On our way back from Taiwan last month I picked up two books to read and finally got through the second one last night. Both dealt with the Holy Grail, the Templar Knights and numerous other secret societies and rumors related to both. But besides that, they were on completely different levels.
The one that I finished last night was the famed/notorious The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I don't know what the whole ruckus was about. Why in the world did other authors feel the need to write entire books refuting things written IN A FICTION NOVEL!!!!!! Hello???? Does "FICTION" not mean anything to anyone anymore? If Dan Brown meant it to be taken seriously he would've released it as a non-fiction or something. The hell is wrong with people? Apparently the little blurb at the very beginning on the Fact page that reads, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.", confuses people. Just because he uses and describes real items, places and groups in the book doesn't mean his interpretations and discussions of them should be accepted as truth too. Hell, he even says the exact same thing in this interview. Either some people out there just want to jump on the Da Vinci Code bandwagon or they're being a bit too sensitive about their beliefs.
It's not like the book was all that great to begin with, not really all that well written. It's typical mass fiction: extremely easy to read, everything is explained clearly, very fast-paced, pretty trite and cliched dialogue, liberal use of flashbacks during current events (relative to the book) that don't make sense. It wasn't as clever as his earlier work, Angels & Demons, which had much more interesting clues and the villain in this one was much easier to discern. It's strong point is Brown's idea of what the Holy Grail is and how he links together the existing people, items and places to develop that idea. But in the end it's just a story, nothing to be taken so seriously. It does make me want to visit all the places that he mentions in the book though.
On the other side of the spectrum there's Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum which apparently was written for an entirely different crowd. It's like comparing an elementary school book to a PhD dissertation. Reading through this thing was like walking in knee-deep mud. While both books are thrillers, it's extremely evident that Eco writes for a much, MUCH more scholarly audience than I. Either that or he just doesn't give a shit if his readers are puzzled by his writing. He explains things as little as possible, just barely enough to keep the reader moving forward, and often throws in (well known I'm assuming) phrases in foreign languages with no translation. His interpretation of the Holy Grail though isn't as interesting as Brown's but I think Eco was much more focused on secret societies, the people that believe in them, and what makes them tick. It took me what, 5 weeks to get around to finishing this book. The Da Vinci Code took me 4 days (probably 2 if I had read it straight through).
Anyway, if the Holy Grail, Templar Knights, Rosicrusians, and other assorted secret societies are your thing, then these 2 are the books for you. The Da Vinci Code is your summer blockbuster while Foucault's Pendulum is your mentally-stimulating (or crushing) art flick.