© 2000 Dan Brown
There's a dead body bearing the mark of an ancient conspiracy lying in the halls of Europe's foremost scientific laboratory. Robert Langdon, who apparently makes a living commenting on corpses with symbolic importance, is whisked away by space-plane to CERN, where he descends into the bowels of the Earth and realizes there is something rotten in the state of
Although that sounds like a great setup, this book was a labor to read. I groaned throughout the first one hundred pages, and near the climax I pondered giving it a good throw across the room. It's a library book, though, so I didn't. I just set it gently on the floor until my eyes had stopped rolling long enough for me to read it. I understand this to be Dan Brown's first novel, and that shows. The characters are insultingly simplistic, exposition utterly contrived. From the start Brown had his imbecilic characters blabbering on about the ancient war between science and religion, and I was very relieved when the chase began in full -- a chase through the Vatican City, with settings drawn from Rome's rich background of monuments from the Empire through more modern Baroque churches. Unfortunately, the science/religion discussion came back with a vengeance, and it was there that I wondered, ever so briefly, if seeing the book sail through the air might make me feel a bit better about subjecting myself to it.
The painfully forced discussions about the respective worth of science and religion, and the relationship and tension between then just wouldn't go away, because the Illuminati were supposedly a society formed to protect and advance science from the dogmatic Church. Maybe if you don't give a rip about science, the novel would be as benign to you as The DaVinci Code was to me -- but I like science, I like history, I like comparative religion, and seeing all three subjects flayed alive throughout the book made my brain weep. The torture reaches its climax when one of the book's then-most sympathetic character denounces the God of Science for page after page, simpering about his blessed Church's contributions to the human race and how awfully tired the Church was of being constantly slighted. Well! I'm sorry a millennium and a half of interrupted power over the entire western world wasn't enough for you! Perhaps if you'd managed to do anything in those fifteen hundred years we'd be a little bit more impressed, but from where I sit all I can see is the palaces you built. I'd say science has earned bragging rights.
The book does have redeeming qualities -- the clue chase through Rome, for instance. Not only do the settings fascinate me, but I liked the little historical nuances that would send Langton on a false trail ever so briefly. The ending is also more interesting than I'd imagined after despairing over the Chamberlain's speech. Unfortunately, these are the only redeeming attributes -- the characters are simplistic, the dialogue and exposition fall flat (when they're not insulting), and a lot of the research...
...is atrocious beyond words. I now understand the phrase "Dan Browned". I cannot fathom how this book managed to get past the editing process with historical and scientific mistakes so numerous. Robert Langdon may known a awful lot of art history, but otherwise he's a moron. That's a word I don't use often, and I hesitate to use it against a character Tom Hanks has portrayed -- but book-Langton is..terrible. Case in point: he tells one of his classes that the Catholic church borrowed Communion from...wait for it...
I really don't know what to add to that. I don't write negative reviews often, so this is one for the books. Angels and Demons is as bad a novel as I've ever read, rivaling only the Left Behind novels for their simplicity and unbelievable 'messages'. Caveat lector.
...and I only say that because I don't know the Latin for "Run away really quickly".
The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown.