Let angels guide you on your lofty quest

Today’s review: Angels and Demons

Cover of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons

Author: Dan Brown Cover of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons

Publisher: Pocket Books

Released: 2006
Number of pages: 713
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller/ Crime/ Historical
Series: Robert Langdon (#1)

When world-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyse 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 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.

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For hundreds of years, the Illuminati disappeared from the face of the Earth; little more than a distant memory to a world that has since advanced beyond a fear of science and become one that embraces it. Leading the crusade towards a secular, technology-savvy future is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) who have been secretly experimenting with a new, all-powerful form of pure dark energy- antimatter. If used in the right hands, one drop of antimatter is said to be powerful enough to supply the entire earth with power for a month and contains the energy equivalent to a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb. The Catholic Church, as they have done with all areas of science since the times of Galileo, has spoken out against the research that CERN has been carrying out for years, determined to halt the inevitable march of progress and brand science as an evil practice that will eventually lead to the destruction of the human race.

Tensions continued to rise between CERN and the Church until one night, one side reached breaking point. One night, Harvard symbologist Professor Robert Langdon received a fax containing information on the Illuminati that he had been searching for his whole life. The fax contained only one disturbing image: the murdered body of one of CERN’s top physicists, Leonardo Vetra, and on his chest was branded the infamous and long-forgotten symbol for a brotherhood thought long extinct: the Illuminati. Langdon is whisked to CERN’s headquarters in Geneva where he meets the director of CERN, Maximilan Koehler, and bio-entanglement physicist Vittoria Vetra, the adopted daughter of the dead physicist. Vittoria suspects that Vetra was killed for his work on antimatter technology, and her fears are rendered true when they discover in Vetra’s secret lab that a canister containing one of his samples of antimatter has been stolen. Before panic even begins to settle in however, Langdon and Vittoria are summoned to the Vatican City in Rome where the Swiss Guard await with news of four cardinals kidnapped by an ancient brotherhood on the eve of the Papal Conclave. The ominous video of the hostages could only have been sent by the Illuminati, and this becomes clear when the brotherhood display their weapon of choice: the antimatter canister.

Soon, Langdon and Vittoria find themselves thrust deep into a long and bloody battle between religion and science, chasing clues left through history down the Path of Illumination and towards the infamous Illuminati lair. Time is working against them to deduce the various locations of the kidnapped cardinals before they are murdered and branded in the name of science, and to track down the antimatter canister before it is set to explode at midnight, aiming to have Vatican City “consumed by light”. 

It’s universally accepted that a book will always be better than its movie adaptation, but I’m afraid to say, Angels and Demons might be one of the few exceptions to this rule. I haven’t read may Dan Brown novels. Hell, I haven’t even read The Da Vinci Code. The first book of his I read was Inferno, which I have to say was, although a little over-dramatic at some points, overall pretty good. I suppose the same could be said for this book for the most part but unfortunately, I watched the movie first and whilst I was made aware that the movie made A LOT of changes, I’ve gotta say that those changes might have been for the better.

Don’t get me wrong though, no matter how cheesy or far-fetched some of the events get in Brown’s books, I still really love me a good puzzle-solving story. The thrill of the chase is always so exhilarating and this is something I definitely felt in Angels and Demons. The imagery Brown creates of the various sites around Rome and the Vatican is rich in historical context and makes for a very authentic feel; I loved learning the history behind the artwork and architecture at the same time as I enjoyed the action. For the most part, the novel was pretty fast-paced, considering that it’s written in “real time”, basically taking place over the course of a day. The action was tense and exciting, and the speed at which Langdon could make historical connections with the clues he uncovered made for a very engaging read for the most part. There were some parts that slowed down the action however, and in hindsight didn’t really seem all that necessary, for example the discussion about the reasons for Vetra’s work could have been achieved with less words and could have lost some the unnecessary questions that were only there to break up the huge slabs of speech.

I enjoyed Langdon’s humour and the information he was able to provide from his own experience, and overall he was a fairly engaging narrator, but there were some points where he came off as a bit of an idiot. He was unable to read and calculate some situations properly and I got a little bit annoyed at him sometimes because he would seem to ask questions he already knew the answers to. I really liked Vittoria Vetra’s character though. I liked her independence and intelligence, and her ability to read and take control of a situation with a level head came in handy throughout most of the novel. I didn’t, however, like the unnecessary amount of focus diverted towards her “mysterious eyes” or her “perfect breasts” or her “toned legs”. Like yes, those details are good for Langdon’s first perception of her character, but the recurring focus on her physical features wasn’t needed. This didn’t happen with any of the male characters. The sexual chemistry between the characters implicated later in the book also never felt authentic. In the context of the story, and keeping in mind that they’d only known each other for A DAY, it never felt right. Their relationship could have been kept purely platonic and the story would not have been affected in any way. The apparent “romance” was slap-dash at best and given no time to develop.

For the most part, many of the decisions made and the directions taken within the novel were well-justified, but near the end, some of the action sequences were pretty far-fetched to the point where some parts were just silly. I found this to be the same case with Inferno; it goes from a very clever puzzle-solving mystery to something similar to an over-the-top action movie. One part had me going “oh come on, really?” I think the film adaptation’s producers realised that these parts were just a bit too silly as well, because they certainly toned down the climax near the end and turned it into something a bit closer to believable. I just think it’s funny, thinking of the producers sitting there reading the book like “Dan please… calm down…”

Overall, I found the book quite enjoyable, and it was when the mystery began to get more complex and the tension began to build that Brown’s eye for the finer details of mystery really came alive. For the most part, it’s a very fast-paced book with stabs of witty humour here and there to keep the reader entertained. I’m glad I’ve read this before Da Vinci Code, because I feel that I would have been more critical in comparing the two, but as it is, it’s a great novel for those looking for a nice little mystery to get the mind working.

PS This post is Illuminati confirmed 😉

Rating- 7/10

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