Monday, February 11, 2013

"The Gaudi Key," by Esteban Martin and Andreu Carranza

"The Gaudi Key"(La Clave Gaudi) possesses the grandiosity of its subject's architecture, but lacks his whimsy.

Sometimes you can concoct a literary triumph yet not tell a story so well. Such is the case with Esteban Martin and Andreu Carranza's novel.

"The Gaudi Key," takes Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," moves it to Barcelona, and then attempts to transform a potboiler into big literature. But the authors fail to match Brown's talent for penning the page-turner, and instead weigh their piece down with interesting, but unnecessary information.

Any story affirmatively linking Barcelona, its most famous architect, and the second coming of Jesus Christ is going to have a lot explaining to do, and the resulting expository writing generates a book of considerable heft (430 pages).

The set-up involves a vicious conflict between the diabolical Men of Mensula and the Knights of Moria; the latter being an ancient Catholic order of warrior friars with which Gaudi was inscribed.

The knights are engaged in an age-old quest of squiring a surviving rock sliver from Solomon's temple to its final resting place in the Gaudi-designed Sagrada Familia cathedral, as preparation for Christ's return to earth.

If it sounds complicated, well, it is. And if it doesn't sound complicated, it still is.

And although the authors successfully guide the narrative's baroque machinery to a successful conclusion, the exquisitely embroidered scheme ends up stepping all over a story that is not uninspired in its origins.

Detailing the history and competing philosophies of the Mensulan and Morian orders is tackled via long character dialogues best omitted or at least reduced to something more essential and dramatized through story action.

Parsing them is a slog and their presence is augmented by the presence of still more as these well-schooled scribes hold court on all manner of esoterica, Greek mythology, Catholic mysticism, 19th-Century anarcho-syndicalism, and the Shinto religion (to name a few).

"The Gaudi Key" never practices what it preaches. The famed architect's hallucinatory vision and transcendent approach to life and art are lost in a tome that is constantly over-reasoned and overwrought, robbing the marvelously chosen topics of all their inherent magic.

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