Tuesday, March 14, 2006


In Cod We Trust...

WELL, MA’AM, I have to say I was actually frightened when I read the jacket copy on The DaVinci Cod by Don Brine (HarperCollins, 2005, New York, NY). Part of that copy reads thusly: "Leonardo DaVinci knew a very great deal indeed about what Cod really are, and that sinister knowledge is only now coming to light…" ITALICS MINE. I thought I was holding the ultimate security leak right there in my hands. OK, they’re not really hands anymore at this point. You know what I mean.

I couldn’t believe it when I started reading. THE WHOLE THING IS A JOKE. And actually quite a good joke. See, the protagonist -- a complete moron pretending to teach a fictional subject at the University of London – is roped into a murder investigation after the authorities discover that the murder weapon – a Codfish – has the protagonist’s prints on it. After that things start to get weird.

As in Dan Brown’s much drearier DaVinci Code, a sexy Frenchwoman appears, evidently on a mission to haul our hero all over the city while lecturing him about some kind of conspiracy that has set him up to look like the killer of a curator at one of London’s wonderful art museums. She connects this crime to every conspiracy in history. But mostly she talks in riddles about one secret organization you’ve never heard of, C.O.D. This proves to be the rotten, chum-smelling heart of the Catholic Church, leading all the way back to the earliest days when Christ was still alive. Our hero – a blithering idiot who can barely follow what the Frenchwoman is saying -- ultimately reveals that he is not the kind of expert they need on this case, and the Frenchwoman decides he knows too much. This, in spite of the fact that she’s the one who’s been telling him everything from the beginning of the first chapter. From here, things get ugly. WILL THE HERO SURVIVE?

>> There were just two items that really shivered my scutes, besides that terrifying jacket blurb. One is on page 84: "All the conspiracies of the world are masks deliberately worn by the C.O.D. to hide their very existence." Is that too close for comfort, or what?

>> The second is on page 152: "…you must know that it is far more than merely a metaphor. You must know it is the literal truth -- the great secret apprehended only shadowly [sic] by human religions and philosophy." What is the Frenchwoman sputtering about now, you ask? She’s reacting rather violently to a crack the hero makes, equating God and Cod.

>> Why does this get her so upset? Because in spite of her going on and on about the deep secrecy of C.O.D., she has blabbed EVERYTHING to her audience – not only the hero, who could probably be trusted to keep his mouth shut, but also to a guy with Tourette’s Syndrome. Scrod knows what he’s going to say or do next. She knows she’s in trouble here.

>> How could she be so stupid? BECAUSE SHE’S NOT ONE OF OUR OPERATIVES. THIS WHOLE STORY IS JUST A JOKE. This is what happens when you send a human to do a Fish’s job. It’s like the hallmark of Human enterprise: they just have to gum everything up.

>> I love the respectful treatment of major works of art and religio-historical figures in the story; for instance, the references to certain secret sigils inscribed on the "hairdo of Christ."

>> I smile at the way this author humorously underlines the very element I didn’t like about The DaVinci Code: the way EVERYTHING is a symbol and EVERYTHING is in code and EVERYTHING, supposedly kept secret for millennia, is discovered and unravelled within a few hours by this single character, who is then so upset that she’s explained it all to our hero that she gets hostile with him. Come on, he didn’t ask to be dragged out of bed for this.

>> The explication of Human subterfuge is delicious. The murder victim found at the beginning of the story was getting TOO CLOSE TO THE TRUTH and had to be taken out by the most subtle and unobtrusive means available: someone jammed a Codfish down his throat, cut gill slits into his neck so he’d bleed all over everything, and left him in the main hallway of a public museum in London. Way to cover your tracks, people.

>> Now here’s something I don’t get. WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS about these big secrets? It’s been known forever that Christianity has a great appreciation for, and entanglement with, the water and fish. If someone paints some of these well-known details into a picture of the Last Supper, why is that a big deal? If God lives at the bottom of a deep-sea trench in the North Atlantic, why is that skin off anyone’s knees? Why is it worth killing anyone?

>> The discovery of the grim secret of the Mona Eda is one of the finest moments in Naked Ape literature, laden with emotion and meaning that survives the goofiness of the book’s premise. For this scene alone, you need to read the book.

Overall, I rate it highly, especially recommending it for readers who enjoy le genre spouf, of the ultra-light type – think of Rosemary Cartwheel’s Love’s Reckless Rash and you’re on the right track. This may be the only book you see of this type that involves OUR GLORIOUS CAUSE.
I just wanted you all to know that the image on this page is available at the official Ray Troll website in more than one form, including t-shirts. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.


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