Since its 2003 publication date, Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code has had an impact not only in the world of literature and the related world of the arts but also in the social and political spheres. The Da Vinci Code is a stand-alone thriller, but again features Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist who was the lead character in Brown's 2001 novel, Angels and Demons, which was also a bestseller.
The Da Vinci Code was number one on the New York Times bestseller list, stayed on the bestseller list for over a year, and has sold over ten million copies worldwide. The novel reached many readers who might not usually pick up fiction, owing to the intriguing nature of its multi-layered plot: the idea that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child; deciphering the symbols found in many works of art, including Da Vinci's painting The Last Supper, that indicate this secret history; and the resulting power struggles between the Catholic Church and a secret society named the Priory of Sion over what to do with this explosive information.
The novel was well received by popular readers as a thriller, but reviewers debated its merits because of Brown's clumsy prose and the apparent anti-Catholic stance he takes in the novel. The Da Vinci Code won the British Book Award's Book of the Year, 2005, but it has also received much more negative attention from the Catholic Church; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa urged Italian readers not to read the book, and many articles have been published attacking Brown's scholarship and his implications that the history presented in his novel is more widely accepted by scholars than it is.
The novel's influence can be seen in the books published in response to it, such as Martin Lunn's 2004 Da Vinci Code Decoded or Richard Abanes's 2004 The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code, but also in imitations and adaptations. The plot of the 2004 movie National Treasure, starring Nicholas Cage, revolves around similar coded messages, and Cage is even hunting treasure hidden by the Knights Templar, as Langdon does in The Da Vinci Code. A movie version of Brown's novel is due out in 2006.