My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Dan Brown’s first book featuring Robert Langdon, Angels & Demons, has many flaws but the critique I’ve seen most often in reviews is about the inaccuracy of the facts contained in the novel. I wouldn’t know about this but to those critics, I say: Why are you looking to fiction when what you are seeking is fact? The role of fiction is not to relate facts but to reveal truths. And, hopefully, to entertain. Despite its many weaknesses, Angels & Demons does both. While the writing style is far from brilliant, the story is compulsively readable and it stays with you long after you’ve put the book down.
That being said, Brown stretched out many scenes far too long, often repeating ideas and feelings. I feel like the novel could have been 200 pages shorter, which would have worked to make the timeline more believable. The final 20 minutes of the countdown, for instance, lasted nearly 100 pages and contained far too much action to be believed. And still the story went on without the famed symbologist, Langdon, making the connection with the most important symbol of all (insert eye roll). As for Langdon himself, I felt that Brown was trying to create some sort of academic James Bond. There was the attractive young woman in distress that he puts his life in danger to help; there is the pointless final scene between them in the hotel room; there is plenty of far-fetched action, and there’s the cheesy dialogue. The dialogue, I believe, is the weakest stylistic aspect of the writing. Mercifully, the story doesn’t require all that much dialogue. My biggest critique, though, is of Brown’s apparent lack of faith in his readers’ intelligence. Often he felt the need to spell out ideas and feelings and actions that frankly were pretty obvious. Either he didn’t believe the reader could figure it out for themselves or he lacked faith in his own ability to make it clear. Either way, his explanations only impeded the flow of the story.
Despite these issues and despite the fact that I figured out who the main bad guy was almost as Robert and Vittoria met him (again, based on the symbol that Robert apparently chose to ignore), Angels & Demons is a face-paced, entertaining read that succeeds in revealing truths and provoking deep thoughts. It may take a mind more open than that of some of the characters to see the truths spoken by both sides of the science vs. religion argument. And it definitely takes an open mind to accept a lot of the far-fetched scenarios in the story.