Sunday, May 29, 2011

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons
© 2000 Dan Brown
572 pages


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 Denmark Switzerland.  Someone has stolen enough antimatter to take out half a city, and that someone might be working for a secretive organization with powerful ambitions and a burning hatred for the Catholic church -- the Illuminati, the 'enlightened ones'.  Driven underground by the Catholic church centuries before, they intend to strike a killing blow at their enemy through the ages...by blowing them to Kingdom Come. If Langdon can't track the Illuminati down before midnight, the Catholic church's day in history may be at end.

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...


(deep breath)

...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...

The Aztecs. The Aztecs! Whom the Church did not encounter for 1500 years!  For fifteen centuries, the people of Europe took Communion never knowing they'd artlessly stolen it from a people who lived an ocean away.  The fools!

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".

Related:
The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown.

4 comments:

  1. What an entertaining review! I read this book years ago (around the Da Vinci Code hype I think) on the recommendation of the only other person at my highschool who actually read books that weren't prescribed reading. I can't remember anything about it except it was about the illuminati and that I found it dull, although your review has brought back some awful flashbacks.

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  2. Heh, sorry about that. ;) While I've heard of a shadowy conspiracy group called the Illuminati, I've never read into them.

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  3. I so much enjoyed reading your review. I did read this book as well as the da vinci code, and while both books went by pretty quickly for me, I can now no longer remember much of anything about them. I never pretended to myself that they were literature, but reading your review makes me indignant on your behalf that the books are so awful. (if that makes sense...)

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  4. Tell us how you really feel! I read The Da Vinci Code ages ago. My hubby read Angels and Demons also. He didn't think I needed to, but I always intended too. I'll just keep pushing it to the bottom of my tbr list.

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