Angels and Demons Summary

Dan Brown

Angels and Demons

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Angels and Demons Summary

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Angels and Demons continues Dan Brown’s saga, following Robert Langdon on another adventure to solve mysteries that contain a semi-religious base. The novel juxtaposes science and religion in a way that brings the two concepts into conflict with each other. The story begins with a murder at the CERN laboratory and the theft of a container of antimatter which, if not recovered within twenty-four hours, will explode. The container has been taken to Vatican City by a secret society known as the Illuminati. Landon and Vittoria, the daughter of the physicist who was murdered, travel to Vatican City to investigate the container’s disappearance. Ventresca, a member of the Swiss Guard, who also worked with the previous Pontiff, joins the pair.

Langdon’s initial investigation in Rome uncovers the murders of four cardinals killed in ways that mimic the four elements: earth, wind, water, and fire. He discovers each of the victims have been branded with an ambigram associated with an element. Vittoria is taken hostage during the investigation, and Langdon, still pursing the missing canister, is determined to save his colleague as well. He eventually finds her in St. Peter’s Basilica. While in the process of rescuing her, he hears Ventresca’s panic ridden screams and discovers that Ventresca, too, has been branded by the Illuminati. During this flurry of events, Kohler, the first to discover the murder at the CERN, is believed to be a member of the secret society and is gunned down. As he dies, Kohler gives Langdon a videotape, pleading with him to make it public.

Little time remains as Langdon and Vittoria follow Ventresca into the catacombs to find the canister resting atop the tomb of St. Peter. With the antimatter in hand, they board a helicopter, eager to get the container away from the densely populated area surrounding St. Peter’s Basilica. With only minutes remaining before the antimatter explodes, Landon and Ventresca parachute from the helicopter as the canister explodes harmlessly above them. The spectacle attracts the attention of a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s square that witness the miraculous event and hail Ventresca a hero for his death-defying act. As a result, the cardinals entertain the idea of appointing Ventresca as the new pope.

Langdon regains consciousness and finds himself in the hospital. He takes the videotape from his jacket pocket. He views the contents, shocked by what he finds. The videotape reveals that Ventresca, also a camerlengo, branded himself with the Illuminati insignia, confessing shortly after that his real name is Janus. He orchestrated the chain of events that lead to the catastrophe that nearly destroyed thousands of lives and Vatican City. His involvement in the conspiracy is further exacerbated by the knowledge that he murdered the Pope with the powerful anticoagulant heparin as retaliation for the discovery that the Pope had fathered a child. Langdon flees the hospital and returns to the Vatican.

The link between science and religion is further illustrated by the meeting the Pope had just before the novel begins with Vetra, who was convinced that anti-matter was capable of bridging the gap between science and the church. The Pope supported the idea, revealing that science allowed him to have a son through the process of artificial insemination. Without knowing the full story, Ventresca, assuming the Pope had broken his vow of chastity, devised an intricate plot to rectify the situation. Under the guise of an Illuminati master, Ventresca hired an assassin to kill Vetra and steal the antimatter; the act that instigated the chain of events depicted in the novel. The theft of the antimatter, as well as the valiant act of retrieving it just in time to save the city, was a desperate attempt to unite the struggling Catholic Church. The involvement of the Illuminati was another ploy orchestrated by Ventresca to misdirect Langdon and the Church from his own misdeeds. The Dean of the College of Cardinals, upon learning of Ventresca’s plot, reveals that Ventresca is the son of the recently murdered Pope, having been conceived via artificial insemination with a nun.

Distraught by the guilt of having killed his own father, Ventresca douses himself in oil and lights himself on fire. A crowd of onlookers in St. Peter’s Square witnesses the horrifying scene. Ventresca’s ashes are recovered and placed inside an urn that is placed inside his father’s sarcophagus. Mortati, the former Dean of the College of Cardinals is unanimously elected Pope, while Langdon and Vittoria leave for their hotel. As the novel concludes, the last brand, the Illuminati Diamond, is gifted to Langdon with the caveat he return it to the Vatican in his will.

Dan Brown’s novel, while exploring the dichotomy of science and religion, explores the potential devastation that results from blurring the lines between them. Robert Langdon is the consummate example of the religious skeptic who relies only on what he can see. The Church however, provides a stark example of an organization entrenched in faith and tradition in the most extreme sense. Brown pits these two forces against each other and, in effect, leads the reader on a journey to discover who will blink first. Although Brown uses fiction as a conduit to convey these truisms, its correlation with reality should both remind the reader to approach science and religion with an open mind, and serve as a vivid reminder of the consequences of not doing so.