the planet. Brown's biggest point in the book is hammered blatantly into the reader's mind through one of his characters: 'Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.' And so now we see his agenda clearly for what it is'Are we REALLY going to believe that THE LAST SUPPER painting by Da Vinci, a 'worshipper of Nature's Divine Order and a blatant homosexual prankster? (words right out of THE DA VINCI CODE) really holds the key to the truth of Christ' That one of the disciples in the painting is really Jesus' wife, Mary Magdalene? That something painted over 1,500 years after the actual event suddenly is part of this mass of conspiratorial proof? (My question is, what photograph of the actual event was Da Vinci painting from that led to this revelation so late in the game? And did you know that Da Vinci was hired by a church to paint this---this was how he made his living.) And if you really examine Da Vinci's work, you'll note that he prefers to draw men more than women (most of the works in his sketch book were of naked men) and due to his sexual preference, most of the men he drew had feminine qualities to them---something that is a common thread in most gay artists' paintings of men). So, in our 'suspension of disbelief' for the DA VINCI CODE's story, we're expected to buy into this as another 'truth' proving the 'historical facts' that Brown is trying to hammer home? While this might 'read nicely' into the story, when you really start to analyze this plot device, it doesn't really hold up?I'm not going to get into the many other simple inaccuracies that THE DAVINCI CODE has because there are some eight to ten newly published books out there now that do just that. They start by exploring the most simplistic mistakes Brown makes in simply describing artwork (I will mention one where Brown describes a very real painting as a 'a five-foot-tall canvas' when it is actually about 6.5 feet tall according to the very gallery where it resides!) and eventually get into the more intricate details of the things I've described above in this review. Is everyone making too big a deal out of THE DA VINCI CODE? Quite possibly, and one thing is for sure in all this: Dan Brown is laughing all the way to the bank with the 'controversy' he has caused. But it gets a little deeper than that when you can go to his official web site and read his own words: 'While (THE DAVINCI CODE's) characters and their actions are obviously not real, the artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals depicted in this novel all exist. My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.'
If you can read THE DA VINCI CODE and not buy into all the propaganda it presents, then it's not a bad piece of entertainment. Dan Brown is an excellent author and like I said, the action, conspiracies, chases, and shadowy religious hitmen on our protagonist's heels make you want to keep reading his story to find out how things will end (and I did like the way the book ended---though predictable, it was the only logical and sensible way it could have wrapped up, really). Just don't let it shake your belief in Jesus as the risen Savior if you already have it, and if you don't, consider reading the New Testament for yourself to find the truth of this age and all ages, one that has been constantly knocked for thousands of years now, but one that amazingly, shockingly, incredulously never goes away despite what the naysayers try. Ask yourself this question: if it's all so untrue, why are we still talking about it today? Why are there churches with empty crosses, symbolizing the Risen Christ, on every streetcorner in America today if it's all such a 'Big Lie'? Like all entertainment, THE DA VINCI CODE is going to disappear with the next pop culture fad. I can pretty much guarantee that the Holy Bible, the book that has changed lives and built nations with the truth of Christ, will not.Like bestselling author Michael Crichton before him, who laces his novels with scientific 'facts' that stretch way off into fiction for the sake of a compelling story and entertainment that will keep your heart racing, Dan Brown is obviously on the same path, having studied the way modern pop-culture masters (think Clancey and Grisham also) have achieved great success. It just so happens that Brown is distorting religious history in place of dinosaurs and science for his creative purposes and (pocketbook).And I sure haven't seen any islands full of dinosaurs lately. Have you?

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