About the author: Dan Brown was born on June 22 1964. He grew up in the US, in the small city of Exeter in New Hampshire. His father being a Presidential Award winning math professor and his mother being a professional Christian musician, he was raised in a home where both science and religion were equally important. This has probably influenced him writing “Angels and Demons”, and also “the Da Vinci code”
After graduating from Philips Exeter Academy in 1982, he moved to Hollywood, LA, to become a songwriter. He soon realized however, that this wasn’t his “thing” and he went to Seville to study art history. Later on, in 1993 he returned to New Hampshire and was hired as a teacher at his old school. He taught literature, and analysing books and novels probably prepared him for writing his own stories. An episode at the school inspired him to write his first thriller, and “Digital Fortress” was published in 1996. After that he wrote “Deception point” and “Angels and Demons” before he published his most famous novel – “The Da Vinci Code” in 2003. It sold astonishing 6,000 copies on its first day on the market in March. At the end of 2004 it had sold over 12 million copies internationally!
Short summary: 5 o’clock in the morning the professor in religious symbologi, Robert Langdon is woken up by a message from the director of CERN (a European institution for particle research). His name is Maximilian Kohler, and he tells that one of the most prominent scientists at CERN, Leonardo Vetra has been killed in a brutal way. Kohler faxes Langdon an image of the naked, murdered man lying on his back, with his head twisted 180 degrees facing the ground. His chest has been branded
with a mysterious symbol.
Robert instantly recognises the symbol as the mark of an ancient cult -the Illuminati. It is a so-called ambigram; it reads the same both ways. Kohler needs his help and within an hour and a half, Robert has landed at CERN after a Mach 15 flight in the prototype plane, Boeing X-33. He finally meets with Maximilian Kohler, and gets a brief tour of CERN as he is guided to the scene of the crime, Leonardo Vetra's own lab. Then Leonardo Vetra's daughter, Vittoria, arrives and together with Kohler they go down to Leonardo Vetra's personal research facility. Vittoria, a scientist herself lectures them in their recent breakthrough in production of antimatter, a highly unstable material that explodes in a most harmful way when in contact with matter.
The barely visible, but extremely destructive antimatter is contained in the exact centre of a transparent canister the size of a tennis ball, suspended in mid-air by magnetism. The storage room supposedly containing an even larger amount of antimatter has been broken into, and they find the canister is missing.
At the same time in Rome, the ancient Vatican ceremony called conclave is taking place. It occurs every time a Pope dies, with the main objective of selecting a new one. Only a week ago, the recent Pope passed away, under suspicious circumstances, and now, the four preferiti, the cardinals most likely to win the election, are missing, most likely kidnapped.
Vatican City receives a bomb threat featuring the stolen antimatter canister. The Swiss guards responsible for the security in Vatican City are watching the canister’s LED screen on a stolen security camera. It’s hidden somewhere inside the Vatican, but they can’t figure out where. The screen displays the amount of time until detonation - 6 hours. A wild hunt through the churches and ancient history of Rome has started. Robert and Vittoria have to follow a 400 years old path, made by Galileo Galilei, through Rome, trying to track down the old brotherhood Illuminati who apparently is to blame for everything. They must find the canister before it is too late, or the centre of Christianity will perish..
Structure: The book starts by a one-page exposure of what’s to come. It starts right on the action, and later on we learn that this scene is one of the most important incidents of the whole story. From there on the story is told chronologically as the happenings take place. They’re not told from the present tense however, but rather as a “looking back” point of view (he said, they did..) There are also parallel happenings. The story jumps back and forth between different people, that way we are always updated on what’s going on in different places.
Point of view:
The book is told by a narrator who’s not himself part of the story. Usually I would prefer it being told by the 1. person to make it more personal, but if the “I”-perspective had been used in this novel it would be nearly impossible to have the parallel happenings and keeping track of everything going on would be really hard. You get a much better overview of the action when it’s told the way it is.
The narrator is objective, not favouring anybody, just telling the story as it is. It leaves it for the reader to make up his or her own opinion of the actions, and who is to blame, as it tells us the story from both “sides” at the same time. Some people are described more close and vividly however, and there is no doubt who the main character is. Most of the time we follow Robert Langdon and we wouldn’t know more about him if he told the story himself. The narrator has access to his thoughts and we get to know everything he thinks and feels. That way we also keep a personal view on things as the thriller advances.
The setting is very realistic and has to be to tell the story right. It describes today’s world, Switzerland, CERN, Rome, and Vatican City.
“Angels and Demons” begins in Robert Langdon’s home in the US, but the description of the setting here is minimal. It only takes a few pages before Langdon is on the plane heading for Europe. He then arrives in Switzerland. The first environment that’s actually described is that of CERN. It’s like a small country on its own, a society of scientists working and living inside the research facility. This is where we’re presented to two of the most important characters in the novel, and CERN remains as a sort of foundation or “base” throughout all the events. The problem originally came from CERN and it is also people from this institution that have to sort it all out.
As the book progresses, Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra flies to Vatican City to help trace the Illuminati, and the Vatican and Rome remain the most important setting during the rest of the novel. Their hunt for the canister leads them throughout the streets and ancient churches and chapels of Rome, not to mention its attempts to rewrite much of the religious history of Catholic Christianity. At the end the action is located in and around st. Peters basilica and we learn about its history and structure. During the whole story it’s included interesting facts and “inside information” from the Vatican and CERN. The setting is really important, and you get great deals of knowledge from reading it. The chain of events in the book would be far less interesting to the reader if he or she didn’t have enough background information, so Dan Brown has included accurate descriptions of the character’s surroundings and about the setting in general.
It seems the story is set around present time, maybe a few years into the future, based on the scientific breakthroughs.
Robert Langdon, who is the main character, is a world-renowned Harvard symbologist, who enjoys long hours in the swimming pool. He is a well-trained and supposedly attractive man in his mid fourties, who has worn the one and same Mickey Mouse wristwatch since his childhood. In “Angels and Demons” he is contacted by CERN because of his knowledge about the secret, old brotherhood the Illuminati, but it turns out his knowledge in many other areas is equally important. He is really smart and brave and highly respected by his students at Harvard.
Vittoria Vetra is the daughter of the murder victim, Leonardo Vetra. It is the two of them that find the revolutionary way to produce antimatter. She is also a scientist, or as she likes it, a Bio Entanglement Physicist, studying the interconnectivity of life systems. She is tall with chestnut skin, long black hair, and an Italian-looking face.
Leonardo Vetra: Murder victim, CERN physicist, catholic priest. Wanted to proof by particle physics that genesis was scientific possible.
Maximilian Kohler: Director of CERN.
Carlo Ventresca: Camerlengo (Papal Chamberlain)
Commander Olivetti: Head of the Swiss Guards and the security in vatican city
Saverio Cardinal Mortati: Member of the college of cardinals and participant in the papal election. Responsible for organizing the conclave.
Captain Elias Rocher: Member of the Swiss Guard; assistant of Commander Olivetti.
The Hassassin: Killer hired by the Illuminati
Gunther Glick: BBC reporter
Chinita Macri: Glick's videographer
Lieutenant Chartrand: Member of the Swiss Guard
Theme: The theme of the book seems to be that science and religion are two sides of the same story. The bible talks about God that created good and evil, warmth and coldness etc. Everything has an opposite. In the same way, matter is the opposite of anti-matter, and for all we know, there may be solar systems just like ours consisting of antimatter. By creating matter out of nothing, as Leonardo Vetra did in the book, genesis was proved possible, and the extreme energy in all things that can be released in contact with their opposites (matter and antimatter) may be looked upon as a life force that can't be equalled.
It is not clear whether the theme is that science proves God, or that science is God, or if the author is just trying to create debate and propose a different point of view on religion and traditional thinking. In another book by Dan Brown (the Da Vinci Code), he shows that he’s open for new theories on Christianity. He comes up with some really interesting thoughts that sound like they may actually be true, but he’s been categorized by many to be anti-Christian. He questions established things in today’s world and does it in a very interesting and entertaining way. He brings up the ancient conflict between science and religion, and somehow brings it to war, somehow settles it. I think the theme also is to educate and make people more aware of how much interesting history we have.