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Monday, September 21, 2009


In Which I Read a Dan Brown Novel

Jeff is busily absorbed in The Lost Symbol, which is fulfilling his need for Washington, DC-based thriller fiction. While he is absorbed in the book, he suggested to me that I read Angels and Demons, the follow-up to The Da Vinci Code.

I have purposefully never read The Da Vinci Code, maintaining an insufferable sense of superiority over all that have. There are plenty of kitschy, trashy, uber-popular things I enjoy, but every once in a while, some perverse portion of my ego decides to, like the anti-Nike, just not do it. Thus, I have never seen Titanic, and I have never read The Da Vinci Code. And I have never seen an episode of either Real World or Road Rules. If I could go back and become selectively deaf, I would also have never heard the Macarena.

But okay. Angels and Demons is a different book than The Da Vinci Code, so I figured I could read it without losing all of my snob street cred. And I have to have something to entertain myself with while Jeff is absorbed in The Lost Symbol, and while I have plenty of Very Important, Very Heavy, Very Complex books to read, let's face it. It's the end of summer. I work hard. I just want some giant potboiler to skim while drinking tea and basking in the declining, autumnal light.

So, I began to read Angels and Demons. My first few observations.

1) Each chapter is about 3 paragraphs long.

2) The typeface is very big. There is a great deal of space between lines.

3) Dan Brown likes to give you the brand names of the material objects that the characters interact with. This is not helpful to me, in the sense that it does not describe them to me at all. Telling me that "Robert Langdon drove away in a Saab 900" is the same thing as telling me that "Robert Langdon drove away."

4) Foreshadowing so heavy it coulda been a contenda. I mean, sentences like "little did he know that this information would save his life later that night." !!

5) Similarly, characters making ridiculous statements to the effect that certain things CANNOT BE HAPPENING, even though they clearly are. Robert Langdon assures himself and various characters about 3 dozen times in the first twenty pages that the Illuminati are gone and they left no forwarding address! They don't exist! Except they must, or we would not be in this giant book. Hello!

6) The book proceeds along the assumption that the reader is an alien from another world who, but for his ability to read the English language and recognize brand names, has no knowledge of science, history, etc., etc. Thus, the book explains things you would think most people would know or even be able to guess. Like the hashish-->hassassin-->assassin progression. Along these lines, characters are constantly giving each other information as a service to the reader, and which is pointlessly inessential to their actual interactions. For example, when speaking to the head of CERN about historical clashes between scientists and the Vatican, the head of CERN is unlikely to need to be told Galileo's last name, or to have you throw in some backstory about the sun, in order to know which Galileo you're talking about.

8) Villains of villanous villainy. Dan Brown villans make Lord Voldemort look as morally complex as King Henry VIII. All you need to know about Dan Brown villains is that they are swarthy and bad. So bad! Their badness is perfect, like a smooth globe made of Badadium, the scientific substance from which all badness is born. It has an atomic weight of evil, and was banished from the periodic table by a grand jury of Nobel Prize winners after it tried to assassinate the noble gases.

I will doubtless have further insights as the novel progresses.

posted by Reen |link| 6 comments

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