I wandered, stunned, about the flat for, hell, I don’t even know how long, just making little shrugging motions and small sounds of bewildered distress while my girlfriend laughed at me for it. It’s hard to know what to say about Angels And Demons, except it repeatedly made me very angry and inspired moments of outright hilarity and occasional disgust at the blinkered idiocy of the man responsible for it. I’m not going to go on at length here, but the few observations I feel the need to make will be prefaced by a wonderfully succinct comment from a linchpin of the World Literature Forum to save me some time:
Angels & Demons, of which The Da Vinci Code is a structural facsimile…
~ Stewart, a wise Scotsman
Yeah, it really is – and the news that Brown’s next work is another twelve hours and counting thriller suggests that the same will be even more true of The Lost Symbol than it was of TDVC. Sod the plot, anyone who doesn’t know what that is these days is probably a happy victim of locked in syndrome. The “science” which everything is based on is laughable, as are the “Facts” the book is once again prefaced with. The characterisation is no better than before; Robert Langdon remains little more fleshed out than a weak cloud of testosterone, apparently only there to provide a man-scented back up for some chick who has a real connection to events, while Brown continues failing to articulate the back stories of his mental population other than by trotting them out as foregrounded flashbacks, invariably tagged on as a revelatory coda to whatever powerful experience we have just watched them have. The usually awestruck dialogue is mostly risible and the various details of the climax manage to be considerably more outlandish and just plain stupid than even in TDVC. That alone is quite an achievement, but maybe the trend suggests that by the time he’s published his twentieth novel Brown will be telling a story that won’t demand open ridicule from anyone who has read a real book once.
What I object to specifically is Brown’s thinly veiled and quite offensively ignorant bigotry. I’m not shy about my religious disbelief, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subjects of having and not having one, but Brown’s notions on this topic are pathetic in a special way. Utterly contrary to any semblance of ordinary reality, he presents all scientists as mouth-foaming God-haters, people who explicitly celebrate the death of a pope and consider all the brainless faithful as beneath contempt. I’m not saying that these points of view don’t exist, but to consider them the norm is far from the truth – I assume for most science-oriented individuals the varied social trappings of religion fall more in the indifference category. Admirable works of art to be sure, but little in the way of borderline blood-lust.
So, from the perspective of an atheist I find this more than a bit annoying (to say nothing of how easily Brown’s unbelievers seem to be swayed from their position…); but I am also aware that many scientists are perfectly comfortable compartmentalising their personal faith and any potentially contradictory scientific discoveries (so too modern religious people generally) and were I one of them I’d be be feeling pretty damn patronised as well. Brown’s depiction of all or nothing antagonistic beliefs is universal, with the religious presented in an opposing but equally inflamed state of science-directed revulsion – but to be frank their side is also shown far more sympathetically, particularly in the strong implication of post-mortem forgiveness and even success bestowed upon the villain. After masterminding a plot of multiple murders and kidnappings with the goal of rejuvenating belief in and establishing the primacy of Roman Catholicism, the closing passages give the clear implication that this is exactly what has been achieved – if I may quote:
Across the world, churches overflowed. It was a time of reflection and discussion . . . in all religions.
~ Dan Brown, who is neither wise nor Scottish
There is more, but all this is overwhelmed by the crashing triviality of the closing chapter, specifically the final sentence of the entire book. I must now descend a level or two for a moment to use appropriate language. Angels And Demons is fucking shit – and, by some margin, worse even than The Da Vinci Code. There are crapper books than this, but few so effortlessly insulting.