Dan Brown has admitted that the success of The Da Vinci Code left him "temporarily crippled" when it came to writing his new conspiracy thriller, The Lost Symbol, which is published at midnight tonight.
In a rare interview, the reclusive author said that he was already writing The Lost Symbol when he started to realise that The Da Vinci Code "would be big". "The thing that happened to me and must happen to any writer who's had success is that I temporarily became very self-aware," he told Parade. "Instead of writing and saying, 'This is what the character does,' you say, 'Wait, millions of people are going to read this.' It's sort of like a tennis player who thinks too hard about a stroke – you're temporarily crippled."
But Brown overcame the paralysis – "I realised that none of it had any relevance to what I was doing. I'm just a guy who tells a story" – taking five years to pen the new adventures of his dapper symbologist hero Robert Langdon. His publisher, Random House, has lined up a 6.5m print run, one million of which are due to land in the UK. Waterstone's is predicting it will become the fastest-selling fiction hardback of the decade, other than Harry Potter – it has been the top seller at Amazon.co.uk for weeks – and bookshops are planning early openings tomorrow morning to catch readers on their way to work.
Early sightings of the closely-guarded text indicate that Brown has kept to the formula that made The Da Vinci Code the UK's bestselling adult paperback novel of all time, with 4.5m copies of the title sold since its publication in 2003. Readers of the Mail on Sunday were treated to a pull-out supplement containing The Lost Symbol's first two chapters, opening with an initiation into a masonic lodge "just blocks away from the White House", and with the arrival of Professor Robert Langdon in Washington DC, still sporting the "charcoal turtleneck, Harris Tweed jacket, khakis, and collegiate cordovan loafers" that give him more than a passing resemblance to his creator.
"There are parallels between it and all my other books. I'm back in the same world of symbols, secret societies, art, and history," Brown told Parade. Early reviews have borne the author's description out, with the LA Times judging that The Lost Symbol will "feel very familiar to readers of the previous Langdon books". Meanwhile the New York Times greeted the title with a largely positive early review, judging that Brown is "bringing sexy back to a genre that had been left for dead" and that the novel was "impossible to put down". Criticism from the New York Times centred on an over-use of italics, of which it said "the author uses so many italics that even brilliant experts wind up sounding like teenage girls". "And Mr Brown would face an interesting creative challenge if the phrases 'What the hell ...?,' 'Who the hell ... ?' and 'Why the hell ... ?' were made unavailable to him," the review continued. "The surprises here are so fast and furious that those phrases get quite the workout."
But overall, it said, Brown's "excitable, hyperbolic tone is one of the guilty pleasures of his books. ('Actually, Katherine, it's not gibberish.' His eyes brightened again with the thrill of discovery. 'It's ... Latin.'')"
Only four people at the book's UK publisher Transworld have read The Lost Symbol, with passwords and encryptions used on internal and external communications to keep its contents secret. Jon Howells at Waterstone's is set to become the first person in the UK outside Transworld to read the novel, taking delivery of a copy at 7.30 this evening and aiming to finish it by tomorrow morning, while Borders has lined up a speed reading champion, Anne Jones, to tackle it tomorrow morning.
"The Lost Symbol is expected to be the biggest hardback fiction release of the year, likely even this decade," said Borders senior fiction buyer Ruth Atkins. "We've had a record-breaking number of customer pre-orders and we're expecting to welcome lots of less frequent book-buyers into our stores. We'll also be opening our stores an hour earlier to cater for those people on their way to work who can't wait until lunchtime to get their hands on the next Dan Brown blockbuster."
But not everyone is as excited about its publication. Less-than-enamoured readers on Twitter have begun responding to mentions of Dan Brown by asking "Dan who?" and have even created a #danwho hashtag which they are hoping to get into the site's trending topics, while at US publishing website GalleyCat, suggestions to name "Dan Brown Day" have included "Brown-Out", "The Day Fiction Died" and the "Beigeocalypse". Booksellers reeling under the pressure of falling sales will be hoping that his many fans disagree.[source: www.guardian.co.uk