In the sequel to “Angels & Demons“, out hero Robert Langdon inadvertently becomes accused of the murder of the Louvre curator, and has to team up with the curator’s granddaughter to solve the mystery of his death. Without giving away the plot, suffice it to say that it is a long and well plotted Grail quest liberally sprinkled with ghosts from the past of Western civilization.
Like its prequel, this is an exciting and engrossing read. Much has been said about Brown’s “extreme” interpretations of historical anecdotes, fact and legends, but in my opinion he has just used poetic license to great effect. Unfortunately, the book suffers from the same lack of depth as the prequel. It is one long chase from one breathless climax to the next. If it hadn’t for the background of historical mystery, I doubt this would have become such a bestseller.
The story is mainly set in Rome. A mysterious new weapon of mass destruction stolen (ok, maybe not so mysterious to SciFi buffs). A plot to destroy the Vatican. An ancient conspiracy. Signs and portents everywhere. A well rounded and intelligent hero. A spectacular climax.
I went in expecting a good thriller, but this book hooked me. I couldn’t put it down, and described it to someone as “literary crack”. The imagination displayed by Dan Brown in the creation of his intricate plot is nothing short of astounding. The way he weaves in real historical facts and artifacts to create suspense and thrills is a rare gift. This books also contains the best treatment of the science vs. religion debate as a theme since “Contact“. The downside of the novel is that it is too weighted towards being a page-turner. Despite the subject matter, there seems little depth to the narrative, which serves only to carry the reader to the next exciting situation.
One thing that annoyed me is that Brown should have let an Italian proofread some of his brief conversations in that language. He is never totally off the mark, but sometimes it just sounds wrong.
NASA discovers a meteorite in the Arctic ice pack. It holds a wondrous discovery. But does it? Rachel Sexton, daughter of a the presidential challenger, is caught up in a web of conspiracies while she races to find the truth.
Did the last paragraph sound like the blurb for an over the top action novel? That’s because this one is. Dan Brown is fine at creating intricate plots full of action and suspense. This time, however, he went way too far. So much stuff is just “too much”. He has an annoying tendency to get people out of sticky situations with deux ex machina. The right tool or idea for the job seems to pop out of thin air just as it is needed.
I dislike it when authors state in an introduction that all the technologies described already exist, then write military technicalities in completely inaccurate ways. Case in point: The Delta Force operatives int he book are painted as inhuman robots who never talk about a mission after they have performed it. Really? No after action reviews? That seems absurd. There are plenty of other examples where the tech just seems a bit too “neat”.
Part of the central premise of the story itself, that if NASA were disbanded and lost its monopoly private contractors could undercut by factors of two or three, seems quite implausible to me. If nothing else, NASA only has a monopoly in the USA. If NASA is so protected by legalities, why aren’t space companies simply shipping their operations abroad? In conclusion the book is a semi-decent diversion but not much more.