While some readers read to escape, others do so to further stimulate their minds. And there is no shortage of writers who are great at creating mind-boggling stories that will leave readers with more questions than answers.
Thriller author Dan Brown is someone who has succeeded in doing so. With fewer than ten titles under his belt, all his novels are not only great stories but also great puzzles.
The eldest of three children, Brown was born in New Hampshire to musician parents. His father taught math at Phillips Exeter Academy and wrote textbooks. Brown eventually graduated from the same academy.
Brown has been interested in puzzles, ciphers, and cryptographs since childhood. They were present in his home and were used as teaching tools by his parents. He and his siblings also often went on elaborate treasure hunts created by their father.
After graduating from the academy, Brown attended Amherst College. Before he got into writing, Brown was first a musician. He sold a few hundred copies of his SynthAnimals, a synthesizer cassette for children. He also formed a recording company and self-published a CD. He then moved to Hollywood to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter and worked as a teacher. While in LA, he joined the National Academy of Songwriters.
Brown’s interest in writing novels didn’t start until the ’90s. While on vacation, he read Sidney Sheldon’s The Doomsday Conspiracy, which inspired him to start writing thrillers. In 1996, he stopped teaching to focus on writing, and two years later, his first novel was published. Digital Fortress is a techno-thriller that explores the use of technology for government surveillance on private citizens. In 2001, he published another techno-thriller, Deception Point, which centered on the investigation of a meteorite found in the Arctic Circle that could contain evidence that could prove the existence of alien life.
In 2000, he published a novel that would eventually change his life. Angels & Demons introduced to the world Robert Langdon, a symbolist who helps in the investigation of a murder. This initial investigation leads the characters all around the Vatican and to the discovery of a secret society called the Illuminati. The sequel to Angels & Demons was published in 2003 and immediately made the New York Times Best Sellers list. The Da Vinci Code continues the story of Langdon, accompanied this time by cryptologist Sophie Neveu, who investigate a murder at the Louvre Museum in Paris. They discover cryptic messages and codes hidden all around the museum, all involving the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
The book created controversy, especially among religious Christian sectors, because it presents many theories contradicting some ideas from the Bible. Regardless, the book caused Brown’s popularity to skyrocket and was adapted into a movie later on. The third book in the Robert Langdon series, The Lost Symbol, was published in 2009 and met with great acclaim. The fourth, Inferno, was published in 2013 with the same reception. The next book, Origin, is set for publication in 2017. Robert Langdon has mentioned in an interview that the series may go on to feature twelve more books.
Like other writers, Dan Brown was not immune to the antagonism of critics, many of whom complained that his writing is repetitive, his metaphors confusing, and his descriptions dull. Brown started off strong, but soon, cracks began to show, and the critics were just too quick to notice them.
Even so, his books have a huge following. Years after publication, his books, especially The Da Vinci Code, are still flying off the shelves and being adapted into movies top-billed by Academy Award–winning actor Tom Hanks. This is because very few authors have managed to do what Brown does, which is weave well-thought-out puzzles in his stories.
Despite what critics have said and continue to say, Brown has carved a niche for himself and his work in popular culture. Truly, Brown has redefined the expression “reading between the lines.”
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