Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Advanced Reading Copy of Dan Brown's Long Awaited New Thriller, The Lost Symbol...

...will probably not be arriving on Thriller Guy's desk anytime before the official publishing date. That's because there's an embargo on the book, which means it won't be released anywhere before it goes on sale in bookstores. The embargo process is usually reserved for books by ex-politicos who have penned controversial accounts of events that when once become known will threaten the existence of life as we know it on planet Earth. Or at least that's what the publishers want us to think. That their author's amazing revelations will cause the structural underpinnings of democracy to fracture, the nation will fall into a swoon, the stock market will crash, North Korea will sense an advantage and launch a nuclear attack and the next thing you know we're all reduced to hiking up Cormac McCarthy's Road with our meager possessions lashed to our backs. Tumbleweeds will be seen on the streets of our major cities. And yet, someone always finds an early copy of these books and publishes the juicy details and we've survived all these revelations. Of course Dick Cheney's book hasn't been published yet.

Seriously, what's going to happen if someone reviews Dan Brown's book a few days, or even a few months before the publication date?

You can probably sense that TG is annoyed. And as I've said before on these pages, an annoyed reviewer is not in the best interest of a new book. Instead of having, say, a week to linger over the pages of this sure-to-be blockbuster, TG is going to have to stand in line (sleep all night in a rickety lawn chair in front of the bookstore?) snap up a copy, rush home and read it in one great gulp so he can get the word out to a breathlessly awaiting public before they all head to the bookstore for their very own copy, which they are going to do no matter what TG, or any other reviewer has to say. Again, you have to ask yourself, what is the publisher so afraid of anyway?

They're still going to make a gazillion dollars, so that can't be it. The book will still be extensively reviewed, so they're not cutting into the actually number of reviews. Are they really so worried that the reviews are going to be negative? My guess is that's probably the reason. No one likes a bad review. Even a lukewarm review can sting. As the recipient of a few of both of these, TG can attest that no matter how many glowing notices one receives, a bad one will ruin your day, if not the entire week. Actually, it can rankle for months. Years even. So are they anticipating bad reviews? And if so, why?

Human nature is my guess. It's going to be a lot easier to hate this book, critically, than it's going to be to love it. Code was, what? the best selling book of all time except the bible? If not that, it's certainly right up there. That's a pretty hard act to follow, even by Dan Brown. Code was surely not the best book that's ever been written, or the best story that's ever been told, it just sold more copies than pretty much any other book that's ever been written. But what has that got to do with the new book? So, to be fair, The Lost Symbol should be judged as just what it is probably going to be: a modern thriller in the style of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code. I'll bet it's going to be at least pretty good; his other books were all pretty good. And I liked Code a lot. But people, and by people I mean readers in general, are going to expect it to be great. I hope it is great. Every book I pick up to review I hope is going to be great. Few are. But many of them are good, and many more are very good. Really, what more should we expect from a book?

Fellow reviewers: take a deep breath, empty your minds of preconceived notions, purge your soul of any jealousy, (especially those of you who are also novel writers) and give Dan Brown the same consideration you normally give to any other writer who toils in the literary vineyard. Sure, he's a lucky bastard who's made a lot f money, and who's about to make a lot more money, who probably lives like a God while you work in obscurity down in some dank basement, unloved, unappreciated, struggling to make ends meet, and you know you're at least as good as he is! Why? Why him? Why not me...!

Easy Thriller Guy, just read the book.

After you stand in line to buy it.

OK, but I'm still going to be annoyed.


  1. Who really reads reviews anyway?

    Well, I know I do. But I also know I’m one of the few book lovers who goes out of my way to actually read reviews. You see, I want to be sure the time (not just the money) I invest in a book is going to be time well spent.

    But then, these are different times we live in. People do things more because it’s the popular thing to do than just something you’d like to do. And Heaven forbid you’re the only one at the office water cooler on Friday, or worse, the social party the following weekend who didn’t make time to read THE book!

    I think peer pressure is going to be a big factor in the first week’s sales. (Arguably more so than the devoted Dan Brown fan base)

    And yet, there is an economic crunch still going on and people from all economic levels have been cutting back on new books. Hard covers are expensive these days, despite the fact most book stores are planning to offer it up at nearly half off, but even than, THAT in and of itself is an attempt to get you to buy at least another book, even if it’s a paperback.

    Like I said, these are tough times for booksellers.

    But then, that’s all the more reason why (you would think….), the publisher would be spending a decent chunk of money on newspaper ads and getting Mr. Brown out on tour, hitting the major markets doing interviews, deciding wether or not to book him on Letterman or The Tonight Show (I remember a time when that was a big deal) etc etc.

    Heck, by now I would have thought we’d have at least seen a chapter excerpt. (Unless I missed it, but I don’t think so). All of which makes me quite curious as to the embargo. (remember what I said about no reviews for certain films)

    Me? Yes, I did enjoy DAVINCI CODE, and while I do plan to buy a copy from Wal Mart or Amazon at a good discount, I’m afraid I am still going to wait and read a couple of reviews before plunking down my 19 bucks. Which probably means I won’t be buying a copy until the following week. Which of course, is bad for booksellers if a few hundred thousand readers decide to do the same thing.

    In the end, I doubt they have much to worry about. At least for a week or two. But then, bad word of mouth can hurt sales just as quickly as a bad review. Which again, brings us back to the embargo.

    Oh well. Does it matter? Maybe to some. At least people will be buying books. Guess that’s the bottom line. Good subject TG!!
    Frank Zubek

  2. Please, don't ask the question Who needs reviews anyway. We're talking about TG's livelihood here. Such as it is.

  3. Why wait in line, there is always Kindle. :)

    Been downloading new books pretty neatly. My collection is no longer piling in stacks under the bed for the idiot Maltese to chew and shred. The boxes of old books in the garage have stopped getting heavy enough to stop anti-tank rounds.

    This way I get my quick reading fix, and when I run across that master work that deserves precious rare shelf space, I buy it from Amazon and often as not find a copy for a fraction of the cost.

    And then reading your post I admit I have often wondered how some writers become the mega block buster best sellers, instead of struggling to make ends meet.