Now I'm going to read The Da Vinci Code, or try to, I should say, because what I have found is that it's really what I would call a pot-boiler. Clever, but cliched, and worse overwritten. Brown's style is the familiar style in pot-boilers the world over, scenes where nothing really takes place, expository scenes where nothing really takes place, someone boards a plane, recieves a phone call. They exist mostly for exposition, to create a mood or mystery. Each chapter predictably breaks down in a cliff-hanger, just after the cusp of some mysterious development or right after one. Sometimes, the next chapters jumps maddeningly to a completely different scene or sub-plot, an effect intended to create suspense, but resulting merely in annoying the hell out of me. I keep hoping that it will get better, that it won't be so hokey, but I don't think so. I might have to put it down and just wait for the movie. That Tom Hanks, he's good. And reliable too.
I went book shopping today and picked up Dean Koontz's Phantoms, a massive brick of a book in two days I read when I was a teenager. I wanted to get the book again after watching the movie version, starring Rose McGowan (hot even in her white coat), Liev Schrieber (a talented actor who has this quality of being a little "off," a quality exploited in his best movies), Peter O'Toole (making the best of a bad situation in this one), and Ben Affleck (before he was Bennifer, but you can see the seeds of it here). The movie isn't that great, but it's not terribly bad. It's grisly enough to stand on its merits as a horror movie, but too hokey to be anything other than a cult classic.
The book, though, is much better. Dean Koontz claims he dislikes the book because it pigeon-holed him as a "horror" writer, typecasting he still struggles with. In his after-word, he describes trying to make it a "tour-de-force," assembling all kinds of elements including, oh yeah, horror. He succeeded in that category. Dean Koontz has some of the "cleanest" prose around. And when I mean clean, I don't mean spare or devoid of verbal flourishes. Clean in the Charlie Parker way, hitting all the right notes and looking for the pretty ones. Here's an example:
The flashlight struck the floor and spun away, casting wild and leaping shadows with each revolution, illuminating nothing.
And something cold touched the back of Jake's neck. Cold and slightly moist - yet something that was alive.
He flinched at the touch, tried to pull away and turn.
Something encircled his throat with the suddenness of a whip.
Jake gasped for breath.
Even before he could raise his hands to grapple with his assailant, his arms were seized and pinned.
He was being lifted off his feet as if he were a child.
He tried to scream, but a frigid hand clamped over his mouth. At least he thought it was a hand. But it felt like the flesh of an eel, cold and damp.
Clean, but vivid. And notice how many "rules" Koontz breaks here. Passive sentences. Fragments. Short, truncated paragraphs. The sentences almost describe shots in a movie, each one an image you can feel.
I think it's a quality Dan Brown aspired to, but so far missed the mark.