Sunday, 23 February 2014

"Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown - Review

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Title: Angels and Demons
Author: Dan Brown
First Published: 2000
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 620 
Genere: Suspense Thriller
Source: Borrowed (Library)
"Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand." - Camerlengo Patrick McKenna
Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon is woken at night to help investigate the death of physicist Leonardo Vetra who was cruelly murdered and branded with a symbol of an ancient brotherhood - The Illuminati. Initially deemed extinguished, this brotherhood stole a canister of antimatter, an undetectable explosive which is now hidden somewhere in the Vatican, the headquarter of the brotherhood's oldest enemy.
At the same time, as the catholic church prepares for the election of a new pope, the four top candidates are abducted with the message that every hour one of these cardinals will be publicly murdered until, after the last one has been killed, the antimatter will destroy the catholic church for good.
Langdon, joined by Vetra's daughter, the beautiful scientist Vittoria, chases through Rome on a trail layed by the Illuminati themselves out 400 year before in an attemt to saved the cardinals and find the antimatter before it is too late.

I mean... Just look at him.
I remember when I was about eight and driving to visit my aunt, my parents had the brilliant idea to listen to the "Angels and Demons" audiobook while driving and obviously not considering which effect it could have on a eight year old girl and her six year old brother. I couldn't sleep the night after and I had nightmares for the next few days, I was so scared.
Now I'm twice as old as I was then and I watched the movie during my christmas break. I liked it very much partly because of Ewan McGregors splendid acting and looks so I decided to reappraise an old childhood trauma and read the book.

The prologue starts out with describing Leonardo Vetra's death which is, as the other deaths in this book, written very spot on, detailed, brutal and disgusting.
After this shocker of a prologue the book moves on into the very pleasant environment of the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire better known as CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research. The descriptions of the CERN really made me kind of sad that I'm more of a chemist and not a physicist because really, the CERN sounds awesome and the research project Vetra was working on sounds just as fascinating, totally believable described very well, with scientific background, theory etc. and I'm a sucker for that sort of stuff.
I liked Robert Langdon from the beginning. He's a Harvard professor and former swimmer, so he's intelligent and fit and he doesn't know a bit about physics which makes him sympathic for me. Plus his Mickey Mouse watch adds the last bit of charme.
The then entering Vittoria Vetra is every bit as lovable as Langdon, a scientist, nice figure, yoga master, disproved one of Einstein's theories with tuna. I was really fond of her, too, although she was maybe a little bit too perfect.
 About at the middle of the book it becomes really exciting and, in my opinion, the very definition of a suspense thriller. I frustrated me so much that I wanted to throw the book through a window or tear it into tiny shreds but at the same time I couldn't because I couldn't put it down. Sometimes it got really disgusting or so exciting that I had to take a break beause it all became too much for me but after thirty seconds it was back in my hands again.

My favourite part of the book is when the camerlengo breaks conclave (a huuuge scandal) and then holds a speech infront of the cardinals and a TV-team about science and religion, stating that science is the new god, because it can answer almost all question, but reminding not to discard or neglect the church since it adds wonder and hope to life. One line I want to put into this review - because it really is something to think about:
"Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. The church consists of a brotherhood of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control." - Camerlengo Patrick McKenna
It shows that the church really doesn't want to patronize people, but support them.
On another occasion the Camerlengo also offers a pretty good explaination as to why god is allowing misery like wars and famine if he is a benevolent god. The Camerlengo is pretty kickass and I openly admit that he got me interested in religion again, after swaying a little bit.

The whole book was accentuated with interesting facts and information of the catholic church, the history of the brotherhood, the associated artists and pieces Vittoria and Robert encounter on their way.
The Illuminati really existed/exist, that is for sure and the churches and places Brown described exist too, just in the way he writes it, but of course I don't know if they are really part of a secret path leading to the church of illumination. Anyway, Brown definately did some great researching on those churches, he probably visited all of the locations the way they are described and he makes the idea of that trail totally believable.
Also, towards the end there are two plot twists. I don't wat to give anything away but that they are veeery surprising and it stays exciting till right to the end.

Having read the book now I had to reevaluate my opinion on the movie: I still think it was pretty good, I still love Ewan McGregor it's just ... It could have been so much more. On some points it deviated pretty much from the book, for example: The brandings, the vatican's gift for Langdon, the commander of the Swiss Guard etc. (Sorry that's pretty vague, I don't want to spoiler anything)

 All in all I loved the book, the plot twists and the well researched scientific and religious background; and can entirely recommend it to everyone, except faint hearted people. There are pretty violent deaths described in this book and the descriptions do get pretty disgusting some times, if you have a weak stomach or are easily triggered, this book probably isn't for you.

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