Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review - Angels & Demons (book)

Angels & DemonsI approached Angels & Demons having already read DaVinci Code and enjoying it. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but suspected some sort of religious conspiracy plot coupled with treasure hunting puzzle solving to save the day. That's exactly what I found, but the result was much more stunning than I expected.

While critics argue that Dan Brown isn't destined to be categorized as classic literature in years to come, he presents us with a gripping, suspense filled story that kept me turning pages as fast as I could. The format was interesting in that he generally set up a small chapter for each of the major players in the plot such that in the span of 5 pages, you could have 3 or 4 chapters each spinning the plot on its head.

Aside from Robert & Vittoria, most of the characters felt fairly flat (until the last few chapters when the charmelengo (sp?) and Kholer gained some added depth). Still, each character had enough depth to keep the story progressing and make their actions believable. Some of the quirks & depth that Brown used to present backstories felt a little painted on at times as I turned through numerous sections of flashbacks, but they were still presented well and helped add variety and depth to the story.

What I liked most was the fast paced story with it's intriguing and well-researched treasure hunt. The frantic action felt more believable in this book than it did in DaVinci. The underlying terrorist plot (in Angels)felt like a more compelling impetus to action than the threat of arrest or an impending discovery (in DaVinci). Even so, I kept having the nagging feeling that somebody else in the past few hundred years would likely have stumbled upon the clues or people Langdon was following. I think it was that feeling that helped me swallow the ending a little more.

As to the ending (without spoiling it for anyone), I really liked the way it was played out. Brown did a great job of throwing red herrings in the path again and again to keep me guessing. Even through the last 50-100 pages, things were changing or being revealed so rapidly that I felt myself caught up in the same excitement that the characters were feeling. It was great.

My main complaint about the book was the length. Approaching 600 pages felt a bit steep for the "pulp fiction" novel I had been expecting. Even with all of the intrigue and depth of the conspiracy theories and historical background, there were times that I glanced at how many pages I had left and got a little disheartened and hoped it would wrap up sooner. At the same time, as I look back I can't think of any scenes or segments that I would rip out whole-heartedly and shrink the book size. Perhaps some of the flashbacks could have been shorter or excluded, but even without those, we'd probably only lose a hundred pages or so at max (and that feels like a very optimistic count). Truly every chapter helped build the suspense, mystery and excitement and kept me thoroughly engaged.

Overall, this was a VERY fun read and I enjoyed reading it much more than I did DaVinci Code. DaVinci felt rather slow in many spots, so much so that I felt like I was reading a history textbook a few times. Angels & Demons still included segments of historical narrative, but they were more compact and effective and didn't really detract from the pace and plot of the novel. I still enjoyed the ideas explored in DaVinci, but as a story, I found Angels & Demons a much more engaging read.

3.5 stars (out of 5)

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