It was sheer coincidence that I read both the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown over the same weekend. I had 2 dental, 1 x-ray, 1 blood test, 2 pediatrician visits, and 2 gynec visits all in the space of 4 days and had plenty of time while waiting for the Doctor to read both of them end to end! No, we are all fine, but it was time for our annual family medical check-ups.
Now for the similarities – both are about searching for a treasure on a physical level and searching for inner meaning and happiness on a metaphysical level. Both dip into the vast wisdom of the ages – the Koran, the Gita, the Bible, the Vedas for infinite wisdom and to explain why things are the way they are. And finally both the books try to explain a complex and complicated concept in simple terms.
This is where the similarity ends. The Alchemist is pure wisdom, while The Lost Symbol is pure drivel! Dan Brown seems to have lost his creativity, his innovative research, and his power of persuasion. I have read every book he has written and while Deception Point and Digital Fortress appeal to me the most, some credit has to be given to Demons and Angels, and to the Da Vinci Code. But what in horror’s name is the Lost Symbol?
On the other hand, the Alchemist survives the test of time even after 25 years. The story is simple, the characters human, the hero is heroic without any major antics or idiosyncracies, and the story setting is elemental. Each word leads to the next with nothing lost “in translation” and the story moves powerfully and magnetically to the right climax without any false moves. Everything is explained simply and correctly. The conclusion – if you have a dream or the power to dream, everything in the Universe will conspire to help you achieve it.
Wow. Double Wow. Sure, thousands of self-help books and gurus are telling us the same thing. But the Alchemist says it in a way that is deeply touching. And compelling. So go ahead and buy this book and start reading it. Often. It ranks up there in the “Top 100 books to have in your book shelf when you retire” list. As for the Lost Symbol, I would recommend you sell it along with your bunch of old newspapers and at least recover some of the money you wasted buying it.
Keep dreaming and stay the course.