It's been nearly 7 years since the 'Da Vinci Code' came out and became a huge sensation. During this period, readers have been inundated and submerged in the so called read-alike novels, all of which purport to unearth an earth shattering conspiracy and are hailed as the next big thing in genre fiction. The main reason for the 'Da Vinci Code' for being so successful was that it touched upon what would the greatest scandal in the world (i.e) Jesus having kids and his lineage living through to the current day. Other than that if one reads about the inaccuracies in the novel and the almost embarrassing way in which Brown tries to push down junk information down our throats, you could puke. (Priory of Sion is a total fictional organization presented as a true one). Don't get me wrong, I liked the novel to some extent at-least three fourths of it, it gave me some info to work on and search for, it sort of even resurrected a nearly dead and out genre of conspiracy theory novels, but to hail it as a greatest conspiracy thriller and trying to ape it? One hopes that the reception to Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' would give the publishers some thought to think about printing out novels in this genre like some assembly line production. (Seriously, all the work in his latest novel is to find a buried Bible? Was Brown trying to be like Umberto Eco here, trying to subvert the genre itself, I doubt so?). I understand that everyone has to make a living and is well entitled to make some quick bucks on the current trend, and some of these novels are passable, but 7 years is a bit too much isn't it and also consider the junk that has been inflicted upon us during this time. Crazy, the template of such novels can be written down into a couple of pages and can be a starting point for a new novel. What are they?
1. All these novels start with the promise of making an earth shattering revelation of some secret that has been buried for thousands of years, which if revealed will change the course of mankind. Come on, the count of such revelations must be innumerable to count now. But what the heck, nothing actually gets revealed in the end or if so it is some bland point, which most of the world would not care even if it is made public. One actually wishes that some such revelation actually exists that can wipe out such books.
2. There is usually a cult, wait, not just a cult, but a deadly secret cult in existence for thousands of years, who will do anything to stop the revelation. They usually start off with a bang, committing a murder (or two) in the prologue, or in the first few pages, but then actually most of them turn out to be as stupid and dim witted as morons, rogues. And about the secret cult, nothing much is mentioned about the cult itself other than the initial build up. If you can digest a group of dimwits with homicidal tendencies gathering to indulge their base instincts then yes they are a deadly cult.
3. Put in Templars, Cathars, the Vatican, Mary Magdalene. Freemasons (they are a must) and concoct a potion and voila, you get a conspiracy. I am all for religious freedom and accept that no one is immune to criticism, but seriously can we have some new groups/icons against whom to train our conspiracy theories. The last 2-3 years have seen some disparate kind of
persons/groups/myths, Mozart, Atlantis, even the creator of superman being thrown into the mix to create a new potion, but still most of them stink. The templars must be turning in their graves and the freemasons in their beds. At-least, the authors are now thinking beyond the church and that's some relief.
4. Now the hero. He is usually a professor, retired agent etc, with enormous knowledge of the ancient world which is known only to a very few. He can also read ancient languages, or so it is said. By a happy coincidence he is also good in action (i.e) dodging bullets, driving cars at break neck speed etc. The only thing is that the so called knowledge he purports to have is either something that just about anyone and his aunt using google would know or is something that is plain false. Just read articles by true professors of history who castigate the information in these novels and you would get to know the true knowledge of these heroes. These are not religious refutations, but refutations of the historical/scientific inaccuracies. I agree that these novels in a way serve the purpose of people getting interested in history and one should not expected very in depth information, but outright false information, please, there are people who actually believe in what is written in these novels and this can be dangerous.
5. The Heroine - She is usually the daughter/grand daughter of some poor soul, who is knocked off in prologue/first chapter and leaves to meet his maker. She is a stunner, well educated, erudite and extremely wealthy too sometimes, (which is anyway a handy thing and beauty with brains is the watch word here, the stuff of all juvenile male fantasy). She joins with the hero in finding out the so called revelation.Usually she herself is in the heart of the conspiracy, though she herself does not know it. It would be even better if she is a descendant and last heir of some long last lineage.
Mix all the above elements and concoct it and you get a conspiracy theory novel. So, if you come across a new novel with the elements described above, don't blow up your hard earned money immediately on it. Wait till it comes in paperback, read up some reviews, or cunningly get your friend to buy it and read it after lending it from him. After all, what good is reading these conspiracy theory novels, if you yourself don't get some hang of it and indulge in a conspiracy of your own.
Does this mean that all such novels are junk. Not really, there are really good/fair works in this genre written before and after the Da Vinci code. These are not typically conspiracy theory works, but those which involve the medieval age, long lost texts etc.
Foucault Pendulum (It is actually blasphemy to put this here and a great insult to Eco, but anyway this is one hell of a riveting read, but beware there's a twist in the tale in the tail and classic conspiracy theory buffs may be put off by it). Written before DVC.
'The Secret Supper' - Javier Sierra. An erudite work. Written before DVC.
'The Rule Of Four' - Decent work
The Dante Club - Good one
The Illuminati - Good one. Written before DVC.
These names come to my mind off hand. There would/could be lots of other better works. There is even 'The Rozbal Line' with an Indian connection. Actually, there is a mine of information with our own Indian legends and myths that would result in many such novels. So what if nothing catches your fancy, use the points mentioned above and write your own novel, who knows yours could be the next DVC.