Robert Booth in the guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 September 2009
It was an act of ravenous readership that summed up the
The world champion speed reader Anne Jones claimed to have devoured the 506-page adventure of "symbologist" Robert Langdon in just 41 minutes and 55 seconds in a feat that raised hopes that Brown, the 45-year old son of a maths professor and a musician from New Hampshire, has produced a book so easy to read that The Lost Symbol will become the best-read adult novel in publishing history.
In a display of "event publishing" usually reserved for the biggest sellers including JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, crates of the book were sealed with legal agreements and could not be opened until midnight and only four people in the country had read a copy before last night. It was all to safeguard a marketing campaign which some believe could come close to achieving sales on a par with Rowling's last Harry Potter book, which sold 3.5m copies in its first eight days.
The Lost Symbol charts similar territory to The Da Vinci Code, with the hero decoding puzzles and going on the run from shadowy forces, this time Freemasons. Some reviewers branded The Lost Symbol "moronic, derivative and clunky" .
Others applauded Brown's ability to give his millions of fans what they want. For the publishing industry, the book's strengths and weaknesses were only being measured in numbers.
Dan Brown has already sold books worth £63m in the UK since 2003 and The Da Vinci Code alone sold 5.2m copies worth £28m including illustrated editions, spin-off fictional journals and box sets.
"This is beyond books," said Paul Baggaley, publisher at rival firm Picador. "It has become an event which is a phenomenon."