Is the human race getting dumber? Or is it just the literary establishment?I picked up a mint-condition hardcover copy of The Da Vinci Code at my local public library's permanent book sale for $1. At that price, I couldn't lose; I was going on a six-hour drive with my wife, and I needed something to read. My one concern was that the book might be too complex to be a relaxing car read. After all, according to the blurbs on the cover the New York Times said it was a work of "genius"!It's not. It's a fairly fast-paced and somewhat over-talky action/mystery/conspiracy theory novel; a potboiler, really. I was surprised by several aspects of the novel. The writing actually betrayed a slightly juvenile touch. No offense to Mr. Brown; he's a competent writer. But standards seem to have gone down in the last twenty years or so. Back in the early 1980s I ended up reading a number of best-sellers. Several of them went on to become some of my favorite books: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shogun, Marathon Man. All of these were much better-written than The Da Vinci Code, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was far and away more intellectually challenging.Not to mention authors like Frank Herbert and Roger Zelazny. Their works require real thought on the part of the reader. Not so The Da Vinci Code. It's a decent potboiler with some mildly interesting secret-society conspiracy theory stuff, but even that is hardly anything new to anyone who has done even a little light reading on the topic.On the plus side, at least Mr. Brown didn't get too disgusting. At one point I was afraid he'd pull a Wingrove or Chalker on me, with secret cult ceremonies that might turn out to be truly disturbing. Instead, the ceremony was hardly anything new; in fact, it couldn't have been older.The characters were rather flat. The plot was a series of wham-bam escapes and secret-society deductions; the pace keeps moving along well enough, but the story becomes a bit repetitive and predictable. It was a decent time-killer (and I got an extra fillip from the odd coincidence that the hotel I stayed at while finishing the book was hosting a Knights of Columbus event, in full regalia), but it wasn't really memorable.I'll probably give Brown another try, but only because I run out of reading material so quickly. I have to wonder, though: are all of these supposedly "brilliant" modern best-sellers so simplistic and unchallenging? I'd thought that the Left Behind series was unbelievably stupid, but now I'm starting to suspect that it's merely slightly sub-par.