So, Random House has finally announced that Dan Brown's next novel, The Lost Symbol (formerly known under the working title The Solomon Key), will be released in the US and Canada on September 15th, with a precedent-setting first run of five million copies.
Based on the plots of Digital Fortress, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, let me try to divine the plot of this one:
- We will have a tweedy hero, a man of letters but who can also run fast and jump down from heights if necessary. Since we already know this is the third Robert Langdon novel, this is an affirmation, not a prediction.
- The story shall begin with a mysterious murder that sets off the plot.
- The mystery of the murder will involve "symbology", which will drag Langdon into the plot.
- The plot will involve a conflict between two conspiracies. One will be an established publicly-known organization that features in several real-life conspiracy theories. The other will be a historical or pseudo-historical group that also features in real-life conspiracy theories, but in reality is either long-defunct or harmless.
- Langdon will quickly be paired with a young, attractive woman who is versed in some academic or practical discipline relevant to the plot, and physically capable enough to join him in mad dashes and rolling falls from great heights, but not capable enough to fight off the assassin. There will be no other female characters of significance.
- Oh yes, there will be an assassin, likely directly responsible for the initial murder, and possibly others throughout the novel. He will attempt to add Langdon and his companion to his hitlist. The assassin will be typified by either "exotic" ethnicity (ie, swarthiness) or a physical handicap of some kind, as well as sadism and dogged persistence. SPOILER ALERT: The assassin will die.
- The assassin will be working for a high-ranking member of one of the conspiracies, the mastermind of the main plot, but this puppetmaster's identity will be concealed until the climax, even from the assassin. SPOILER ALERT: The mastermind will die.
- As Dan Brown is a strong adherent to the Law of Economy of Characters, the mastermind will be a significant character introduced in the first third of the book, who will be portrayed as one of Langdon's greatest allies during the bulk of the book. Statistically he is likely to be a white male, most likely late middle ages or older.
- Meanwhile, the "obvious" villain will turn out to be a red herring and likely assist Langdon at or after the climax.
- Langdon will be pursued by the authorities for most of the book, complicating his efforts to solve the central conspiracy and avoid being killed by the assassin. At the conclusion, the authorities will recognize their error and clear Langdon of all suspicion.
- There will be intricate puzzles or riddles Langdon and his allies must work out to solve the central conspiracy. This will involve running around various landmarks of a city with a lot of established real-world history. These puzzles will either be so simple as to be laughable, or counterfactual to the real-world evidence.
- Through Langdon and other characters, Brown will pontificate on historical theories or analysis of culture that are sure to rankle any professional or scholar (or relatively well-read layperson) of the field in question: some refer to this as being "Dan Browned".
If I'm found to be correct, I'm going to find someone to write an online app that just churns out Dan Brown plots and make me rich.