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3.5 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 1843535173
Manufacturer : Rough Guides|
Release data : 20 December, 2004
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Not what it claims to be...
The publication and subsequent widespread popularity of "The Da Vinci Code" has led to a host of books attempting to delve further into the subject matter and separate fact from fiction. The authors and producers of these books usually fall into two categories: those of the Christian faith that feel threatened and try to discredit everything Dan Brown presents in his novel; and those who wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Brown and seek to reinforce the subject matter of his novel. Additionally, in my personal opinion, both of these camps also seem to be motivated by a a desire to capitalize on the popularity of "The Da Vinci Code" for profitable gain. While these types of exploratory 'history' books (and I use that term very loosely in this case) no doubt succeed in clearing a decent profit margin they fail miserably as researched historical treatises on the subject matter of "The Da Vinci Code".
Both, "The Rough Guide To The Da Vinci Code" and "Da Vinci Code Decoded" purport to be properly researched exploratory works with the former taking the side of discrediting much of Mr. Brown's novel and the latter supporting much of it. However, what the astute reader will notice is that neither makes its case very well and both are guilty of the same gross error, namely not presenting any tangible historical reference to accompany the myriad of 'facts' (I use this term quite loosely as well) presented. By this I mean, whenever they present any information, whether it opposes or supports Mr. Brown, there is no specific reference as to where that information came from. As far as the reader knows, the author could be entirely fabricating the information themselves as there is no footnote and corresponding reference for the reader to check to ensure the author is not just asserting their own opinions as 'facts'. While that type of writing is entirely acceptable in a fictional novel such as "The Da Vinici Code", it is most unacceptable in non-fictional writing where the claim is made that the book presents researched historical facts. If the books are so well researched, where are the footnotes and references that will allow the reader to double check the facts themselves? These books are in essence 'he said / she said" publications where it is the word of the author against the word of Dan Brown, and as such are of no use in the realm of legitimate historical study.
Please do not be fooled by the authoritative style with which these books are written, as they are essentially just someone's opinion and should not be taken as fact. I would recommend the curious reader who desires to learn more about the subject matter of "The Da Vinici Code" to seek out and read academic historical texts for further information, but at the same time I would suggest taking that with a grain of salt as well. Historical facts have a tendency to become distorted and manipulated over the years to serve personal and national agendas. If you don't believe it is in human nature to manipulate historical accounts, consider this real world example: the Japanese government as of this day does not teach Japanese students about the atrocities and war crimes that Japan committed historically in Asia (atrocities and war crimes that are well documented by the rest of the international community). The details have been stricken, literally, from Japanese school history books. This is even more important when we remember that Japan actually lost World War II and yet they are still engaging in this type of activity. Imagine if they had won...furthermore, imagine if the Germans had won: would the attempted genocide of the Jews even be spoken of today much less remembered in a couple hundred years?
These are the types of things one must consider when studying history. So, if you want to learn more about the Da Vinci code, ignore "The Rough Guide To The Da Vinci Code" and "Da Vinci Code Decoded", do your own research, keep an open mind, and decide on your own what seems most likely from a logical standpoint.
Very Readable Guide
There have now been more than a handful of books promising to sort out the fact and fiction in Dan Brown's phenomenally successful DVC. I recommend this one by the Haags because it is very readable, in the best tradition of the Rough Guides. Physically, it is what a pocket-sized book should be like: handy and portable. Even more importantly, the book is readable in the sense that it is mostly (except a few pages between pp.140-8) comprehensible by itself even for those who have not read DVC, and enjoyable in its own right by laying out in an informed and stimulating manner the many contexts of DVC.
I confess that I fail to locate the errors claimed by another reviewer. On my copy (p.90), it is stated correctly that Urban II started the crusade in 1095. Neither did the Haags (p.131) deny the existence of the word "symbology", only that there was no such academic department or professorship at Harvard. I also disagree with the previous reviewer that the Haags are in the debunking mood of discrediting the premises and evidence of Brown's theory/plot. Quite the contrary, I find them very even-handed and are always being fair and objective to the allegations and allusions in DVC. For a book that is not academically oriented, this scholarly impartiality is admirable enough. If the book appears at times confusing, it may be because the Haags are trying to make (the best) sense of what is in fact not very defensible and coherent in DVC itself. The Haags are not even hostile to myth and legend as such. Indeed, any serious and sincere understanding of myth-making (the making of ANY myths including those endorsed by the power that be or embraced by the general public) should lead us not to the kind of triumphalism found in so many debunkers of DVC, but make us humble regarding OUR own collective or personal myths we live by. Under this light, the Haags raise many important historical and religious questions, e.g. how historical is history itself?, why is it hard for the Church to accept the fully human sexuality of Jesus? I propose that the only profitable way of reading a novel like DVC is NOT to take it too seriously by confusing fiction with fact, instead we should take it seriously enough by exploring the questions and contemplating the possibilities it opens up.
Really useful and fascinating book
I found this Rough Guide to The Da Vinci Code the best book about the questions raised by Dan Brown's thriller. In fact it is a lot more than that -- it is a complete pocket reference book to the basic themes and ideas and facts of early Christianity, ancient history, goddess worship, the sacred feminine, and so on -- with a comprehensive glossary and lists for further reading and informative websites. I did notice one or two typographical mistakes, but why quibble? This book has meat!