Book Review of Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, Bk 1)

Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, Bk 1)
reviewed 4 out of 5 stars. on + 18 more book reviews

Dan Brown's prequel to the Da Vinci Code started out promising to me. It combined the ancient brotherhood of the Illuminati, modern and ancient Catholicism, CERN (A European organization for Nuclear Science), and the moral implications of science as a whole in one book. Being raised in a family of devout Catholics it had much appeal for me.

The great thing about the book is that it gets right to the point on the first page when you read the prologue. A Physicist/Priest named Leonardo Vetra is murdered in his home inside CERN's research facility located in Geneva. When a suspicious brand proclaiming the word Illuminati is found on on the body's chest our unassuming hero Robert Langdon enters the picture. Langdon is a Harvard professor of Religious Iconology and is called in by CERN's director general Maximilian Kohler. Kohler is introduced as a physically frail man with an awe/fear inspiring ironclad rule over the entire facility. As the author introduces us to the Physics aspect of the book which is important considering the obstacle our main characters it gets a little dry and I found myself wanting to skip it but decided not to because I thought it was probably important.

Langdon does a great job of giving us an "Illuminati for Dummies" lesson however so we knew just a few pages in exactly who we as the reader are dealing with. This is important because the fanatical man we know only as the Hassassin committing these murders has been hired by the Illuminati (The Illuminati being one man calling himself "Janus" in the modern representation of the brotherhood.) to remove Vetra as a threat to the society because he proved the Big Bang Theory to be possible thus plausibly leading people to religion again.

We meet up with Vittoria Vetra, Leonardo Vetra's adopted daughter and fellow scientist, right about the time Langdon has been given his tour of the facility and has seen Vetra's body. She comes off at first as a grieving daughter, but as a character I found her slightly annoying in the beginning only because the author's emphasis on how sexy she was took away the seriousness that the character's father was murdered, had his eye cut out, and been branded across his chest. The gravity of the situation should have taken precedence over the way she walked and how her hair smelled. We were supposed to be left in horror at this point and wanting to find answers. She does redeem herself later in the book though and I did find myself liking her after my initial reaction.

When Vittoria leads Langdon and Kohler through her father's laboratory, we find that a canister of antimatter has been stolen which holds enough power to level Vatican City and some surrounding areas of Rome. Time is ticking down as the canister only has 24 hours of battery life before the antimatter loses it's magnetic field holding it in place inside of the canister before it drops causing the explosion. A call comes in that locates the missing antimatter somewhere inside Vatican City where Il Conclave is about to begin, the Catholic Church's ritual for the election of a Pope that takes place 15 days after the previous one dies. With the antimatter located (somewhat, we still have to find the canister itself inside of Vatican City) our now unassuming heroes Langdon and Vittoria are on their way to Italy.

The last main character of the book Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca was now introduced to us. The camerlengo is a position inside the Catholic church appointed to the personal servant to the previous Pope to reside over the office until the conclave of cardinals is finished and a new one is elected. Immediately he comes of as a refreshing breath of air given all Langdon and Vittoria has went through simply in the acts of reaching the office of the Pope.

As the storyline progresses from here, you sometimes wonder if Langdon is Superman or just a Harvard Professor. Several superhuman feats on spur in of the moment situations with no military or survivalist training makes you do sort of an eye roll from time to time but the book redeems itself simply from the fascinating story it tells based on facts of history. Brown was well informed and the realistic quality (besides the aforementioned) was there. It provides a history lesson with a twist.

The ending though surprising, left me disappointed. I have to admit I was rooting both as a former Catholic and a reader for poor old Carlo. The thought of a young and sympathetic Pope even had me cheering for the church a bit after the sometimes harsh but true representation of them in the book.

Without giving the ending away and ruining it for the reader I can not say more in this review but all in all, if you take it for the fascinating history, science, and Catholicism lesson that it is with the few very minor flaws the characters have, it's a wonderful read and at 600+ pages it's a great way to spend a rainy weekend.