Archive for the ‘Big Four’ Category

The Da Vinci Code Directed By Ron Howard

August 11, 2013

The Da Vinci CodeI will be approaching my review for the film version of The Da Vinci Code differently then most of my reviews. While in most of my reviews about films adaptations I try to only compare and contrast in order to make a point, here I plan to do almost nothing but compare and contrast. The reason for this, is that I feel that such controversial subject matter  should be handled delicately, and such it is interesting to see which things the book handled better, and which the movie handled better.

For starters, the movie is a lot smaller then the book. While at first glance this would seem to be a disadvantage it actually has some pros. For example, with less time to go into the conspiracy they movie is forced to keep to just its nuts and bolts, which means a lot of the more ridiculous “evidence” supporting the conspiracy is cut, and therefore makes the conspiracy seem much more likely. On the flip side it also means alot off character development is cut from the story. For example, Silas’ back story is reduced to such an incoherent flashback that unless you read the novel you would have no idea what said flashback is getting at. As a result Silas goes from a clear tragic villain, to a character MEANT to be portrayed as a classic villain but SEEN as a normal villain.

Finally, some characters like Bishop Aringarosa went from being morally gray characters to being pure black for no reason whatsoever. In a story as steeped in controversy as The Da Vinci Code if you are going to add even MORE conroversy to it, like the change in the aforementioned bishop’s moral alignment, you would be best to have a very good reason for it.

All in all though the shorter format of the movie makes it flow much better then the book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

June 13, 2013

The Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code is easily both Dan Brown‘s most well known novel and his most controversial. Because of this, it only seems fitting to discuss said controversy in the review of Robert Langdon‘s second adventure. Let’s start with the factual inaccuracies of the novel. While it is true that Dan Brown’s previous novel’s have all contained factual inaccuracies, such as Digital Fortress saying that an unbreakable code is an impossibility, when they actually exist. They are called one-time pads. There have usually been only one or two factual inaccuracies per book, and they have not been that big of an issue in the overall theme and plot. In The Da Vinci Code both the plot and theme REVOLVE around said factual inaccuracies. Speaking of the theme, we need to deal with the myth that in pagan societies women were held in just as high a regard as men. While it is true that many pagan religions had a strong since of the sacred feminine, that religious view did NOT transfer into social equality. In fact if you look at the history books in many pagan societies such as the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians were MALE dominated. While I do agree with Dan Brown that controversy can be a good thing, the fact that unlike in his first three novels, the controversy in The Da Vinci Code is based entirely on bad research and misrepresented facts, makes it seem like controversy for controversy’s sake. Now that we have the that hassle out of the way, on to the plot. All things considered The Da Vinci Code is, for the most part, a well put together thriller novel. The action has a nice steady rise throughout the book, with things gradually becoming more intense. This is coupled with occasional periods of non-action in-between, allows the reader to catch their breath, and allows the author to provide the audience with necessary background info and plot information. The only real problem with the plot is the big ending twist, which is EXACTLY the same twist as his first three books. If The Da Vinci Code is the first book by Dan Brown you have read this is not a big deal. But if you have read any of his other early works it is QUITE annoying. I have no idea why Dan Brown insisted on repeating the same major plot twist again and again, but being that The Da Vinci Code was his first real hit, combined with the fact that in his next book he finally came up with a different twist, I can only assume that he wanted to his first best seller to be associated with that specific plot twist, and therefore kept using it until he hit it big. Despite all of its flaws The Da Vinci Code is an entertaining read.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

October 9, 2012

The Andromeda Strain while being Michael Crichton‘s sixth published novel was the first to be released under his own name. The book kicks off when a downed NASA satellite from project SCOOP lands near Piedmont, Arizona and locals open it, unknowingly releasing a deadly microorganism which will later be codenamed the Andromeda Strain. The organism seems to kill by clotting all of the blood of the people it infects, but it soon becomes clear that there is more going on as some people had time to go quietly insane. Even more amazing two survivors are found. An old man with a history of ulcers, and a bawling baby boy who never seems to stop crying. After rescuing the two survivors, Wildfire project head Jeremy Stone, and fellow project member Charles Burton request that a nuclear bomb be dropped on Piedmont in order to stop the spread of the organism. Unbeknown to the Wildfire team, however, the president decides to delay dropping the bomb, instead condoning of the area to prevent anyone from getting in. He does this because dropping the bomb would mean explaining to the Soviets why such a violation of the Moscow Treaty of 1963 which forbids the firing of nuclear weapons above ground was necessary, which might leave to some uncomfortable question that might reveal the fact that the scoop satellites were DESIGNED to collect microorganisms from outer space that could hopefully be used in biological warfare. It is this and other mistakes like it that while leading to near disaster in some areas fend of  disaster, by SHEER LUCK mind you, in others. To go over the various twists in turns would take to long and remove all suspense from the book, but suffice to say that this books hallmarks one of the reoccurring themes in Michael Crichton’s books. The potential for humanity to fail to live up to its technology. While Crichton is not anti-progress he does believe we should take the time to slow down and think things through as a  SOCIETY. In other words rather than trusting experts blindly we should listen to their expert opinions and contribute back. As decisions made by scientific researchers have the just as potential for good and for ill as decisions by military officers, politicians and people in the financial industry. Therefore, we should monitor them just as much.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Deception Point by Dan Brown

January 24, 2012

Deception Point is Dan Brown‘s third novel and a standalone book. In Deception Point, Rachel Sexton, a gister (someone who sums up and condenses important data) for the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) is called upon by the White House for a secret mission. As soon as she accepts, Rachel is taken off the grid and flown to Ellesmere Island where she is briefed on a stunning NASA discovery. NASA has found a meteorite with several fossils of multi-cellular life  forms within them. NASA and Zachary Herney have been taking a hosing in the polls lately and hope to use the discovery of this meteorite to turn things around. Everything seems kosher at first and Rachel, upon being asked, briefs the President’s staff on the discovery, who had been previously kept in the dark to avoid leaks until the meteorite could be authenticated.  However, shortly after doing so, Rachel and three of the civilian scientist recruits uncover evidence of fraud. The Meteorite, which was found buried in the ice and was thought to have been there for about 300 years, was actually artificially inserted into the ice from below. No sooner do they make this discovery then they come under attack from a special ops team.  Also strung throughout this book are reasons why the privatization of NASA is a very DANGEROUS idea. These arguments become even more chilling in the present day when you realize that, although NASA has not been disbanded completly, it is slowly but surely being turned over to the Private sector.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Zero Cool by John Lange

June 1, 2011

Zero Cool by John Lange aka Michael Crichton is the author’s fifth published book. In this novel he returns to the simplicity of his other John Lange works. In Zero Cool radiologist Peter Ross is on vacation in Spain when an unknown man comes up to him and warns him that if he performs an autopsy he will be killed. Peter, being unqualified to perform an autopsy at any rate, dismisses the man as crazy. That is, until, Robert Carrini and his “relatives” come up to him and tell him that if he does NOT perform an autopsy for them they will kill him. Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place Peter reluctantly agrees to do the autopsy where the heart of the deceased is replaced with a strange metal box. As events grow more and more complicated Peter is stuck between two rival groups each eager to obtain the contents of the box. With only the beautiful Angela Locke, who peter is not even sire weather or not he can trust, as a companion, Peter enters into the battle in order to try to escape with his life.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

November 26, 2010

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown is the first book of his Robert Langdon series. As in most other books in this series the sheer amount of coincidences make for an unlikely tale, and as in all 4 of his first 4 books if you have read one of them you can guess who the villain is in the other 3. However the book has good points as well. For example, in the talks about how a benevolent god can exist within the harshness of the world, and how science can at TIMES be hypocritical; for example killing the unborn in research designed to save lives. But religion can also be misused or misconstrued for example refusing medicine for your dying kid because it is against your religion, is a prime example of  both how the right to swing your fist, i.e. practice your beliefs, stops at the next persons nose, i.e. when it negatively impacts someone else, and is an example of not using the brain god gave to you. Finally I feel a note of caution is in order, as unlike most authors works where you can tell where the fact ends and the fiction begins, Dan Brown has a  habit of presenting fiction as facts, so care should be taken not to take all of the background information literally. Overall though it is a solid thriller and pleasure read.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

August 13, 2010

The 2nd member of the previously mentioned Big Four of thrillers is Dan Brown. While he is best known for his Robert Langdon series, Digital Fortress is Dan Brown‘s first published novel. Digital Fortress features Susan Fletcher, head cryptographer for the NSA. She is called into work on the weekend unexpectedly due to an emergency. That emergency is the existence of a code called “Digital Fortress” that even the NSA’s code-breaking super computer cannot break. This code, created by the now late Ensei Tankado would, if released, cripple US Intelligence. As Susan struggles to unravel the mystery, she will come to doubt almost everything and everyone she has ever believed in. What makes Digital Fortress (the book) so great is that it shows the need to balance two very important needs. The need of the government to gather intelligence, and the need for individuals to keep secrets from said government. The hair-raising pace of the climax, and the deep ethical issues raised by the book makes it one of Dan Brown‘s finest masterpieces.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Easy Go by John Lange

October 21, 2009

Easy Go by John LangePublished in 1968, this is Michael Crichton’s 3rd novel, Easy Go. First off, don’t let the cover mislead you there is NO sex in this book. Now about thee book itself. In this story Egyptologist Harold Barnaby while doing a routine re-translation of some hieroglyphics discovers something amazing, a key to locating an undiscovered tomb. While he would like to rob it for himself at this point he lacks both the knowledge and connections to pull it off. A chance encounter with Robert Pierce, the true main character, gives him what they both need to pull it off. What is truly great about this novel, even more so then the twists in the plot, is the way these characters draw you in. While on one hand you do not want them to successfully loot the tomb, you still cannot help but hope that the cast will get off without being arrested, because you cannot want any harm to come to them. This is how engaging and human these characters are, that despite what they try to do you cannot help loving them, and wishing them the best.

Overall Rating 3.7 out of 5 stars

Scratch One by John Lange

October 17, 2009

Scratch One by John LangeScratch One is another book the recently departed Michael Crichton wrote under the pen name John Lange. Published in 1967, just one year after Odds On, it is none the less a fair bit different. First of it has little to no sexual content, and what little does exist is not very graphic. Second rather then the main character being a professional crook, Roger Carr is an ordinary carefree man, who by a simple case of mistaken identity, gets himself caught up in a conspiracy in which he could easily wind up dead. Most moving of all is that even when given a chance to walk away, decides to risk it all for the woman he ended up falling in love with. This transformation is made even more remarkable by the fact that he used to have more of a devil-may-care playboy lifestyle. One last note though also out of print for awhile you can easily find a used copy cheap on line, for ~$11.00.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Odds On by John Lange

October 16, 2009

Odds On by John LangeThough the name John Lange might not be familiar to many, rest assured that you have probably read at least one of his books. For Odds On is actually Michael Crichton‘s first EVER published novel. When Michael Crichton first started writing he was in Med School and a good portion of his grades were based on what his teachers thought of him. He was worried that if they knew he was writing books, they would think less of him and his grades would suffer, so he first wrote under pen names, one of them being John Lange. There are two things you should be aware of before reading this book. One is the price. Being that it has been out of print for awhile it is quite expensive. The cheapest you can expect to find it for is approximately $86, and even then it may not be in perfect condition. The second is the sex scenes. About a third of the book is soft core sex. Despite that this book is a decent read. While not up to snuff with his later novels, even here we see the beginnings of traits that would become classic Crichton. The introducing of new technology to readers, as well as unexpected twists in the story line can be seen. But I digress, In this book three men plan to rob a hotel on the Spain’s Costa Brava. To pull off this crime they use an computer (nothing new in this day and age but keep in mind this was published back in 1966) to help plan the crime. Even this early in his career we can see hints of scientific and philosophical depth to come later. For example, early on Steve Jencks, the main crook/character says “The computer doesn’t have any ideas. It only evaluates my own…” this shows that computers can NOT think for themselves. Which is something that early science fiction confused people about. Finally, the book shows that even in the computer age that the best laid plans of mice and men can still go awry, and Roberts Burns words have never proved so true.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.