ANGELS & DEMONS (Robert Langdon #1)


First Publication: 2000

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction

Language: English

Setting: There are two major settings in Angels and Demons. The first is the Vatican and its surrounding sites of Catholic worship in Rome; the second is CERN, Located in Geneva, Switzerland,  a scientific counterpoint to the Vatican.

Major Characters:  Vittoria Vetra, Robert Langdon, Maxmillan Kohler, Leonardo Vetra, Gunther Glick.

Theme: Angels and Demons is built around a number of paired/opposed forces (Science Versus Faith, Passionate Dedication Versus Obsession, Public Versus Private)  that wind through the novel as they do human society and human history.

Narrator:  third-person omniscient. The narrator is reliable and trustworthy. The chapters shift focus from character to character, allowing the reader to see what multiple characters are doing at relatively the same time.

Book Summary

Angels & Demons brings an ancient secret organization, the Illuminati, and the Vatican together in a present-day battle for control. Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon must join forces with scientist Vittoria Vetra in a frantic race to save the Vatican from a powerful bomb which threatens to destroy it and the cardinals who have gathered within the Sistine Chapel to elect the next Pope. Their journey takes them across Rome and into cathedrals, secret archives and the Illuminati lair. Along the way, they uncover many secrets, including who is responsible for the threat to the Vatican. In the end, they save the Vatican and the cardinals from harm.

Langdon is summoned to Switzerland when it is discovered that an Illuminati brand was used to mark a dead man’s chest. He meets Vittoria, the dead man’s daughter, and Maximillian Kohler, the director of CERN, the Conseil Europyen pour la Recherche Nuclyaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research. Vittoria and her father have created a sample of antimatter, a highly unstable material, which has been stolen. They receive a call from the Vatican, stating that they have an unknown canister with CERN’s logo on it. Langdon and Vittoria race to Rome, only to find that the canister endangers not only the physical structures there but also the College of Cardinals, who have gathered to elect a new Pope. Four cardinals are also missing.

The camerlengo, who is in charge of the Vatican until a new Pope is elected, receives a call from someone who claims that the Illuminati are behind all of the actions that night. He says that he will kill one of the missing cardinals each hour. Langdon and Vittoria think that if they can capture the killer, they can find the location of the antimatter. They find an ancient booklet which points to four sites called the Altars of Science. These sites form a pathway to the Church of Illumination, the Illuminati lair.

At each site, Langdon and Vittoria find one of the dead cardinals, branded with another Illuminati brand. The cardinals are killed in ways that correspond to the four brands: earth, air, fire and water. Vittoria is captured by the killer at the third site. Langdon continues to follow the clues, fighting with the killer at the third and fourth sites. He finally locates the Church of Illumination, and he and Vittoria kill the Hassassin, or killer.

Kohler arrives at the Vatican, saying that he has information. Langdon believes that he is behind the plot. Kohler is killed in the camerlengo’s office, but he gives Langdon a tape before dying. The camerlengo has been branded. He seems to have a vision from God and rushes from St. Peter’s Square into the basilica, returning with the canister of antimatter. He and Langdon climb in a helicopter. As time runs out on the antimatter canister, the camerlengo jumps from the helicopter. Langdon also jumps, although he does not have a parachute. The antimatter explodes high above Rome.

The camerlengo glides down to land on top of St. Peter’s Basilica. People worldwide believe that a miracle has occurred. Langdon lands in the Tiber River and is taken to a hospital. There, he discovers the tape from Kohler. He takes the tape to the Sistine Chapel, where the College of Cardinals is set to elect the camerlengo Pope. The tape contains a recording of the camerlengo admitting that he planned everything in order to bring people back to the church. The camerlengo lights himself on fire. The Vatican asks Langdon and Vittoria to keep quiet about what really happened that night if they feel that this is right in their heart.

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Character List

Leonardo Vetra – a physicist at CERN and a priest.

Robert Langdon – a forty-year-old Harvard symbologist.

Maximilian Kohler – a discrete particle physicist serving as director of CERN.

The Hassassin – a highly trained killer.

Janus – the Illuminati’s spy in the Vatican.

Vittoria Vetra – Leonardo Vetra’s adopted daughter and an insightful physicist.

Sylvie Baudeloque – Kohler’s secretary at CERN

Commander Olivetti – the commander of the Swiss Guard

Captain Elias Rocher – the Swiss Guard’s second-in-command, nicknamed “orso”

Lieutenant Chartrand – the youngest member of the Swiss Guard.

Carlo Ventresca – also called the “camerlengo,” the pope’s chamberlain

Cardinal Mortati – Great Elector of the Conclave.

Cardinal Lamasse – a French cardinal.

Cardinal Guidera – a Spanish cardinal.

Cardinal Ebner – a German cardinal.

Cardinal Baggia – an Italian cardinal.

Gunther Glick – former tabloid reporter, now BBC reporter.

Chinita Macri – Glick’s videographer.

Maria – a former nun chastely loved by the pope, and Carlo Ventresca’s mother.

Bob Brownell – a physicist friend of Langdon’s in Cambridge

Rebecca Strauss – an art critic for the New York Times.

Dr. Joseph Venek – Vatican scholar from De Paul whom Glick enlists as an expert

Book Review

In Angels and Demons (2000), Dan Brown introduces Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist who would later star in Brown’s all book .

Angels and Demons involves  standard thriller fare. It puts science and religion into conflict by reviving the Illuminati, a secret society of scientists and free thinkers whose relationship with the Catholic Church has long been, Brown indicates, intimate, tangled, and not fully known.

This secret society returns as a threat when the major church leaders are gathered at the Vatican to elect a new pontiff. Increasing this centuries-old tension is a more specific threat: the Illuminati claim to have stolen a rare sample of antimatter and hidden it somewhere in the Vatican. It is highly explosive if it comes in contact with normal matter, and it will do so when a protective magnetic field runs out in twenty-four hours.

Add to this the fact that the four preferred candidates for the papacy have been kidnapped, and the result is that Robert Langdon must decipher a grand puzzle and save the day while half a dozen clocks are ticking. Although the novel’s style is melodramatic, and its exposition and moral judgments are heavy-handed, Angels and Demons remains a first-rate thriller.


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