Author: Dan Brown
Book Review: Angels and Demons
Angels and demons, Robert Langdon’s first adventure, 569 pages. Extra: Before THE DA VINCI CODE was broken, the world lay at the mercy of ANGELS AND DEMONS.
Published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., in 2000, New York.
“For Blythe…” (his wife)
Dan Brown, author of Digital Fortress, Angels and Demons, Deception Point and The Da Vinci Code. He lives in New England. Dan Brown is a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent his time as an English teacher. His wife Blythe is an art historian and painter, and she helps him with his research.
The cover of the book shows the Saint Peter’s Basilica (designed by Ric Ergenbert) and an image of a man running (designed by Thomas Hoeffegen)
The book is a thriller, with a big influence of art and history
The Catholic priest Leonardo Vetra has a dream: he wants to end the endless discussions between religion (The Catholic Church) and science, by removing the differences (like the creation of the universe). Vetra is also physicist at Switzerland’s well-known Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN). Recently, he has discovered how to produce antimatter. This is a very important discovery because antimatter is produced out of nothing. Pure energy is transformed into antimatter. With this theory, he can proof that the church was right when they say that God created something out of nothing (“let there be light”). Before he can announce his findings, Vetra is found murdered, and his chest is branded with the word Illuminati, and one of his eyes is cut out of his head.
CERN’s director, Max Kohler, tries to keep the knowledge of Vetra’s death from the media, but wants to know the significance of the brand and the missing eye. Kohler finds that a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, is considered to be the world’s authority on symbology. Kohler has Langdon flown to CERN’s headquarters so he can question him. While Langdon is at
CERN, Vetra’s daughter, Vittoria Vetra, returns from a trip. Informed of her father’s death, Vittoria feels pushed to explain the dilemma her father faced with his discovery. Vetra had realized that although antimatter was a potentially cheap energy source, its improper use could lead to mass destruction, like nuclear energy now. Vittoria discovers that the large sample of antimatter has been stolen. A message left by a member of the Illuminati (an ancient secret brotherhood that fights against the Church) claims to have deposited the sample somewhere within Vatican City, where the cardinals have recently gathered to select a new pope. Vittoria explains that it is necessary that the stolen antimatter is recovered within a day to avoid detonation, because the batteries of the canister (in what the antimatter is stored) only last for 24 hours. From now on, the race has started. Langdon and Vittoria try to find the canister by finding the man who placed it. They find him by following the “path of the Illumination”, a secret path made out of 4 statues (the “altars of science”) that point out the direction. Each statue represents one of the four elements air, water, fire and earth. But the Illuminati terrorist doesn’t stop after one act: every hour, starting at 8 o’ clock, one of the four preferiti (the favourites between the cardinals to be elected as pope) is killed under a statue on the path of illumination. From now on, they not only have to find the antimatter, but they also need to thwart the murders. They don’t succeed in stopping the murders, but in the end, they find the Illuminati lair, where the terrorist is hiding. They kill him. Afterwards, they go back to the Vatican. The camerlengo knows suddenly where it is, but when they have it, it’s too late to bring it to CERN. The camerlengo and Robert then go into a Helicopter chopper, and fly as high as they can. They let the chopper go higher, and they both jump out of it. Langdon survives, and on the ground he and Vittoria discover the truth about the whole situation. It appears that the camerlengo has been the task maker for the terrorist, and that he has set up the whole plan. The camerlengo, once he finds out that the truth has come out, burns himself on top of St. Peters Cathedral. After all these events, we go to a new day, later. A new pope is elected, and Robert and Vittoria have survived all the horror, and enjoy a vacation in Rome.
The book is divided in chapters, and with almost every chapter change, the author changes of protagonist. E.g. in the first chapter, the protagonist is Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor, but in chapter 3 the protagonist is the hassasin (the terrorist). There are no flashbacks, but from time to time, because the protagonist changes, the reader gets to know more than the overall protagonist Robert Langdon.
The book is written in an authorial he-point of view, with changes of who the author “follows”. The reader knows as much as the protagonist (depending on which point of view).
The story is situated in Geneva and Rome (and in the beginning also in Massachusetts). The time in wich the story takes place is about 24 hours. The book starts at 5 am and ends shortly after midnight.
The main character is Robert Langdon. Langdon is a professor of religious iconology at Harvard University. He has written three books on symbology. He lives in a Victorian house. His house looks more like an anthropology museum than a home. He is forty yeas old, and has an “erudite” appeal. He has thick brown hair with wisps of grey, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong carefree smile of a collegiate athlete. Langdon still has the body of a swimmer, a toned, six-foot physique that he maintains with fifty laps a day in the university pool. His campus nickname “The Dolphin” is a reference both to his affable nature and his legendary ability to dive into a pool and outmaneuver the entire opposing team in a water polo match.
The second character is Vittoria Vetra. She’s the (adopted) daughter of the murdered scientist Leonardo Vetra. She was doing biological research in the Balearic Sea when he was murdered. She is a Bio Entanglement Physicist: she studies the interconnectivity of life systems. Her actions ties closely with her father’s work in particle physics. She looked nothing like a bookish physicist. Lithe and graceful, she was tall with chestnut skin and long black hair. Her face is Italian, not overly beautiful, but possessing full, earthy features that even at twenty yards seemed to exude a raw sensuality. She’s a strict vegetarian and CERN’s resident guru of Hatha yoga
Another character is Maximilian Kohler. Kohler is the director general of CERN. He is known behind his back as Konig (=King). It’s a title more of fear than of respect for the figure who ruled over his property from a wheelchair throne. Although few know him personally, the horrible story of how he became crippled is well known at CERN, and there were few there who blamed him for his bitterness, and also for his dedication to science. He was a man who kept his distance. He has an almost computerized voice. He is a bit sick, and has dead grey eyes.
Other less important characters are: the hassasin (a terrorist who works for the illuminati, little is known about him, except that he is of eastern origin) the Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca (who is the substitute of the pope in the period between the pope’s dead and when the new pope is elected), Cardinal Mortari (the later pope) and Commander Olliveti (the highest in rank at the Swiss guard office).
The theme of the book is the everlasting twist between religion and science. The illuminati are an ancient brotherhood of scientists who want to break the power of the Church. In the early beginning, the illuminati only wanted to be free to do what they want to do: searching for answers, even if those answers are not the one of the Church. But now, the have become more violent: the want to destroy the Catholic Church by blowing up Vatican City. If the bomb explodes, the people will lose there faith in the Church because if God does exist, he wouldn’t let it happen.
There has always been a twist between religion and science, but not this hard. Leonardo Vetra has found a way to reunite them, but the illuminati don’t want it. They want the complete destruction of the Church.
Style, language register
The book is written in rather simple English, with certain scientific words. The story in the book is about science, religion and symbology, so the author uses specific words. For example, the story starts with the discovery of antimatter. To explain what antimatter is, you have to use scientific words, like “positrons”, “antiproton decelerator”…etc.
“The world’s largest scientific research facility –Switzerland’s Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) - recently succeeded in producing the first particles of antimatter. Antimatter is identical to physical mat¬ter except that it is composed of particles whose electric charges are opposite to those found in normal matter. Antimatter is the most powerful energy source known to man. It releases energy with 100 percent effi¬ciency (nuclear fission is 1.5 percent efficient). Antimatter creates no pollution or radiation, and a droplet could power New York City for a full day.
There is, however, one catch...
Antimatter is highly unstable. It ignites when it comes in contact with absolutely anything . . . even air. A single gram of antimatter contains the energy of a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb—the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Until recently antimatter has been created only in very small amounts (a few atoms at a time). But CERN has now broken ground on its new Antiproton Decelerator—an advanced antimatter production facility that promises to create antimatter in much larger quantities. One question looms: Will this highly volatile substance save the world, or will it be used to create the most deadly weapon ever made?”
Comparison with “The Da Vinci Code”
I also read The Da Vinci Code, another book of the same author (Dan Brown). The theme of both books is almost the same: they both talk about religion and its opponents. In Angels and Demons, the opponents are the Illuminati or, more in general, science. In The Da Vinci Code the opponent is the Priorate of Sion. As the story continues, Robert Langdon gets to know things by interpreting symbols. In the Da Vinci Code, they need it to find the Holy Grail, and in Angels and Demons to follow the path of illumination.
Another big significance is that Robert Langdon solves the mystery with the help of a woman. In the Da Vinci Code (Sophie Neveu) and in Angels and Demons (Vittoria Vetra), the woman is the daughter of a murdered professor. Both books begin with the murder on this professor. Also, Langdon gets good advice of a man, who helps them to solve the mystery. In the end, they aren’t the one who they seem to be. In The Da Vinci Code, the man is called Teabing, and in Angels and Demons Carlo Ventresca.
Appreciating the book
I really enjoyed reading the book, because it reads very fast. Because the tension in the story never ends, you don’t want to stop reading. I also like the fact that the book is based on scientific facts: some things look like science-fiction, but they really do exist (like antimatter, the x-33 space plane which can travel at a speed of mach 15…). That makes the book this interesting. I already read the Da Vinci Code, but at my opinion, Angels and Demons is better. I like book of which you can learn things on a very interesting way (not school books). I’m thinking of reading another book of Dan Brown, just because the other ones were very good. Another interesting thing in the book is the use of ambigrams. Ambigrams are words written in such a way, that you can read them normally, but also upside down. E.g. the title of the book (see front page), the Illuminati diamond…etc.