I recently took an Associated Content assignment to write a book review for a New York Times Best Seller Paperback Fiction listed book. After reading the latest NY Times lists, I decided to write a book review on Dan Brown’s book ‘Angels and Demons’ for two specific reasons. One, I already owned the book so didn’t have to buy a book in order to write a review. Secondly, I hated ‘Angels and Demons’ the first time I read it so I was interested to see if I still hated it the second time through.
If you haven’t already read ‘Angels and Demons’ the synopsis is this. Robert Langdon a professor of religion at Harvard University is awoken early in the morning by a telephone call from Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN. CERN is actually a real organization – the European Council for Nuclear Research – and is the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. Kohler tells Langdon that he needs to come to Switzerland to look at something and faxes him a photograph of a dead scientist with the word “Illuminati” branded on his chest. Thus begins a storyline filled with historical intrigue, secret societies, the Vatican and its power and wealth, the hatred of some in the science world for religion and vice versa, and murder. A chase throughout Rome for a serial killer and the whereabouts of a new-age bomb that could completely destroy Vatican City adds to the intrigue.
In fact, if you look at just the components of the story, you could be lead to think Angels and Demons is an interesting book that would hold your attention, while teaching you something about history, secret societies, religion and science. This couldn’t actually be further from the truth. Just like The Da Vinci Code, which I actually read after Angels and Demons, (most people seem to read The Da Vinci Code first), Dan Brown uses literary license to create fabrications and sometimes outright lies about people, places and history. His ‘poetic license’ when it comes to famous historical figures like master sculptor Bernini is actually absurd. He uses famous statues and sculptures that Bernini created to link the sculptor to the Illuminati. What’s absolutely ridiculous about this though is Bernini actually lived more than 100 years before the Illuminati even existed.
Many people have also criticized Dan Brown’s ‘Angels and Demons’ for its inaccurate use of the Italian language (it’s just plain wrong in certain sections) and for talking about anti-matter (the substance used to create a bomb) as being an energy source. In ‘Angels and Demons’ a scientist at CERN is supposed to have created anti-matter as use as an energy source. In real life, CERN has come out on several occasions to say this isn’t possible as you use more energy creating anti-matter than you would be able to get off the anti-matter once it was in existence. Numerous other inaccuracies about the locations of famous Italian works of art, and scientific ‘realities’ also make the book an incredibly annoying read.
One of the biggest mistakes Brown makes in the book though is to credit CERN with creating the Internet. The World Wide Web was actually created by a scientist at CERN. The Internet was invented by a branch of the US Department of Defense.
Overall though, it’s not just these glaring inaccuracies or outright lies that make ‘Angels and Demons’ so irritating to read. It’s also the amateurish quality of Dan Brown’s writing. There’s lots of ‘eyes blazing like an inferno’ and ‘her body shuddering back to life’ – best suited to a Mills and Boone romance rather than a scientific thriller. Then, add a hero who is a complete idiot (four cardinals are murdered, Langdon is at the scene of every murder before the cardinal is killed and doesn’t manage to save any of them), and it was easy for me to add this book to my list of the worst books ever written.
If you like a relatively fast-paced story with some mystery to solve, you might enjoy ‘Angels and Demons’. Dan Brown has been successful because he’s been read by readers who like an interesting story but don’t know the first thing about good writing. For me, even if the writer isn’t particularly good, I can get over that and enjoy a book that’s fun. ‘Angels and Demons’ though wasn’t even fun. Just a stupid exercise in fabrications and lies, with an ending that is so unbelievable I could barely get through it. As I’ve now read two Dan Brown novels and ‘Angels and Demons’ twice, it’s very unlikely I’ll ever read another Dan Brown book. Not unless he learns to check his facts and takes a writing course. Maybe then I’ll consider it.