86 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2000
Harvard professor Robert Langdon and CERN scientist Vittoria Vetra have just one night to prevent the Vatican from being destroyed by an antimatter bomb. Can they do it? Of course. But the fun lies in how and why.
A sample of antimatter has been stolen from physics center CERN by the Illuminati -- the all-powerful group made so famous by Robert A. Wilson's books. Here, they are represented as being an ancient order of scientists upset with the way the Church has treated science and scientists. (Me, I always liked the bankers-as-secret-force or blood-relatives-of-Jesus explanation of the Illuminati, but this will do.) This provides for plenty of science vs. religion conversations, and Brown does a good job with them.
ANGELS AND DEMONS is a fast, but satisfying read. It rolls along unstoppably, not the least of which because the action takes place over a 24-hour span. Even if -- as I did -- you guess what's really happening half-way through the book, you'll never guess what happens in the last 40 pages.
The book is laced with fun facts about electing a pope and the Vatican, like that St. Peter's bones are not in the golden casket in St. Peter's Basilica, but two stories under it. Brown knows the layout. And that the artist Raphael's last name was Santi. He also knows how marble statues were carved. Brown's no Irving Stone (THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY), but he does manage to inform without being pedantic.
As Vittoria and Langdon race around Rome, we get quite a tour, with great descriptions. (Pick up a paperback copy next summer and bring it to Rome. Take the Brown tour.) What's interesting is that all the places and pieces of art in this book really exist. So Brown has played a version of the Sherlockians' Great Game by linking them all with his "history" of the Illuminati and their doings. No small feat.
Several of the plot elements have to be taken with a grain of salt. First, there is the fact that everyone in this book is absolutely amazed by amibgrams (these are words which can be ready the same upside-down as right-side up -- the book's dust jacket has the title in ambigram). They play an important role in the story, and everyone who encounters them is practically struck dumb the fact that even exist. They "seem utterly impossible." I guess no one else in the story (including symbol expert Langdon) remembers that OMNI magazine ran an ambigram contest in the 1980s and published dozens of the thousands of entries they received, I imagine that by now there must be a software program or web site that can make them for you (and make an acrostic that spells out your girlfriend's name). In short: they aren't that amazing. Then there are things like the fact that Vittoria (a physicist) isn't familiar with the classical four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Come on.
Great literature? No, but you sure keep turning the pages to see what happens next.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2004
Given that there are over 1,000 reviews, this one will likely get lost in the shuffle. However, while never having written a review before, I feel like I have to speak out on _Angels & Demons_.
The good: a real page turner. The novel is like a drawn out Schwarzenegger action film with a lot of over-the-top science and twists. It is certainly a fun ride, as long as you leave your brain disengaged.
The bad: I worked at CERN for 6.5 years. My daughter was born as the Hopital de La Tour about 3/4 mile from the main campus. I know the area well. Dan Brown has apparently never been to CERN, even though it plays a very important role in the novel. There were so many impossibilities involving just *travelling* to CERN in the first several chapters that my wife and I were howling with laughter. (e.g. Driving 170 kph to get from Geneva's airport to CERN is a near impossibility, given that it is mainly urban streets with a LOT of traffic! I bought my second car at a dealership right next to the airport ... providing an idea of how urban this area truly is. Plus CERN is only 10 minutes from the airport anyhow, driving at normal speeds.) The CERN that is portrayed in the novel is far more exotic and enticing (and full of money) than reality. Frankly, the real CERN with its budget problems, old industrial buildings, and eccentric scientists is much more interesting.
It really struck me as if Mr. Brown got all his CERN "facts" from a web site, and did very little in the way of checking these (such as making a simple trip to visit or at least talking to some high-energy physics professors, grad. students, or post-docs to sanity-check his portrayal of the very famous research facility).
Given such big slip-ups on CERN, I can only wonder on the other "facts" that are presented in the novel (and are displayed prominently on Dan Brown's web site). Mr. Brown seems to have taken basic, isolated "facts" and then presented them as far far more than they truly are. Most worrisome is how many readers seem to believe in Mr. Brown's extrapolations, and Mr. Brown's own discussions of the implications of these "facts" in interviews.
In the end: definitely a very fun book to read, even with the questionable research. Note that this sort of novel (big historical conspiracies) has been done much better by Umberto Eco in _Foucalt's Pendulum_, which has much more philisophical discussion (ala P.K.Dick!) on the nature of history and reality.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2006
Why does Dan Brown keep doing this? For such a talented storyteller to so thoroughly drop the ball when it comes to character, dialogue, and simple realism is only slightly forgivable. Why is it forgivable? Because aside from all the irritation you feel (if you speak Italian or understand Latin) at the language absurdity and the historical and timing inaccuracies, it is still a fun read.
Angels and Demons deals with an ancient group known as the Illuminati and some rather farfetched plots involving religious symbols and anti-matter. While the notion is very intriguing, the details are irritating.
The characters have terrible dialogue. Nobody speaks like this.
The amount of distance these people cover in the short span of time went far beyond suspension of disbelief. Usually I can quell my disbelieving tendencies in the interest of finishing a good, well-paced story, but I found myself thinking, "How could they possibly make it over two miles in such a short amount of time?"
The science is iffy.
The way Langdon makes these intuitive leaps to solve ages-old mysteries is far beyond possible.
However, the story is fun and the action is nicely paced. There are some nicely done twists.
I just wish Dan Brown would learn to stop trying to fabricate textbooks while writing his stories. He needs to just stick to storytelling.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2004
As he did with his more recent book, "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown sets forth in "Angels & Demons" an enticing story that promises exceptional suspence and entertainment. However, the book doesn't hold up. Half way through you sense that Brown spends as much time explaining the improbability of the story as he does telling it. He also bores the reader with blunt and distorted justification for the story in over-stating the tension between religion and science. Although it starts off as an alluring adventure, it ends up dragging under its own weight to an inglorious halt. Brown's ending is arbitrary, unlikely, and injected with cheap thrills. The story becomes so far fetched that you needn't finish reading it. It seems as if Brown - unable to deliver a satisfying ending - spent five minutes making one up. The reader could just as well do the same.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2004
Actually, I'd give this 3.5 stars. Mr. Brown knows how to write a page turner. He really does keep it interesting and you really do want to find out what happens next. Thus, a high ranking for the story.
However - and perhaps I am being a snob here - in some places I almost gagged. Here are some examples:
1) When walking through the hall of a scientific laboratory, Mr. Langdon encounters some black and white photographs of particle collisions. Langdon acts surprised: Modern Art? he mused. Jackson Pollock on amphetamines?
These are relatively common images. A man of Mr. Langdon's intelligence has never seen one of these? Just go to the science section of any bookstore and you'll see many of them. That and the cheesy comments meant to show wonderment caused points to be lost.
2) Vetra's lab was wildly futuristic.
This is just bad writing. Read that sentence over. And over. And think about how really, really bad it is. This isn't the only sentence like this one.
3) Here's another: God, Buddha, The Force, Yahweh, the singularity, the unicity point - call it whatever you like - the result is the same. Science and religion support the same truth - pure energy is the father of creation.
Meditate on that one a bit.
Mr. Brown chose this as fiction for a reason, as he freely admits. This book contains some truths but far too many conjectures (presented as fact; see #3 above) and a lot of wishful thinking. It is for this reason that I laughed out loud instead of being enthralled in many places.
I suppose my biggest reaction to this book is his sermonizing. It is quite obvious that he uses his books as a platform to espouse his views which, of course, he is entitld to do (as we are entitled to critique it). He espouses a worldview that would suck the life out of both science and religion and would lead to a rather bland stew that is mostly broth.
The reference to Leon Lederman's The God Particle on the bookshelf of one of the scientists shelves at CERN is somewhat ironic. Mr. Lederman, former director of Fermilab (whose work is similar to that of CERN referenced in this book), dissects the logic and fallacy of using science as proof that religion is saying the same thing.
Same facts, different conclusions. Mr. Lederman may acquiesce to a degree but he basically deflates the lofty claims; Mr. Brown supports the claims whole heartedly. Same story, different ending.
The idea that science proves what mystics have always known and that the power structures of organized religions are seeking to suppress this truth is a clever way of getting out of participating in religion at all (see I'm sermonizing too!). And the whole secrecy of the Vatican thing is just plain outdated. Catholic bashing went out with the Dark Ages (though it is an easy target).
And the ending. Oh, man. Over the top doesn't even touch it. Mr. Brown's wet dream is probably as close as we get. Catch the obsession with 'the man with the tweed jacket' (what, no one wears tweed anymore?) and you'll see what I mean. Boring professor becomes man of action.
On a positive note: the symbology and whirlwind tour through Rome and Vatican City make the journey worth taking.
All that being said, at least people are talking openly about this stuff. But keep in mind, this is FICTION.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2004
Angels and Demons is a thoroughly gripping and exciting book. I finished the second half in one sitting - at work - and I still feel like I just came off a theme park ride.
However, I can't call it a good book. The plot is somewhat overwrought and the writing is very cliche'd - of course the first description of the heroine finishes with a mention of her breasts, and sometimes it seems like every decision is accompanied by a childhood flashback offering a full motivation. It's like a mainstream Hollywood action movie: even if the plot is not always predictable, the outcome is, and so are the heroes. And as far as literary style goes, I found Grisham (another "movie" writer) to be at a far higher level.
Ah, and accuracy. Brown starts his novel with a page explaining that the illuminati, the locations in Rome and CERN really do exist, leading me to expect some reasonable accuracy of his research in the rest of the book. Unfortunately, at least where CERN and physics are concerned, the facts pretty much end at this first page. This left me fealing misled, and even a little bit cheated. On the other hand, some of the physics that Brown alludes to literally had me in stitches, so it wasn't all for the worse. And please - disproving an Einstein theory as a sign of brilliance should go on any elementary author's list of cliches to avoid once and for all.
Angles and Demons is great read, but don't take it as anything more than it is: an very thoroughly exciting pulp thriller.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2004
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Angels & Demons', and would recommend it as a good read. It's a gripping novel, with a rich plot and strong characterization. I'm no conspiracy buff myself, but I must admit I was intrigued by the subject matter of ancient brotherhoods, betrayals and bloody vendettas, and I really admire the way Dan Brown mixes historical fact with conspiracy-theory speculation.
However, as I read this novel, I couldn't help but feel that the plot was somewhat predictable. Maybe this is because I read 'The Da Vinci Code' (TDVC) a short while back: the two plots are virtually identical. In that novel we have a world-renowned expert in an obscure field, at a prestigious institution, who is brutally murdered in what appears to be a ritualistic manner. His protege daughter and Rob Langdon unravel the clues and symbols. There is betrayal from a trusted ally, a mysterious man yielding immense power and a lackey who is tricked into doing the dirty work. Now if that doesn't also sound like the plot for 'Angels & Demons' then I don't know what does!
I saw all of the twists and revelations coming and this did take some of the enjoyment away. Even if you haven't read any of Dan Brown's other novels, I still think you would be able to predict the plot because the pointers are too crude. For example, the identity of Janus is obvious from the moment Rob Langdon reminds us that this is the name of the two-faced Roman God: we know a huge betrayal from a man of God is around the corner.
My last criticism - which equally applies to TDVC - is that Dan Brown likes to weave Italian (French in TDVC) into the speech of all the Italian-speaking characters. Personally, I find this a little off-putting because it has the effect of turning the characters into Inspector-Clousseau-type caricatures.
Nevertheless, this novel is definitely worth a read!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2010
As a student of religion, especially its Roman Catholic manifestation, I find Dan Brown's work to be a guilty pleasure. "The Da Vinci Code"? Don't even get me started. But against my better instincts I picked up "A&D," just to see what Brown's earliest work was like.
OK, so I enjoyed the book. Spanning the Western Hemisphere from Boston to Geneva to Rome, the book is a whirlwind of action, chases, puzzles and romance. Brown masterfully creates a world in which half-remembered groups, like the Illuminati, can emerge to menace civilization.
But Brown's mistakes are both legion and legendary! It baffles me that he could not have hired some college kid for a couple of weeks to fact-check his text. I'm not complaining, like some, that his mystery gadget -anti-matter -- can't be created in the amounts that Brown asserts. I'm talking about basic stuff like having a priest talk about how Jesus suffered on the cross for three days, not three hours, Or that the rocket ship - which he invents to get his characters from place to place in minutes to foil the bad guys' 24-hour deadline - could hardly stay secret when it is landing at a large American airport. Or that St Peter's Tomb is actually open to the public (not locked under a grate). And the inconsistencies are unbelievable! Robert Langdon, his hero, is a Harvard symbologist, conversant in the minutiae of world religions, but has never heard of pranayama yoga! He solves centuries old puzzles in minutes. And the Swiss guards seem completely incapable of securing a crime scene or preserving evidence. At one point, they even carry the naked corpse of an important personage out of a church and dump it in a car trunk. Haven't they ever heard of body bags in the Eternal City? Most ludicrous of all, to a person who lives in the Boston area, is the assertion that Langdon, woken out of a sound sleep, unshaven and unpacked, could drive from Cambridge to Logan airport in 20 minutes, even at 5 in the morning.
It would take so little for Brown to become a decent writer. His utter lack of research and basic fact-checking will ensure that while his novels sell millions of copies, he will never be considered a good writer. But, goldarn me, I am eying his "Deception Point." I must be mad.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2006
It is like a train wreck in that you cannot put it down. But, Brown's writing is really sophomoric. I guess that says little about my taste since I could not put it down. It reads very fast. I read it in a few days and I did not have a lot time to read at any given one time. The plot twists are good. I thought I had it figured out and then he threw in a screwball. The so-called facts in this book are anything but, so please don't take Brown's word for the art. Look it up yourself most of the descriptions are even wrong, but he has poetic license because this is not a non-fiction book. Therefore, the Catholic and religious right have nothing to get worked up about. It is a book people and it is fiction. Remember the Blair Witch Project and how the movie's creators tried to turn that movie into a factual account of killings in Maryland? Well, it was all a big marketing scheme to sell more tickets. Brown is doing to same thing with Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. This is a good vacation book, but please don't lose your faith over it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2003
Brown has written a fun and interesting thriller-one which combines science fiction, history and religion. This is the kind of book you should bring to the beach or on a plane-it's a quick read and will keep your interest until the end.
When a scientist/priest is murdered under strange circumstances, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of iconography, is called in to explain the mysterious symbols carved on the dead man's body. Langdon notes that the symbols referred to the Illuminati-a heretical group which has battled the Catholic Church...but the Illuminati have long since disappeared...or have they?! Langdon sets out to discover if the Illuminati are still active and if they are behind the murder.
You won't be sorry you read this-my only complaint was a minor one (as an historian of science, I have to point out that science and religion are not and have not always been in diametric opposition to one another