The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown’s third Robert Langdon novel is another breathless search for hidden knowledge, this time through the Washington, D.C. metro area.  If you liked the previous installments, you’ll like this one.  There’s nothing in it that is either extraordinary or detracting; in other words, entirely forgettable.  It has been about two months since I read this book, and I can scarcely remember what the coveted macguffin was about.  (Isn’t that the definition of a macguffin?)
However, what I did take away from the book is a writing lesson.  Having toiled now and again with writing stories, it was interesting to me how adversely I felt about Brown missing a relatively trivial fact in the course of his story.  During one of the chase sequences, our heroes jump on the Metro to escape (ostensibly) to Virginia.  Brown makes note of describing the hard plastic seats.  Having ridden the Metro just about every morning to work for the past five years, either Brown’s research was outdated, or he just threw in some details to give a visceral feel to the scene.  Either way, the gamble actually threw me for a loop.  Although it is clearly inconsequential to the book whether there are cushioned seats or plastic seats, I found it just, well, offensive that the author would get it wrong.  It didn’t really make me wonder what other shortcuts his story took on research, but reminded me of a guideline of writing – write what you know.
It’s funny to recall, but that trivial error is the single more memorable thing I took out of that novel.  The tension is already building to see if they will correct this in the film, or stay “true to the book” by ripping out Metro seats to accommodate Dan Brown’s vision of a more uncomfortable transit system.  Perhaps I should heed this more carefully, as this may indicate Dan is actually his switched doppelganger from a parallel universe where plastic seats are in vogue.  He has been very clever up to this point, but this mistake has exposed him.
Footnote: According to Wikipedia, the book was in development for years, "originally expected in 2006".  So I'll assume old research instead of the traitorous evil doppleganger thingy.  For now.

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