Thursday, October 11, 2012

Angels & Demons - Dan Brown

I certainly did not think I would be posting again this soon.  What a lucky day for anyone out there actually reading this blog.  Finishing books somehow always takes me by surprise, as if I was not aware the end was only a few pages away.  Kevin and I traveled a lot over the past month and wanted to pick up something to pass the hours in the car. If you remember, our last audio book adventure taught us about the world of legal drama.  Kevin tends to need something very action-packed to keep his attention, so when I saw this Dan Brown work on the shelf at our library, I knew it would be a good bet.  I have read Angels & Demons multiple times; I believe this was my third or fourth time experiencing Robert Langdon's first adventure.  Other than complaints about the length (we spent 18 hours with this book!), Kevin liked it and I have convinced him to let me read him other Dan Brown works post-wedding.

For anyone thinking they are unfamiliar with Dan Brown's work, I promise you are not. This is the author who gave the world the controversial The Da Vinci Code.  In that novel he tackles the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.  His most recent work (2009) titled The Last Symbol, he explores Freemasonry in America.  Angels & Demons, published in 2000, centers around the relationship between religion, science, and conspiracy as Vatican City is threatening by an antimatter bomb stolen from CERN by the ancient secret society, the Illuminati.  Brown maintains a fast pace throughout the entire book.  No one loves a plot twist more than Brown and he proves it time and again, even turning the story completely on its head in the very last pages of the book.

I very much enjoy Brown's writing.  I know there are plenty of people out there whole complain that his writing lacks polish or finesse.  True, perhaps, but if you are looking for an adventure novel, Brown knows what he is doing.  His work ties real history and art with conspiracy theories and action.  It is no wonder that our culture celebrates his writing - he is writing the quintessential blockbuster novel.  I would argue that his writing does, in fact, have depth.  Brown does not fear attacking a controversial topic (Da Vinci Code, anyone?).  In Angels, he spends a lot of time examining the Catholic church and its slow cultural progress.

The crux of the book really extends far beyond cardinals in danger or a pending explosion.  At the heart, Brown brings a discussion about the relationship between science and religion - and if one even exists.  Since basically the beginning of time, these two have wrestled for control of the human mind.  Brown refers back to the days of the Renaissance, but I believe it could be argued that the earliest clash of these two titans came around the time of Noah's Flood.  That is a topic for another day, though.  Brown definitely chose the two extremes (CERN and the Catholic Church) to represent each side of this debate.  It seems hard to imagine the Vatican joining hands with scientists or vice versa.  This culture of division that we live in has created a resentment between the camps and, along with that, the belief that faith and science cannot work together.  However, Brown's ultimate message is to argue that the two can not only coexist, but work in harmony.  This is such an interesting concept considering how controversial this is in our reality.  Yet, I think that Brown has strength in his argument.  While there is science that crosses moral boundaries, most science allows us to know more about the world God has given us and to live better and more educated lives.  Still, the tension remains.  At one point, the camerlango points out to the hero that the Devil used to fight with witchcraft and evil that was easily identified.  In modern times, he fights the faith by convincing us it is irrational.  So true.  There are many moments throughout the book where Brown interjects the action with personal insight such as this.  If you are paying attention, these moments can really cause you to think.  And isn't that what reading is all about in the first place?

It is not only Brown's philosophical insight that can be gained from his works.  He clearly has researched extensively and it shows.  The history which fills the pages, particularly pertaining to art, is incredible.  I genuinely learn something new about the past every time I read his books.   In Angels, the hero Langdon spends the pages racing around Rome on an ancient scavenger hunt, using Bernini's sculptures as his guide.  The amount of detail necessary to portray this convincingly staggers the reader.  It becomes difficult to believe that Brown created a fictional story around pre-existing art and did not manipulate the art to fit his story.  Yet, the works are all real and stand today in Rome.  Believe it or not, if visiting Rome, you can take The Official Angels & Demons Rome Tour and see all the works mentioned in the book for yourself.

Now, I realize that Brown is a controversial author.  There are plenty of people out there who would never even read his work because of the stir it caused when The Da Vinci Code came out.  We will deal with that book another day.  Today, however, I would really encourage you to read Angels & Demons,if you have not already.  It is not only an entertaining read; it is an educational one.  And, as you are reading, if you come across something that offends you or seems repellent to what you believe, stop and think about it.  Why is it offensive and is your reaction based in truth?  Books that cause us to think about what we believe or about the place of faith in the modern world have value.

Pages: 496
Date Completed: October 10, 2012


  1. Reading through some of these old reviews and noticed this paragraph: "He clearly has researched extensively and it shows."

    I felt the need to comment because I vehemently disagree with that. Dan Brown certainly claims that all of his works are highly researched (References to all works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture in Rome are entirely factual (as are their exact locations)), but he makes blatant errors in order to create his own history and conspiracies. Nevermind that most if not all of his physics is wrong. The locations and descriptions of the Scientific alters in the book just do not match reality. There is certainly pre-existing art, but there is also an unreal amount of manipulation in order to fit his story.

    Having an entire paragraph extolling the historical research behind what are essentially blatant lies is just really bothersome to me.

    1. Brown certainly manipulates some things; I won't disagree with you on that point. As a writer of fiction, he has that right. I also agree that he does it in a way which can be deceptively believable since he mixes in so much truth. I do, however, stand by my belief that he has done a lot of research. It would be simply impossible to write this type of book without researching the art and the history behind it. Brown does know a lot about his subject. He has to in order to make it believable to his reader. Does he sometimes stretch the truth to amp up the suspense of this fictional conspiracy? - absolutely. But isn't that what this genre of "historical" thriller is about?

    2. You have a good point. Brown certainly has done a level of research before he starts (clumsily in my opinion) manipulating everything to fit his story. His stories just stand out to me because of his great insistence that everything if factually correct even though cursory research disproves his claim. If Brown never made that claim, he would not bother me so much.