After all the furore about the Da Vinci Code a few years ago, I felt it was time to read it properly (I had attempted a few chapters before..) and see what the fuss was about. First, however, I turned my attention to Angels and Demons, this being the prequel to Da Vinci. A number of people had assured me it was actually a better book but having only just begun The DV Code, I cannot yet make comparisons..this I will say, however: the basic plots are quite similar so far, following a rather James Bond like adventure, although replacing the suave Bond with the more grounded Robert Langdon. I think I will write an Angels and Demon vs. Da Vinci Code post eventually but for now….Angels and Demons!
The major theme here is the ongoing conflict between religion and science with wizened scientists coming up against equally wizened cardinals, and Vatican City finding a new competitor in CERN (a giant physics lab in Switzerland which is well worth a google) in the fierce debate about creation. Brown does not paint a simple black and white scenario here, though, with many characters, such as the first victim, a priest who is also a physicist, pulling beliefs from both sides. Brown’s novel caused me to conclude that no matter what we believe in, the point is: we need to believe in something. This is emphasised by the fact that even the cold blooded killer of Demons and Angels holds strong beliefs, certain that his killings are for a greater cause.
Robert Langdon, all tweed jacket and Harvard intelligence, finds himself pulled from his bachelor pad and lecture halls, to investigate a murder at CERN, which then leads him on a whirwind chase around Rome and the Vatican. Brown amazes us, as much as Robert(!) with the high tech gadgetry of CERN and even of the Vatican. Toss in some crazy villans, an attractive younger woman and a few near impossible escape stunts and you have James Bond…professor style. Langdon unravels the mystery using his deep knowledge of symbology and art history, but this by no means dampens the spirit of adventure. Langdon himself has to be the most sympathetic character and he rings true, perhaps, because he is somewhat modelled on Dan Brown himself. It’s just a theory but Brown is a smart guy with an interest in art history and Langdon is a smart guy with an interest in art history….
Whether you read Dan Brown novels for excitement or education, however, you will find yourself picking up the most amazing facts, methodically researched by Brown, who is careful to state at the beginning of the novel that certain parts are, indeed, factual. The amazing setting of the Vatican is built up in our imaginations as Brown reels off one mind blowing fact after another. While the novel could simply be a vehicle which Brown uses to show off his insight into papal affairs, among other things, in this case, the facts and stats add to the story and move it along, allowing us to share Robert Langdon’s wonder and awe.