For shear genius, Foucault's Pendulum swings ellispse's around The Da Vinci Code. The protagonists of Foucault's Pendulum try to prove a point that the afficiandos of the Knights Templar would believe anything...so they make up their own phenomenal history of man--complete with prophesies and death rituals. They soon find themselves pulled into the maddening world of cultists and true believers...and, of course, satanic death rituals.
For genius and plot Foucault's Pendulum stands heads above the Code, yet it suffers one fault: The book is long and tedious. I suspect if I really got into masonic writings and long conspiracy theories, I would find it all long and tedious as well. Three quarters of the way through the book, I was fed up with all the cultist idiocies, and just wanted the book to end. There's a large number of people who would believe anything you stuff under their chin...now get to the end....please.
It is interesting the way that people really want to believe in big plots and grand theological conspiracies. Even more interesting is the way that many people really want to play a part in the great fictional dramas. They kidnap young girls, they fly planes into buildings because they feel they have to somehow be a praxis in the grand social movements of time. They read pieces of fiction with their eyes curled up as they ride Trax to the towering granite ediface in the center of town believing that it will give them some secret hidden powers over their enemies. (For those who are wondering. If you ride inbound Trax you will often see people reading a strange book with their eyes curled up as they try to conjure the hidden powers between the words of the book. I was watching one of these creature one day. The creature was literally shaking as he read. He suddenly developed the most sinister grin on his face that I had ever witnessed. The creature closed his eyes and lipped the words he found...ingraining them in his memory. I was obviously witnessing the birth of a great political strike against this creature's enemies. The creature got off at the towering granite ediface stop.
There are times when I really question why I live in the place where I live. I like the mountains and deserts, but I really have a hard time working for people ruled by revelation.
Back to fiction. In many ways, I agree with Orson Scott Card that Science Fiction really is one of the best formats for exploring theological concepts. When accepted as fiction, the format really lets our minds explore different ideas. We can connect absurdities like Umberto Eco. The open acknowledgement of a scifi book as fiction lets us see different ideas without the precept of having to take them for anything more than entertainment. The method works best for people who see all of the wonderously different ideas that can exists.
Fiction can open our eyes to the way the world works because fiction allows the author the ability to really focus in on ideas that nonfiction lacks.
Yet there is also a strange point where cultism, theology, guruism and pure fiction collide. This is what I find troubling. We create a fiction, then people build on that fiction. They destroy that which does not fit in their world, etc..
I guess I should mention, when I was reading Foucault's Pendulum, I had a rather dull witted boss. He could not understand the ending of the book. Caught up in the strange cult history portrayed by the book, he could not understand why Umberto Eco ended the book THAT WAY!!!!
Could there have been any other way? The ending seemed obvious from the first page. There was just the game of connecting dots and seeing just how the predictible ending would come about.
In this regard, the plot of the Da Vinci thriller was better designed. We did not know the true identity of the grand villian until the last chapter. More of a thriller, the ending was quite interesting in that after the villian was unveiled, all of the strange creatures in the book turned out to be normal people...while the ending of Foulcault's Pendulum comes off as a let down. Even worse, some of the "normal people" suddenly seem like monsters.