Friday, April 06, 2012

Angels and Demons

To quote one of my heroes, Bender Bending Rodríguez, I'm back baby! I returned to the world of Dan Brown recently with his first Langdon novel, "Angels and Demons" (579 pages). I was interested to read about an adventure in Rome and Vatican City since I recently converted to Catholicism. Not really. From Goodreads:

"An ancient secret brotherhood.

A devastating new weapon of destruction.

An unthinkable target.

When world-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a mysterious symbol -- seared into the chest of a murdered physicist -- he discovers evidence of the unimaginable: the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati...the most powerful underground organization ever to walk the earth. The Illuminati has now surfaced to carry out the final phase of its legendary vendetta against its most hated enemy -- the Catholic Church.

Langdon's worst fears are confirmed on the eve of the Vatican's holy conclave, when a messenger of the Illuminati announces they have hidden an unstoppable time bomb at the very heart of Vatican City. With the countdown under way, Langdon jets to Rome to join forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and mysterious Italian scientist, to assist the Vatican in a desperate bid for survival.

Embarking on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and even the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that snakes across Rome toward the long-forgotten Illuminati lair...a clandestine location that contains the only hope for Vatican salvation.

An explosive international thriller, Angels & Demons careens from enlightening epiphanies to dark truths as the battle between science and religion turns to war."

Again I find myself on the fence with another Dan Brown novel. While there are some interesting story lines and unique problems for the hero to solve, I just can't quite get over how full of shit Brown is in this novel, especially with his history of the Illuminati. I'm all for an author taking an artistic license when it comes to historical events as long as the author doesn't preface the book with a blurb about how the science and all locations are real in the novel. Why even say this when you're just going to fudge on the early historical events? Maybe it's just me but it sets up the book for failure from the beginning.

For a really cool historical fiction I would point readers to "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. A much better example of what can be done with a quasi-true historical narrative.

Again, I had no problems with Brown's writing, which seems the case with a lot of reviewers, at least on Goodreads. I appreciate the break-neck speed which hustles the story along and I found myself engaged in some of the more tense moments of the novel. I just wish Brown would jump off the religion versus science fence. I can appreciate and often enjoy an author with whom I don't agree but in the case of a waffler, not so much. Recommended for fans of Brown and the genre.

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