Title: Angels & Demons Author: Dan Brown Genre: Modern Thriller
(Warning: possible spoilers; I've woven some analysis in here as well)
Before I start, I want to say that this book is amazing. If you have any interest whatsoever in fast-paced modern thrillers, technology, physics, art, symbology, science, religion, the Illuminati, history, or the Catholic Church, you should read this book. In fact, even if you don't have any interest whatsoever in any of those topics, you should read this book.
When I was reading the children's book Loamhedge by Brian Jacques last week, through every page my mind kept blaring out the black and white, Good v. Evil allegories present throughout the entire novel. It's been quite a few months since I'd read a Jacques novel, and this year has been an amazing one of literary growth for me (in a personal sense). A good friend pointed out to me the signature Jacques black and white several months ago, and this second-to-latest Redwall novel was my chance to check it out.
In Angels & Demons, however, there is not one space to call out in objection, or to criticise on some petty point. In fact, if there's even a moment to breathe in the plot that progresses at warpspeed with mind-bending turn after another, it is only to pause and give thought to the horrific reality and plausibility that Brown weaves into his heavily factual tale, or to give a cursory glance over the weighty issues that the novel brings to light. Never have I seen a thriller that talks about such forbidden subjects without obviously offending one group or another; in fact, even among the company of non-thrillers, it does an incredible job of not being heavily biased to one side or the other. Each side is credible.
From the first page, this book had caught my attention. Suprisingly enough, Brown can be quite funny at times; this certainly caught my attention from the start and drew a few odd looks from the seriously-titled book to my nearly falling from my chair in laughter (okay, so that happens a little more often than with some people).
The book is jam-packed with historical details and facts, making it obvious that Brown spent quite a bit of time and resources into researching the material needed to write it. In fact, I think that learned more from reading the book once (it took three days, with school/a trip to my grandparents) than I've learned in a single class in an entire year, and in a much more amusing light.
The language is intelligent but not difficult to read, which opens the novel to a wide audience. Brown also incorporates a fair amount of actual language in the foreign languages seen; I had quite a good time mentally pointing out the similarities between Italian, German, English, Spanish, and French. It certainly lends a much more realistic atmosphere when the character shouts out "Grazie!" than "Thank you!" (in Italian). Brown does, however, sell to his obviously English audience by repeating afterwords in English, though in a way that blends seemlessly with the flow of the story.
Brown's clear understanding of both sides of the battle of science versus religion shows itself well in the novel, and gives arguments for both. I had the reasons for my (closet) atheism spelled out in front of me, plausible reasons given for the belief in God at the same time as science, and also combinations of the two. There was no clear right or wrong given. Brown brings up the issues, presents the arguments, tells the story, and moves on. In fact, until the very end of the story, I was convinced that the story was going to be sympathetic to religion, but it turned out that it wasn't. There is so much room for personal reflection and choice, which I myself need to regroup and finish doing.
Altogether, the information that I have gleaned from the book has given me a new respect for history, academics, and scientists, and an understanding of the arguments of those on the side of the Church (for the enlightenment of my flamboyant liberal self).
Having an open mind is a great thing. This is a worthy read for any who wish to say that they possess such.