Angels & Demons

Normally, the rule here is that I don’t diss authors. Someday, I might be in their shoes (if you dream, dream big) and I’d probably like it if people kept their critique of my work constructive and refrained from pointing and laughing. Today, I… well, I won’t go as far as breaking my promise to be civil, but I am going to be opinionated. Luckily, the guy in the line of fire is a Big Name, has likely heard this type of thing before and with the amount of success/money he has, I doubt he’ll be terribly wounded if he sees this.

I’m reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown this week and a little over a third of the way in, I’ve developed A Problem. I read The DaVinci Code this summer and had a blast. A pure rollercoaster thrillride that had me reading compulsively wherever I went, breathlessly trying to keep up. Reading it on audiobook (vs. actual book) was alternately making me happy because if I were reading it as a book, I’d have skimmed to get to the next chapter(s) and missed a bunch of details and frustrated because I couldn’t handle the suspense and desperately needed to skim. Much as I enjoyed the story, I wasn’t a big fan of the author’s writing style – I’m all about the words. An elegantly turned phrase or perfectly composed sentence can make me all woozy with wanting to grovel at the writer’s feet. Mr. Brown may be a fantastic storyteller, but he… er… um… is not the best wordsmith I’ve ever read.

(a wee sidetrack into my not-so-favourite soapbox: A good editor is invaluable in making a book the best it can be. However, I get the impression that once an author reaches a certain level of success, the editors can become lazy. When millions will buy an author’s grocery list, why spend a lot of time on a manuscript? I’ve seen it happen before. Why won’t someone say “er, dude? Great book, fantastic story, edge-of-my-seat. Now can you just do another polish and tighten it up a bit? It’s a little wobbly here, here and here”. Thank you. Now back to my original gripe)

I feel like Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code are the same template with different decorations slapped on top. I should mention that I’m only a little over a third into the book and I will cheerfully eat my words if I change my mind by the end of it. Warning: if you haven’t read these books, stop now. There may be spoilers ahead.

Both storylines have many things in common. For instance:

Beautiful intelligent woman of traditionally sexy country of origin (French, Italian)

Crippled smart guy. Yes, I use the term ‘crippled’ deliberately. Brown seems to use disability an outer manifestation of inner nefariousness. It remains to be seen whether the director of CERN is just a nasty human being or whether he’s with the black hats

Preternaturally talented assassin who doesn’t know who hired him, but is slavishly devoted to the task. Hired and controlled by:

Mastermind of mysterious origin

Secret cult in opposition to Catholic church, with major ancient founder/player a Renaissance artist (DaVinci, Galileo)

Gruff bastard of an authority figure

Police officers known by animal nickname (The Bull, Bear, Viper)

Really cool library

Trail of clues leading to religious art with secret meaning


There are also good things about the books, lest I be accused of being a grump. With both, I’m learning new things – I find myself looking up historical figures, artwork and other things as I’m reading and I like that a lot. Both stories are compelling, but “light” and entertaining enough that I can do other things while listening without missing much of the story (ok, so that’s one benefit of the somewhat pedestrian language).

And now for my biggest beef. In Angels and Demons, Robert Langdon – a professor of “religious symbology” - is an expert in the Illuminati. A year later, he’s an expert in the Priory of Sion and the divine feminine. I know how long it takes to become an expert in an academic field and A YEAR won’t do it. Yes, yes - “suspension of disbelief” and all that. Sure, maybe this is all some remnant of my academic years and ambitions, but could you at least skirt reality??

Danny-boy? Yes, I know I sound like your mom, but I’m about to say a very mom-like thing. You can do better. Your stories are intricately plotted, well-researched and you are very good at pacing. Practice some character development, give in to your inner language slut and find a new editor. Please.


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