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Thanks to the success of Dan Brown’s latest book, The DaVinci Code, his earlier works are getting a second glance. Angels and Demons is the second of his oeuvre, and where we first meet Robert Langdon.
Harvard professor and religious symbologist Langdon is awoken one night by an urgent phone call demanding his presence at the CERN (Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire) in Switzerland. In a few hours’ time he is there, and he learns of the reason for the call: the Illuminati is back, and has killed one of CERN’s scientists. Oh yeah, they also stole a specimen of what the scientist was working on before his death, which turns out to be a highly unstable globule of antimatter.
The Illuminati, a scientific cult said to have penetrated every aspect of society, is often thought of as satanic because of its stand against the Catholic Church. This idea is again brought up when the antimatter is discovered hidden somewhere in Vatican City. Is this a problem? Well, yes, when the canister suspending the antimatter in air expires at midnight. Coincidentally, all the highest-ranking Catholics are currently in Vatican City, preparing to lock themselves inside St. Peter’s and elect a new pope.
Due to his knowledge of the Illuminati and Rome, it becomes Langdon’s job to piece together the clues and find the canister before it is too late. He is joined by Vittoria, daughter of the murdered scientist, who also helped develop the antimatter canister. Together, along with the aid of the Swiss Guard, they race around Rome in an attempt to save Vatican City and all those inside.
Probably the best part of this book is the massive amount of information Brown presents us with; no doubt the result of endless hours of research. However, once he steps outside of this area, the story falters. I wanted to find out what happened, but I felt I didn’t care about the characters themselves, especially after Brown insists on making a love match between the two main characters.
In the end Brown does not decide whether science is right or if religion is the correct way of thinking. He makes sure to present the argument on both sides, letting the reader decide their own views. While science can be argued as hard facts, religion… well, let me just quote the scientist’s daughter Vittoria here:
Holy scripture is stories… legends and history of man’s quest to understand his own need for meaning. I am not asking you to pass judgment on literature. I am asking if you believe in God. When you lie out under the stars, do you sense the divine?
This book is certainly intriguing when it comes to the ideas behind the basic plot, and it is written so that even the less philosophy-inclined can understand it. It is also a quick read with short chapters, so even if you end up not liking it, you won’t have invested too much time. If you do like it, be sure to get Brown’s other books. The DaVinci Code is currently in hardcover, and Digital Fortress, Brown’s first novel, has been reissued in paperback.
Author: Dan Brown