Monday, May 09, 2005

Booknote: _El Club Dumas_ (1992)

This novel is simply one of the most interesting ones I have read this year, and Perez-Reverte is definitely an author I will be looking up again. The novel is also available in English translation, the title is usually The Dumas Club. Fans of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code will likely enjoy this. However, I will risk the wrath of some Dan Brown fans by saying that Perez-Reverte's book is a much better novel than The Da Vinci Code in many levels. For one, Club Dumas is actually legible. By this I mean it has a plot that moves along and draws the reader in from the start. Once I started this book, I was not able to put it down, putting aside the other books I was reading at the the time. I tried reading The Da Vinci Code to see what the big hoopla was about, and after five attempts to get into its weak and slow plot, I just skipped to the end. It was some of the most hideous prose I have subjected myself to. What people see in that writer is honestly beyond me. But, as Ranganathan says, each book its reader. Second, the attention to detail is superb. Perez-Reverte brings the world of rare books and its collectors to life with careful descriptions and a strong sense of ambience. Third, characters are very well developed in this book; some of them you have to learn about them along the way, and at least one, the character of "Irene Adler" you are left wondering a bit who or what is she. I have an idea, but I leave it to readers to discover it for themselves: who is that woman whose mission is to protect Lucas Corso as he investigates about two rare books? Perez-Reverte has a way of bringing characters to life. You can really visualize the regal nature of Taillefer's widow. The characters stay with you after finishing the book. Fourth, there is a puzzle involved, and this is where I say that fans of Dan Brown may enjoy the book as well. Lucas Corso is a book hunter, and his job this time is to find out if a copy of an Alexandre Dumas manuscript is authentic or not. While he is at it, he also has to investigate the three existing copies of a demonology book known as the Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Darkness. Is there a connection between the two books? Will he be able to solve the mystery? What secrets do the books hide? To give readers a better sense of the mystery, Perez-Reverte includes various engravings with the text. The Dumas manuscript is a part of the novel The Three Musketeers. I am sure people who have read The Three Musketeers will enjoy seeing the various references to it in this novel, but it is not necessary to have read Dumas's novel to enjoy El Club Dumas. Readers who like to read about secret societies and codes will not be disappointed by this book.

On a final note, this book was the basis for the 1999 film The Ninth Gate, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp in the role of Lucas Corso. Except in the film, he is named Dean Corso. Some people who watched the movie have found the ending to be somewhat vague. While not as good as the book, the movie is enjoyable if you like mystery thrillers. However a significant number of details from the book are completely left out from the film. I would recommend read the book and make the movie optional watching.

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