A confession: I first attempted to read this book about 11 years ago and got no further than the first 3 pages.
It was so dense and I didn’t really know what the hell was going on, I decided it was clearly far too advanced for little old me, and I went back to reading Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin. Then I managed to read Umberto Eco’s most recent book – The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna and thought “this dude ain’t so fricking badass”. Also Ryan recommended it. And I knew my dad still had a copy lying around, so I borrowed it and when a slot in my reading list came up, I got on it.
Let me tell you: it didn’t get any less dense. And a lot of it doesn’t really make much sense. I guess it’s probably all really well researched – there’s certainly a lot of quotes from relevant primary sources at the top of the chapters – but it’s so dull. Stupid secret societies, feuding and bumping into each other. The Templars, Hospitalers, Rosicrucians, Rosy Crosses, neo-Templars, Baconists, on and on. So many lists, timelines, daft bloody theories, and it’s all a massive jumble. It’s impossible to hold the whole thing in your head at once, so I didn’t really bother. I’m pretty certain you could write a digested version of this book in 200 pages, instead of the 641 (I was counting down towards the end) that it takes up.
Which makes the quotes on the back more mystifying. “Eco… really loves popular culture… This is an extremely funny book.” No, it’s not. It’s far too long and confusing, the jokes are far too far apart and not very good anyway. It (unsurprisingly) reminded me a lot of Queen Loanna in that it mostly consisted of lists of stuff copied from other books, linked together with a semi-decent plot. As far as I can tell, Eco doesn’t have a writing style, he’s some kind of photocopying machine with a random plot generator attached.
I think I had the right idea when I was 19.
See also (see instead?)
54, Wu Ming – more Italian literature, similarly obsessed with fascists and partisans, but funnier, pacier and starring Carey Grant.
The Brentford Trilogy, Robert Rankin – a lot of the same secret knowledge, magic is real and operating behind the everyday world, but infinitely funnier and a hell of a lot shorter. Well, each book is shorter, but there were 5 of them last time I counted, so as a whole, probably longer.
The Da Vinci Code, Brown – don’t read it (I haven’t), but it’s all about Templars and Grails too. Possibly ripped off from Foucault’s Pendulum… who would ever know?