Even though this is the first of the Robert Langdon books, it was the second one I read. Like many people, I read The Da Vinci Code first and was introduced to the character and the formula that goes along with the stories that way. Even though I read it second, Angels & Demons has been my favorite of the Robert Langdon series.
Now, not everyone likes Dan Brown's style. I definitely see that lots of the action is implausible, the characters are predictable and there is absolutely a formula that they follow. None of that detracts from the entertainment of the book for me. Some of those things might even help with its translation into a movie. Although I don't really like Tom Hanks, but that's a whole other topic that we don't need to get into today. I do find it a bit surprising that a Harvard symbologist is able to uncover secrets that have been hidden for hundreds of years in a matter of a few hours, but it's fiction. Even with the flaws that some readers find, there were several things that I liked about this first book in the series.
First, it pretty much goes without saying that reading these books makes me want to travel to whatever city is their setting and experience the art and architecture for myself. I love the history and the symbolism, and even the references and ties to religion. I know that can be a hot button for a lot of people, but at the end of the day it's a novel, and there has to be some tension and something that causes stress for the characters. Religion can be a very stressful subject.
That's actually the second thing I enjoyed about the book. I was more interested in the struggle between science and religion than I was in some of the characters. That may have made it easier for me to overlook some of their flaws. I'm not someone who believes that science and religion are mutually exclusive. I think that while one can exist without the other, they exist more fully when they exist together. There's a need that we all have to define not only our world, but our place in it. This frequently leads to crises of both the faith and identity varieties. Throughout history we have struggled to find answers to the questions of why we're here and what it all means. Faith and science have served to answer those questions to varying degrees; depending upon the time and the individual asking the questions.
All of the lines and passages that I highlighted and notes I wrote in the margins were linked back to this topic and my own thoughts and struggles at the time. (I've put some of those lines at the end of this post, after the recipe.) I've had points in my life where I question my faith, and faith in general, and based on what stood out to me at the time I was in one these points when I read this book. It's funny to me now that I would have picked up this book during one of those times because it seems to be in line with what I needed to think through to get back to where I want to be with my faith, to be stronger in it for having worked through the doubts for myself. I'm sure it's not entirely coincidental that it happened that way.
The drink for this book is a variation on one that I came across last week actually in an online magazine- it's called the Diablo. The original Diablo came from Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide, published in 1972 written by Victor Jules Bergeron. I pulled most of my inspiration for the cocktail directly from the title of the book, though I like the duality of the drink for the primary topic of the story as well- the salty, tangy aspects of the tequila play well off of the sweetness from the ginger beer. Balance is always a good thing.
2 oz tequila
1 oz ginger beer
.5oz lemon juice
(The original recipe calls for Creme de Cassis, which we didn't have, so I left it out. I am interested in adding it in and seeing what type of difference it makes.)
Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel and candied ginger.
Overall the drink was light and refreshing, almost completely disguising the boozy quality of the tequila. I could see getting into some serious trouble with this drink over the summer.
p5: The most dangerous enemy is that which no one fears.
p21: I'm undecided on miracles.
p57: Sometimes to find truth, one must move mountains
p61: The laws of physics are the canvas God laid down on which to paint his masterpiece.
p 108: -I want to believe. - So why don't you?
p155: Why change the world if the world is not watching?
p 243: Modern religion is a collage... an assimilated historical record of man's quest to understand the divine.
p332: Science can heal, or science can kill. It depends on the soul of the man using the science. It is the soul that interests me.
p484: Sometimes, divine revelation simply means adjusting your brain to hear what your heart already knows.