Later tonight, NBC will be showing the second half of the two part “The Last Templar” mini-series. DO NOT WATCH THIS. It’s rare that I feel tasked to present my opinion as a public warning, but it is entirely, absolutely necessary in this case.
I’m not proud of myself, but I fell for the “well, I should probably buy a book before I get on an airplane for thirteen hours” business model. That’s right – I spent $10, the full retail price, based only on, “I liked The DaVinci Code well enough and that giant red cross on a white background on the cover of the book looks familiar. Ooh, it has ‘templar’ in the title, too.” Not one of my finer moments. Not one of my finer moments.
Why the warning? People are quick to complain about The DaVinci Code for perfectly valid reasons; poor structure (action, explanation, action, explanation, ad nauseum…), clunky writing, the fact that it’s more-or-less the product of generously editing Angels & Demons and using “find and replace” to swap “Catholicism” with “Christianity,” and so on. BUT, The DaVinci Code worked well enough. I liked the book enough to also read Angels & Demons as well as Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and most significantly, there are few people have haven’t read The DaVinci Code, and I really don’t know anyone that truly hated it. I stand by the complaints detailed above, yet I wouldn’t tell someone not to read it if I were asked.
Of course, based on the overwhelming financial success of The DaVinci Code, a cottage industry sprang up around the Knights Templar and literary background checks of Jesus H. Christ ranging from the academic to the pulpy. Simply everyone who’s remotely interested in such things has read at least The DaVinci Code and is acutely aware of the recently-renewed discussion on whether Jesus should be referred to as “Dude” or just “dude.”
The Last Templar is the second worst kind of “DaVinci Code cottage industry” detritus. The single most damning error of the book is that the characters live in a vacuum where The DaVinci Code never existed. This is preposterous – as readers, we’re no longer shocked that there are “major revelations” about Jesus’ divinity and holding that like a carrot to keep the reader engaged just doesn’t work. Within the world of the story, it’s equally ludicrous that an archaeologist would be shocked (SHOCKED!) to hear that there are alternate theories of Jesus beyond those of the Gospels and Qur’an. It’s just plain inexcusable.
The story itself is of the relic-hunting variety: beheadings, ancient mythology, suspect foreigners, the two lead characters getting it on, a encryption/decryption/codex device, and so on. Passable, but the obliviousness detailed above checked me out of the book almost immediately. Well, the obliviousness and the fact that the romantic thread in the story was written with the fluidity and grace matching that of a teen-aged love letter saying, “I want to do you.”
I do have to comment on the selection of quotes on the front and back covers. On the front, we see “Like The DaVinci Code, Khoury’s novel features age-old mysteries that play out in a modern setting.” Let that sink in a bit. It’s equivalent to the quote reading, “The DaVinci code is a book. This novel is also a book.” There’s not even an implicit recommendation; in fact, one can extract an almost negative tone from it, as if the quote continued as, “…, but this is not even The DaVinci Code.” Imagine a Battlefield: Earth poster saying: “Star Wars was a movie in space. This one is, too.” No, don’t fall for it.
Moving to the back cover we see, “[will] satisfy your historical thriller craving.” One could say the same thing about Stalingrad Vodka and alcoholism. Similarly, “For those who think Dan Brown doesn’t write fast enough,” doesn’t actually provide a comment on the quality of the book. Think of a review of the Arena Football League: “Because the NFL off-season is February to August.”
The Last Templar mini-series gets half of one star. Bad books make for bad movies. Sure, the guy who got dumped on Scrubs is perfectly likable and Mira Sorvino looks fancy, but you’re better than this. If you feel the need to get your artifact-hunting itch scratched, re-read or watch The DaVinci Code, or, even better, read The Rule of Four.