Monday, June 10, 2013
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I don't like romances.
Im not huge fan of chick books or cheesy sex novels you find on the racks of your local Safeway either. I'm a dude, it's pretty much well accepted those with male genitalia are not going to like books marketed towards women.
Well, most of the time.
The problem with chick-media (Books, movies, etc.) is that they go over the top to make it girly and fail to do the other half of the work-make something appealing to men. It's either because of those stupid defined gender roles (Barbie) or it's because the male sex is supposed to be some perfect specimen and the developer of said media could care less about what the other gender is about (Twilight).
I've said it before-had Edward been vulnerable, had he been given flaws (besides the vampire gimmick) Meyer would have a potential wide-spread novel. I say potential because, well, this is Stephenie Meyer we're talking about.
Yes I read Twilight, the review will come soon, when the time is right.
It was my duty, no it was my new search to have my point proven. That point is-Men CAN enjoy a chick book, a chick flick, or anything. Sure it's not something we're going to scavenge for, weeks on end, BUT if done right, and we're in a bind, we could read a girls novel, enjoy it for what it was, and put it back on the rack none the wiser for it.
I'll go back to Twilight-That is not good. Why? because the one fundamental is lost: We don't have a compelling male character. The whole point of view/narrator storytelling thing is a work of bullshit. We don't need to be in Edward's shoes, we just need him to have problems like us. Men HAVE PROBLEMS. We are just as vulnerable as girls. We just hide it better, well sometimes.
This brings us to The DUFF. It's almost the polar opposite to what Twilight was trying to do. In fact, I'd encourage Kody Keplinger to grab Meyer's manuscript, scribble on it with a red pen, and publish HER treatment of it. At least she could get it half right. It's hard to really place this. The book was compared to A Clockwork Orange during some festival which I would think the author, her agent, and her editors would be immensely proud for the nod (I even sent letters of congrats to them), though it is nowhere near Clockwork's story or moral. It's just different times. The main storyline written through The DUFF is available a dime a dozen these days, and I can't say I found it unpredictable.
This of course is one of those rare occasions where the ending doesn't matter. In fact this is one of those rare occasions where no one should give a hoot on the storyline.
But for those who are curious: The DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend. A cliche and member of the girl's cliques we all are familiar with. You know; you got the drill team-then the fat slob that is friends with the drill team. Typically, in my experience, she's the one who they hand off to you when they are sick of you hitting on them. Or in this book's case-The cheer squad, then the fat girl who watch's cheer squad practice. Two things are different in this book than from real life: 1: The cheer squad girls consist of only one, and main character Bianca never really associates with the rest of those girls and 2: Reading the book you'd find out that Bianca, the books title character probably isn't as hideous as she leads you on to believe.
The trouble all starts when Bianca is told of this great acronym by the male lead and promptly pours a glass of Cherry Coke into the poor sap's face. From there we have normal teenage girl storytelling: Divorce, sexual conquest, alienation from friends, and feeling you're just not right.
We've seen all this before, but thanks to Keplinger actually not being boring, and not having a dependency on adverbs-it's fresh and entertaining for a dude. Let's do this.
A senior at Hamilton High who seems to have the most pessimistic behavior of anyone I've met...well besides myself. Bianca, being the narrator, spends the book complaining about every...single...thing. That is until this dude named Wesley shows up, and she simply starts complaining about him, to his face, then has sex with him.
Bianca is a poster child for teenage angst. She really doesn't understand why life dealt her the hand she has, and she has no way of dealing with it. Her friends are more friendly, more sexy, more everything she isn't (allegedly). Her dad has relapsed into alcholism hallway into the book and her mom decided to live the life of a rockstar and run away to Tennesee of all places.
This leaves Bianca stuck depending on her friends and going to a teen club called The Nest every Friday to listen to screaming techno while bitching to the bartender about how her life sucks.
Of course when it's all said and done, Bianca ends up meeting someone who acts just like her-Mr. Wesley Rush, which as you can imagine-drives her absolutely bonkers through the rest of the book. By the end, Bianca does what any self respecting teen does and says "fuck it" and takes the guy for what he is.
Woman Reaction: Oh I always feel fat. I feel like the fattest girl in my circle of friends. I can identify.
Pat's Reaction: Oh for fucks sake put a sock in it! Bianca's bitching only kept my attention for so long before I called for a third person perspective which could hopefully give me less of her complaints. It never came and I was left to listen to her bitch, that was until she started bumping uglies with Wesley and went into Bella mode talking about his "Muscular arms" and his perfect body. I made a 180 and called for her to get notoriously bitchy before I set the book down. Thankfully, she did.
In Six Words: Being bitchy pushes guys away, idiot.
A lonely senior who gets to live the life of James Bond. Wesley lives in a huge-ass mansion with absolutely no one around. Combine this with good looks and you have a guy who somehow is able to take advantage of the sluttiest high school in America. God, I remember we had those getting laid, but when I was in highschool the majority were too afraid to lose their virginity let alone do it at 14 (Bianca's age for losing her virginity).
Being the ladies man he is, Wesley runs into Bianca one night and calls her the book's title. This prompts the feisty anti-social girl into dumping her drink on him and storming off. From there things get more violent, she slaps him-he fucks her. She tells him he's an arrogant asshole...and he fucks her again.
The first half of the book, Wesley is made to be a total dick-around for a simple point of being something Bianca can sleep with to get her mind off everything else. But since Keplinger knows what a storyline is, we learn the guy has a sister living with a grandmother (a grandmother who hates him), a pair of parents who would rather go on Carnival Cruises than be parents and a mansion all to himself.
On second thought, that sounds like the life every teenage boy wants to have, hell I'm 27 and I want it.
Woman Reaction: He's such a dick, why does he sleep with her. Awwww he sent her roses and is chasing her now!
Pat's Reaction: Ladies and Gentleman, THIS is how you make a male romance character. Wesley is a DICK to the definition, BUT he is also vulnerable and he also has some serious problems. Throughout the book, while Bianca is learning she's falling for the poor sap, Wesley slowly begins to show there's more to him than regular STD testing and Trojan Magnums. It comes to a point where Bianca's father, in drunken rage strikes her-and Wesley doesn't waste a second to deck the douche in response. From there Wesley grabs her and takes Bianca back to his castle away from her broken home.
This is from a guy that through the book never has shown any care towards his fuck-buddy, proudly proclaims girls chase HIM, and even calls the girl he's sleeping with fat, multiple times. He's got issues, and it's issues men have-he's just as insecure as Bianca is. See? I cared about this guy, because I have BEEN in this guys shoes.
Well I didn't have the luxury of sleeping with dozens of hot seniors, but I pretty much had his loneliness quality. Not only that, but Bianca makes the reader hate the guy and get as clueless as she is about doing him. It isn't until halfway we realise he's the one right for her, and (thankfully) when she dumps him for the perfect guy, the way he gets her back is NEVER too cheesy.
Which brings me to one more point: In his moment of vulnerability he lets it all out, and he doesn't do it in some irritating "I LOVE YOU BIANCA" scene.
BTW, has anyone else noticed Bianca's name is taken from Bianca from Taming of the Shrew? Just a fun fact.
In six words: HPV is very common. Get tested.
Bianca's best friend. Casey is on the cheer squad and always has an upbeat attitude. Her optimism is a polar opposite of Bianca's skepticism, and makes them lock horns on more than one occasion. As legend goes, Bianca got made fun of when she was a wee tyke and Casey jumped into the fray. The two have been friends since.
Casey has her own insecurities to deal with, namely being 6'1 in a school of guys that are 4'6. She's right-guys hate girls taller than them. Aside from that moot point, Casey seems to be the most non-cheerleader I've ever seen. She hangs with Bianca and Jessica, but really no one else (though I've had the impression people sit at their table). She's got the hookup to parties, but never really has the massive circle of friends you'd expect. Her interests involve shaking her booty at The Nest and bumming rides off Bianca, the only person who has a car.
Casey though, seems to get on Bianca's nerves at times. It takes the length of the book for her to find out about Bianca's parental divorce problem as well as the fact she's screwing Wesley. Those two facts explain why Bianca is so distant from them. Regardless, Casey is probably one of the most normal friends I've seen in fiction, and a refreshing change from the ones that either A: Get on your nerves or B: Stab you in the back.
Woman Reaction: Oh a tall cheerleader? I feel for her. She's so sweet to put up with Bianca!
Pat's reaction: A tall cheerleader? She's exactly my height? Hey Casey, when you turn 18, here's my number.
In six words: Bianca hates The Nest. Don't go.
Bianca's other friend. The circumstances surrounding their friendship are a bit more depressing. Before Wesley's penis was the thought of Bianca's, she bumped uglies with Jessica's brother-a high school student when she was 14. Now this already tells me he's a loser, but I guess he had a girlfriend also. Well when the girlfriend got wind of it, Bianca got cornered and threatened. Shortly afterwords, Casey saw Jessica getting made fun of by bitchy prep girls. Despite her history with Jessica's brother, Bianca became friends with her, though she kept the relationship secret.
Jessica is apparently super hot also-another indication that this duff business is in Bianca's head (and that she may be an unreliable narrator). We don't really learn much of Jessica in the book, as she more serves as a liaison during the "Casey mad at Bianca/Bianca avoid Casey" story arc. Other than that, Jessica is just 'there.' Casey does most of the friendly stuff and Jessica chimes in when appropriate or provides an alternative to a night of boredom or grounding.
Woman Reaction: Such a sweet friend. Wait, who is she again?
Pat's Reaction: Well, we can't have a hottie like Casey hanging with a Duff like Bianca and call it good. We need a third friend. Too bad she doesn't do anything.
In six words: Get a storyline, french kiss Casey.
A recovering alcoholic, Bianca makes it known that her father's last drink was sometime before she was born. It's implied that he does angry drunk things, which is hard to believe because he's pretty gentle for the first half.
But then comes the divorce, and at the sight of the papers, her dad begins to live the life of every college freshman who ever lived. Well, kinda. He buys booze and parties it up until the wee hours of the morning and leaves Bianca with the task of cleaning the place up. While she's complacent in the whole ordeal, it's pretty well known it's obviously bothering her. She keeps it from Casey and hopes it will go away while harboring hatred towards her mom for doing this.
During her dad's binge, Casey has always shown up AFTER he's passed out, hearing him snore and seeing the effects of liquid courage the next day while cleaning. It isn't until Wesley comes over that he finally reveals he's not a happy drunk and backhands his daughter. Wesley decks the guy and leaves with Bianca afterwords.
While this helped Wesley's character what's even more amazing is how her father admits his wrong doing the next day and even says there was no hard feelings towards Wesley for throwing his haymaker. That says a lot about a man, especially a man who just saw his daughter run off with some dude and calling her a whore for it.
Woman Reaction: Poor guy, he was so sweet. How can he do this to himself? Please, Bianca, save your father.
Pat's Reaction: Once Bianca went Bella, I was more concerned about the divorce subplot than anything else-and it was written very well. I was half expecting her dad to commit suicide which would be how we'd find Wesley's feelings for her then, but Wesley knocking his ass out did more than enough to illustrate his feelings towards her. There's some cheesiness in it, like pouring the booze out together (dear lord).
In Six words: Is that scotch? I want some.
A submissive bitch who leaves Bianca's dad to put him on a downward spiral. Bianca's mom wrote a book about self esteem...which then lead to her traveling everywhere and growing distant from Bianca and her dad. Bianca holds nothing back about her hatred towards her mom, though it's said in no uncertain terms she's beautiful (even confused as Bianca's sister). It all comes crashing down when she serves divorce papers and leaves again. While I give her credit for trying to be a mom later, I still can't forgive just how shitty of a parent she is.
Woman Reaction: What a bitch! How can she leave Bianca like that and make her sweet father go into a alchohol binge?
Pat's Reaction: Man, what a milf.
In six words: Hi, I'm Pat, wanna get coffee?
Of course in any romance we need to break them up and have them see other people, only to realise those other people are loony and they need their original soul mate.
That's the purpose Toby serves, however it's not without merit-he has some depth. Turns out Bianca had a crush for quite some time and was heartbroken to learn at the beginning he had a woman.
Of course, when he breaks up with her, all bets are off with Wesley (or are going to be) and the two go out. Bianca finds the guy perfect, but that's the problem, she's not wanting perfect anymore-she wants the degenerate Wesley. While the two go out for some time, it's quickly apparent she's going to get back with Wesley after all his advances. At the end, after he admits he's not over his ex, Bianca says "happy trails" and joins Wesley in an embrace. I can only think a possible epilogue went like this:
Wesley Rush and Bianca Piper:
Woman Reaction: What a dork.
Pat's reaction: What a dork.
In Six Words: lose the glasses, nerd. Get laid.
The Duff actually weaves a lot of stuff in and out through the prose flawlessly. For a first time novel, I'd say Keplinger has the whole thing down pretty well. Part of this is because I can only assume, especially by the quote under her author photo on the back of the book-that some of this is a true story. I can only assume Bianca is Keplinger and Wesley is some sort of life experience she had. The good part is whether it's true or not-I don't care-it's still good.
See, Bianca is a bitch, and Wesley is a total douchebag, but there's no fantasy here and no love desire that Keplinger wrote down to make herself better. The romance is a part of the story-not THE story. It's part of the reason I like this book so much. Yes, Bianca and Wesley's fucked up relationship makes about 3/4 of the book but they at least keep things fresh with other things in Bianca's life it never gets lovey dovey.
The problem with romances as I've said is-they focus on the romance too much. Here it's something that happens, it's not driving the book, it just happens along with Bianca's other dealings with friends and life. The same is in a Jane Austen novel since she tries to keep her characters fresh and doing something while romances are always brewing. This is why a guy can get into this. Don't like this romance? Well at least there's other stuff going on so she can't bore me.
Part of this is made easier by the fact that Keplinger gave Bianca a great voice. That girl comes off the page. It almost felt like I was sitting in a bar talking with her about this crazy boyfriend she had years back. Granted, like any girl she starts going into things that happened during sex, which I would have turned my ears off of (or in reading's case-skimmed through till it was over), but she just does a good job with Bianca. There are many books where doing the voice Keplinger does is not a good idea-this is a great idea, it's what made a great book and what can keep a dude reading it.
If any of you are looking for a way to write a romance, a good one, you'd be pretty well done to look at this.
Beyond that, Duff has it's problems. Keplinger has a tendency to over describe everything. IN the first chapter it flowed well when she did this, but by chapter 2 it grew ridiculous and when she wasn't describing something it went to Bianca's whining about why she hates everything. Simple trimming, but it's really more a nitpick than something that destroyed the story. the book clocks in at 277 pages. A short novel that tells its story, then ends. No padding, no fluff, just gets the job done. I commend her for that, I hate books where the conflict is resolved and we're stuck with 20 pages of loose ends getting tied up. Keplinger starts the book where she should and she ends it where she should. As far as trying to prove a point, I'm glad it was this. Will I read this again? no. Will I read another Keplinger novel? Probably not. She's gotta blow some shit up or have some government conspiracy before I can indulge in her writing again. But if I was stuck with this book and nothing to do, I wouldn't be bitching, it'd be a nice time waster and I wouldn't shut it till I was done.
It's tough to place The DUFF. For one thing I'm not the target audience. The romance gets Twilighty at times, the subplots are neatly tied up and everything goes back to normal with no risk of sacrifice from the characters (well besides Bianca dumping that tool). That can get on my nerves. Double the fact that Bianca gets on your nerves with her hesitant whining about being fat. Overall though, it's entertaining. It's not a cheesy sex novel written towards only women with men left in the dust. Yes, it's marketed towards the opposite sex, but the fact men like me could pick it up by accident and enjoy it should say wonders about Kepplinger's writing. While I may never read another book from her, she already is better than say, Danielle Steel.
Well in My opinion.
Up next: Not sure. I still want vampires. Or maybe a guest reviewer can make fun of my shit. Who knows.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Not everyone can craft a masterpiece their first time out. Just ask William Shakespeare. His debut work, Titus Andronicus is so bad people argue that it didn’t come out from his camp while others say it shows his style, work, and everything else that would later develop.
I’m from the latter camp. He wrote it, and it really isn’t as bad as critics say-just violent. Very violent and the characters lack any depth at all. The point is though, it certainly doesn’t hold up to his later work which shows why he’s the greatest writer of all time. Bill obviously developed as time went on and when we got the masterpieces of Macbeth and Hamlet. As bad as some people may think Titus is, it certainly shows potential from a young writer, which any critic can be quick to point out, and if he’s seasoned the pay off for supporting him will be worth it.
Dan Brown is very similar today in that category. Contrary to what many may think, he wrote two books before DaVinci Code hit and it shows they were his first…two…books. Laden with plot holes and boring prose, without even reading the DaVinci Code I can tell a lot of what works in that novel came from him finding what didn’t work in these novels. Angels in Demons is his second attempt at the Great American Novel. It aint bad, but when you’re an arrogant snob like me that knows plots pretty well-it’s easily predictable.
It didn’t exactly sell well either. This being Brown’s sophomore release, it sold in the realm of 10,000 copies (mere peanuts in the industry) until DaVinci Code spring boarded it’s sales into more respectable numbers.
Angels and Demons doesn’t really have anything original with its plot devices. It’s mostly about another mad man trying to blow up another large area of land, and the conspiracy said mad man works with. We’ve seen it before, we know how it ends, but this time the setting isn’t a gathering of leaders at a U.N. Summit or The Pentagon. No, Brown reaches down, grabs his balls and sets the story in Vatican, Rome-headquarters of the Catholic religion.
It’s not just the Catholics this place has either, Rome has over 2,000 years of Christian history in its archives and hundreds of ancient sculptures and chapels within. For one guy to say he’s going to blow it up could easily erase half of mankind’s relationship with God-and that’s where the story is praised. It’s not like it’s just a battle of good and evil either, the Vatican has probably the most dysfunctional group of cardinals and guards that one has to wonder how the Pope ever ran the place to begin with. And yes, all of those guards, cardinals and whoever find themselves caught into the conspiracy plot somewhere along the way.
Most of it is because of the Illuminati. A group of cultists who pointed out how the church was full of shit and science proved everything. In retaliation, the church killed a few of their members and branded them with iron to wash away their sins. It’s implied the great scientist Galileo was part of this group before it became bloodthirsty, as well as others. The Illuminati have been esoteric for quite awhile, so long that everyone thinks they no longer exist, that is till they hold the Vatican hostage with a canister of Anti-matter. A Macguffin used to blow up the entire city. So how do you find the canister? How do you stop this group of people who pointed out the church was full of shit?
Enter Robert Langdon in his first book to make sense of everything—and it’s very clear since he’s sane that he’s not welcome in the city. From there, Langdon needs to find these Illuminati chaps, get the canister, save the girl, and get ready for his NY Times smash-hit sequel.
This is the one thing Brown really needs to iron out. He has great character archetypes, but they are all 2D. I’m yet to see any of them learn a moral, or grow by the end of the story, but then again I’ve only read AaD. At least they aren’t annoying by any means, most of them are just cookie cutter protagonists and antagonists that move the overall story (which is the novel’s main emphasis). I won’t complain though, these guys get the job done.
A Harvard Symbologist who has written a book about those Illuminati fellas. Langdon is an extremely bright professor who loves his job, his life, and generally enjoys finding new information on his research. When the events of the book get moving, it’s stated Langdon was trying to get into the Vatican Archives to do research but has been denied (it’s difficult to get in there no matter who you are, FYI).
Langdon’s intelligence though is what turns off some. He has an answer for everything. He can’t find a clue-then off the corner of his eye is a document, a statue, a certain church made by a certain somebody. He’s in the open, what now? That’s it! There’s a chapel that holds the key!
For someone to find and join the Illuminati, they had to decipher a series of clues that lead to their church within Rome., which happens to be the main objective through most of the book. I can only guess it took them days, weeks, months, and for some years to find this church. For Langdon, it only takes a matter of hours. And I can bet you some of these guys are smarter than even Bob Langdon here.
The other problem with Langdon is that he really has no problems or flaws so to speak (essential for the best characters of fiction IMHO). He’s that perfect. The only thing I can think of is that he’s still a bachelor in his late age, but then again that makes me think of him as a pimp, and since he’s also a badass swimmer who plays a mean game of water polo, that assumption is almost entirely accurate. With the exception of getting bruised up towards the end in the finale against his antagonist and passing out in a coffin (which was done to avoid getting burnt up in the middle of a widespread fire) Langdon comes out of every situation unscathed.
My assumptions are more correct when I find that this guy was meant to be the man “Dan Brown wishes he could be.” So in essence, you’re reading a story with Dan Brown as the main character. There’s nothing wrong with that, half of the stories have the author as the main character even if you don’t realize it. But it’s obvious Dan Brown is Langdon, they were born the same day, went to the same school. It’s like Brown said. “I’m going to take the stuff in my life that sucks, and make sure it isn’t going to be implemented in Langdon. Then I’m going to take all the stuff I wish I was good at or interest me, and make Langdon be a god at all of it.”
Not bad, just shallow.
The Angel: Langdon is basically a throwback to Superman comics of the 1960s. He has nothing wrong with him and is always nice to the people who are nice to him. He can get out of trouble at any time, he does the right thing, always, and is there to save the day. For that reason, there is little to not like about Langdon, the person. There is much to not like about the character-but that’s all digging deeper into the context. For the protagonist of a plot driven story, Langdon gets the job done. At least we don’t hate him. If, unfortunately, you do hate him, I suggest going to a psychiatrist because you got some serious fucking problems.
The Demon: Langdon has no demons to speak of. Well, unless you count that stupid Mickey Mouse watch he has. I believe the book says he got it at a young age, but I don’t know of watches with Mickey’s arms showing the time that are equipped with alarms. You think Disney would make something that advanced in the 60s or 70s when Langdon was a child? Let alone one without a price tag Disneyland merch would get? I thought the watch was cool, until Langdon passes out in a coffin and sets the alarm to get the authorities to find him and save his life.
That’s when I was like “How does that have an alarm?” Leave it to Langdon, sure…but It feels like Brown was stuck in a scene and thought of the alarm as a quick fix.
There is also a flashback of Langdon as a child falling down a dark well which apparently is supposed to resonate he’s claustrophobic of sorts. But when writing that character flaw, Dan Brown forgot that Langdon is supposed to be flawless, so that plot piece is never heard from again.
Speaking of that well, was I the only one who found it to be a total rip-off of every Batman movie showing The Dark Knight’s origin? I mean I was waiting for Langdon to run out of the hospital and head to the Bat-Cave to figure some of this shit out after I read the scene.
Television Equivalent: MacGyver, but better at cracking puzzles than making handy gizmos.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research. Cern’s purpose is to throw a Macguffin into the mix in the form of Anti-matter. It’s ran by Maximilian Kohler and lays claim to having invented such toys as the internet (take that American History!). I’m not sure what’s true or not from this group of nerds, but their latest invention-a canister of anti-matter- is stolen. Anti-matter can basically make a blast larger than a hydrogen bomb in a canister roughly the size of a venti starbucks cup. So obviously a murder happens and the bad guys get the weapon…uh-oh.
Maximilian Kohler: The DIRECTOR (caps provided by me) of CERN. Kohler is an arrogant jackass who seems to enjoy a condescending behavior towards everyone else. The guy is allegedly brilliant, though he’s confined to wheelchair and gave me the appearance he’d croak any day. Apparently he’s not a very popular boss as most of his employees fear him and try to avoid him whenever possible. He’s always quick to flaunt his toys, even putting Langdon into a Jet that can get him over to CERN headquarters quicker than any commercial jet. From there is a nice walk around the complex with The DIRECTOR showing a CERN of happy and cheery coworkers.
That is until Langdon finds the body and the missing eye of Leo Vetra.
Kohler is quite dedicated to his work; the guy preserves the corpse of a murdered coworker REFUSING to let INTERPOL or any sort of police in to investigate (for fear of top secret projects being uncovered, let alone Anti-Matter). Instead he finds and calls Robert Langdon (how, only one could guess) and starts him on his quest.
Kohler later is the one who uncovers The Illuminati’s plot to kill the pope and do all the evil things thus setting off to Rome to confront the man known as Janus (who is actually the Carlmengo). We, the readers are left to think that Kohler was, in fact, the mastermind of everything, but with 30 pages left, Langdon uncovers forty subplots, one of which reveals Kohler as a good guy.
The Angel: Kohler appears as a nice enough chap with a huge problem involving nuclear bombs and The Illuminati. While his intentions seem sincere, albeit wacky (why aren’t you going to let the fucking police in to start an investigation if you’re innocent…which you are), there’s no denying that this vegetable has made significant strides in science.
The Demon: Kohler really doesn’t do anything but provide another suspect in the whole “Whodunit” case on getting this wacky day going. For fucks sake man, just give us two more pages so we know you’re a good guy. By the time we find out Kohler really was on Langdon’s side the whole time, our head is spinning with Pope children, chopper evacuations with help from God, and a million other strange ass things.
TV Equivalent: X-Men: The animated series’ Professor X
Vittoria Vetra: Adopted daughter of the late Leonardo Vetra, a scientist/Catholic priest who gets murdered to start the first story arc of the book. Leo designed Anti-matter and researched science for the better of religion (huh?!) which was what led to his death. Vittoria shows up in CERN to take the role of Langdon’s side kick (read: love interest and damsel in distress).
For the damsel, Vittoria really doesn’t need much taking care of. She’s as tough as they come. In fact, I’d say she’s a polar opposite of Langdon’s thinking process. Langdon thinks things through, Vittoria just darts after the first thing that pops in her mind. She gets the first firearm in the book, and is hell-bent on finding her father’s killer. Her rough mouth though, gets everyone into trouble on more than one occasion as she really isn’t down for idle chit-chat and always has to get things done.
That said, she is still the damsel. By the fourth quarter of the book, the tough, non-thinker, more doer girl that was a joy to read gets abducted, strapped to a table for non-consensual sex purposes, and continually thinks of Robert Langdon rescuing her. By the time you get to scenes from her point of view, you’re gagging about it because she wants her hero, even if she’s not saying those exact words.
The Angel: Vittoria has a strong sense of justice and is willing to put her life on the line to find more information. While this also gets her into trouble a few times, it’s a joy to read. Well, until she reverts to “SAVE ME ROBERT!”.
The Demon: If Langdon can’t get out of something-Vittoria can. When Langdon is stumped on where to go next, Vittoria suggests a sculpture leading them to their next clue. When Langdon fights the badguy who kidnaps Vittoria, at the site of Langdon getting axed, Vittoria dislocates her shoulders to get through the bindings she’s in and causes an assist. Shes’ kinda Langdon’s fallback sensor. When Dan Brown knows Langdon has had the puzzle piece too many times in a row, he lets Vittoria step in and take us to the next area. While it’s refreshing, you gotta laugh at Langdon’s intelligence. Here’s a guy who can find the Illuminati, identify symbols, be a knowledgeable badass through most of the book, but he gets shown up by a labrat who suggests a sculpture by Bernini to get them to the next area.
I’d probably tell her to fuck off out of pride too.
TV Equivalent: Dragonball Z’s Bulma
History says that some people were non too happy with the way Catholicism ran the land and conspired peacefully to point out all the holes in the bible. Naturally, Popes don’t like this, and it gets worse if this is in the Renaissance. Using their power (which was quite a bit back then). They hunted down these “Illuminati,” branded them with hot irons, then left them for dead.
After seeing they weren’t going to get to be a major political party, the Illuminati became entirely esoteric (Galileo being one of it’s better known members). They had a church that took quite a bit of ingenuity to find , hidden within Rome an donly by deciphering a series of clues could you find the church and join your Science loving bretheren.
While the Illuminati are believed to be dead-it’s not good when someone at the start of the book (Leo Vetra) gets his eye stolen and has the Illuminati seal branded on his chest. Those fuckers are back, and they are none too happy with Catholicism standing the test of time.
The Hassassin: AaD’s 2nd tier bad guy. The Hassassin is a throwback to the middle east’s version of Ninjas, and if you played Assassin’s Creed, you’d tend to think they are still around today. Not much is known about him besides the fact he was contacted by a guy named Janus to cause all the trouble AaD is thrust into.
The Hassassin has a simple pattern-kill the four cardinals that are up to become pope by using earth, air, fire and water in that order. For example, he stuffs dirt down one cardinal’s throat, suffocating him to fulfill the earth requirement.
He seems to like his job too, and on the rare phone calls or conversations he has with Langdon, you can tell he enjoys the chase and watching Langdon jump around to him like a cat on dangling yarn.
Of course, we don’t know much about the guy. He’s a contracted killer who made a better antagonist than the book’s final antagonist showdown. His death is premature, in my opinion-and if Langdon was set up as this awesme guy to begin with, we should have had their confrontation at the end. When he dies, the book feels finished for the most part, that is until Dan Brown sneaks in that final plotline that was way better than the entire book.
The big problem is that this guy isn’t that good of a close-range fighter. When I think of ninjas or Hassassins or people like this douche, I think of this guy:
Now call me crazy, but if the Hassassin had a bullet shot into his foot a few hours earlier, and had to fight a college professor before he could rape the juicy Italian brod he strapped to the table, don’t you think he could work through the injury? Aren’t these guys trained to be deadly even if their arms are cut off?
Maybe I’m just thinking about this way too much.
The Angel: There really isn’t anything good about this guy. Much like Vice from Marlowe plays, the Hassassin seems to be doing everything for Illuminati pride and a paycheck.
The Demon: this is one seriously bent dude. The one problem with him is-we never hate him. Yes, he’s doing bad things and needs to be stopped, but we never once get to hate him, or like him for that matter. Kidnapping Vittoria was a good first start, but if he actually raped her or did something to violate her-he’d be on his way and make us more emotionally involved in Langdon kicking his ass. Unfortunately, since this book was predictable, we knew Vittoria would get out before bumping uglies with this guy.
TV Equivalent: The Shredder
Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca AKA Janus
The boss of The Vatican in The Pope’s absence or something. This is where AaD gets very confusing. I’m never sure who is who through all the Italian names. Double when they speak Italian. Look, if you’re gonna speak Italian, speak it, don’t go in and out of it in the prose. It doesn’t make it more accurate, it just makes it ridiculous. No one is going to care if you have Italian dudes who should speak Latin speaking English. We can suspend disbelief on that.
This guy follows the age-old cliché: If he’s super nice and gets you out of a jam early in the novel, chances are-he’s going to be one of the main badguys at the end of the novel. The moment the Camerlengo gets word of Robert and Vittoria arriving in the Vatican and having good info for the anti-matter crisis, he orders his goons to free them and then acts very warm and kind hearted to the duo. Right there I knew we were going to finda total douchebag when this was over with.
A douchebag he is. This guy is the mastermind of the entire plot AaD is known for. His plan is simple-kill scientists, then make sure everything gets blown up towards the end. There’s also a subplot involving being the pope’s son through artificial insemination (a part I didn’t catch till I read a synopsis).
Where Robert Langdon is the official do-gooder, Camerlengo is the bad dude. He almost does things for the sake of being evil, but does have some motivation. He’s not for the science and God motif AaD preaches and wants science to just disappear. He’s very against science, so against it that when the late pope voiced his like for the anti-matter, Camerlengo poisoned the poor sap.
See, Leonardo Vetra discovered Anti-Matter and researched it to confirm God’s existence. The Pope thought the idea was grand and gave his seal of approval, something the young Carlmenlengo didn’t really like. So he did what anyone would do when someone’s religious beliefs grind against their own with potential to change the very face of power: He goes on a rampage in the name of God. He kills the pope and makes his death look like natural causes, murders Leo Vetra and makes it look like The Illuminati are back, then hires the Hassassin out to execute the cardinals in order to instill the public faith in him.
Camerlengo’s main purpose of everything was to have everyone back him, then put him in as the Pope where he could right the wrongs caused in the last few years. Like any villain-he had good intentions, but had to do some really asshole stuff to get there.
It isn’t until Kohler finds him after reading Vetra’s journal that Camerlengo’s plot goes to fruitation. This guy gets cardinals framed, people killed, and does more dirty work-just to save his own skin. If it wasn’t for Langdon’s curiosity, Camerlengo would have gotten away with the whole thing. His death however ends a few minutes after he’s crowned as pope-getting burnt to a crisp in the middle of the Vatican alters. Yummy.
The Angel: Camerlengo is probably a decent chap deep down. He thinks in his mind he is doing the right thing, but he can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs. I do think if no one caught onto his evil deeds when he became pope and everything went unsolved-he’d be a decent, although bitter ruler. Call me crazy, but wipe away his little evil stuff and he would have been a great pope.
The Demon: Langdon may have the answers, but Camerlengo changes the questions. This guy is seriously calculating, to a point I just don’t believe him. I can believe the pope, Vetra, and the antimatter thing. But once we get Kohler involved to make sense of everything, it still goes far too smoothly for me to really buy it. Some priest is able to be a master of human psychology to the point he has a security guard, a master scientist and others killed to make him look like a victim? There’s just too many variables for the kind of person he is. I mean, who the fuck does he think he is? Cade Vanity?
Yes, I went there. I actually compared him to the villain in my own novel: A sadistic, calculating douchebag who also happens to be a perfect clone of Jesus Christ-at least we can believe HIS motives.
Television Equivalent: Inspector Gadget’s Dr. Claw.
THE VATICAN:Outside of groups and outsiders, we’re left with Vatican employees. I don’t think this building needs an introduction, but it’s a wonder how it’s still standing with these incompetent pricks.
Captain of the swiss guard. Olivetti has a rough start with Langdon. How rough a start? Well Olivetti simply imprisons him with Vittoria inside of a vattican office. This is rather humorous considering that Olivetti was the one to call the two to the Vatican in the first place when he found the Anti-Matter canister with CERN’s name slapped on it. If he knew this was going to be bad information (If a camera is focused on a can and you have no clue where the camera is located-that’s probably a good indication), why call them in the first place? What follows is Olivetti looking bitter and assholeish and The Camerlengo looking like a saint. The roles are switched halfway through, and Olivetti gets shot by the Assassin shortly after showing he’s not such a bad guy at all.
Olivetti really didn’t do anything for me, and I kept getting him confused with The Camerlengo. It’s not a major difference, but I think his character could have been developed more than it was. Then again, he serves only a purpose to get shot so who knows.
The Angel: Olivetti is the captain of the guard and a good one at that. He cares about the security of the city, even if he gets a bit rash in doing so.
The Demon: What kind of morons do they have running this place? Who in their right mind finds something belonging to CERN, invites representatives over to get it, then locks them up. You’d think they’d know they aren’t going to like what they are about to hear, and that if representatives were captured-the folks back home are going to blast the news out anyways. And don’t give me that “Panic” bullshit. Olivetti is an idiot.
TV Equivelant: Night Court’s Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon
Cardinal Saverio Mortati
Boss of the conclave; a college of cardinals used to elect the pope. Mortati is frequently referred to when they have the helluva time selecting who the new pope would be and throughout the story, it’s apparent the cardinals are hopelessly in deadlock. Other than that, he says a few words to The Camerlengo, after everything is revealed. Mostly things about morality and how God is going to strike people with lightning.
The Angel: Cardinal Moriati really doesn’t do anything but be an angel. Through the whole book he’s basically your do-good, “I really have absolutely nothing to do with this storyline”
The Demon: Cardinal Moriati really doesn’t do anything but be an angel. Through the whole book he’s basically your do-good, “I really have absolutely nothing to do with this storyline”
TV Equivalent: Kung Fu: The Legend Continues’ : Kwai Chang Caine (big difference Caine had something to do with Kung Fu’s storylines)
Gunther Glick and Chinita Macri:
A reporter and a photo journalist partnership looking for a big scoop. For the first half of the book, the Assassin contacts the two sending them to where he plans on killing Cardinals and having them report on the whole thing. From there they basically report on what’s going on with the crazy day in Rome. Eventually Langdon gets ahold of them and uses them to his advantage. To film some good stuff.
The Angel: Everyone loves the press in real life, and in fiction/film everyone seems to find them meddling and troublesome. At least Gunther is just an everyday guy swept into the whole thing.
The Demon: Let’s call these two what they really are: The Paparazzi
Television Equivalent: Pokemon’s Team Rocket
And Three Clues:
AaD is your normal “Hostage situation, mass death” thriller, set in Rome with the distinction of God having a hand in everything. I can see where people could bag on this book though. It doesn’t have the shock value of DaVinci Code, it doesn’t have the appeal of The Lost Symbol and it doesn’t have any sort of writing passages you’re going to remember.
I’ll take a story any day of the week, if it’s done well and doesn’t have the feel of a big budget action flick. This is where AaD falters-it has those action movie moments, those “Oh yeah right” points where you gotta say “WHAT THE FUCK?!” I got three of them, and these three are enough to point out my disdain with AaD to the point I probably could never see myself re-reading this again.
1: The Assassin is a shitty assassin: I’ll again bring this up, he’s really not a good killer. At all. If he were what he should be-Robert Langdon should still be in a coma right now, Vittoria should still be having counseling for her rape attack and Camerlengo should be blessing America on Easter Sunday.
Have Langdon smart, have him as a swimmer, but he gets boring as a protagonist when he doesn’t get his ass kicked once in awhile, and he doesn’t. He can go toe to toe with a TRAINED killer, even when he shot said killer in the foot of all places. I can suspend disbelief for so long before I get fed up with the feud. This is one coming dangerously close. Had Langden had a mutilated arm, had Langdon took a few bullets and got the stray gun to sway the momentum in his final confrontation with the killer-we would have a villain. But right now, all we have is some guy who grabs four powerless, weak, old farts and kills them in creative ways. Hell, any serial killer could do that.
2: Langdon’s handy man tricks get very old: In any piece of fiction, even those that resemble a sort of plot, we need something out of the main character to give us weakness, vulnerability. Or, at the very least, we need them to be absolutely stumped and hit rock bottom. Even Sherlock Holmes or James Bond find themselves in a fix at some point in their stories. Maybe it’s the short deadline before the bomb, errr anti-matter goes off, or maybe I just nitpick the hell out of Langdon, but the guy just never does anything wrong. It never gets more ridiculous than this plot piece towards the end:
While The Camerlengo is still masquerading as a do-gooder, he finds the canister, hops into a chopper (with Langdon in the co-pilot seat) and ascends to the air. From there the canister drops with only a few seconds remaining and goes *ka-boom*. The Camerlengo gets out via parachute and survives (which people call an act of God) on the same token, Langdon grabs a piece of glass or some sort of long, webbed piece of equipment and sails into a river or a street or some shit, hell I don’t know, and survives also.
I would buy that if it wasn’t for the fact this guy has had a fucking answer for EVERYTHING in the book. I mean once to save yourself in a freak accident is fine-but this is a SYMBOLOGY (or however you spell it) prof we’re talking about. He’s not a physicist. His life has been in danger, I don’t know how many times-by now he should be traumatized, by now he should be panicking and have someone else fly up and save him, by now he should stop being fucking MacGyver.
3: No setup between the protagonist and the antagonist: Well not really. The Hassassin is basically Devil-Langdon and loves taunting his foil. The problem is, we never get anything personal between the two. Furthermore, the battle between the two, while not intended to be epic, happens before the real villain shows up. From there, The Camerlengo takes full reins of bad-guy duties and while set up well beforehand, never sets into his villainous roll long enough for us to really get a feel for him once he sets himself on fire. It was more of an ending to a story rather than a showdown (which, let’s face it-that’s what Langdon needs since he’s Superman). Plus if you’re going to save Camerlengo as the main bad guy, for the love of God, reveal all his plot twists throughout the story rather than the last 30 pages.
The Prose:A lot of people want to call Langdon’s prose clumsy (well one from what I saw) and I find it interesting. Yes, the guy writes in a very confusing way, but it’s like I said-we’ve seen all this before, are you saying every thriller writer in existence is clumsy?. I don’t see why people today place so much emphasis on poetic prose. There’s purple prose and then there’s out of the way description and poetics, one you shouldn’t do, and one it doesn’t matter IF you do.
Brown’s prose doesn’t really win any awards, but it isn’t really that grating either. It gets the job done. Yes, some of his POV changes are questionable (nothing wrong with multiple 3rd person limited, just needs to be contained to 2 or 3 heads), but it’s nothing annoyingly difficult like a Stephen King novel.
The thing Dan Brown does do-that drives me insane is his use of passive writing. How many phrases of “Was going to” or “Was eating” do we need to stomach? No editor nowadays likes that crap and the only time we should see it is when they emphasize something-well he emphasizes just about every action Langdon does like he’s God or something (which makes sense when you think about it).
Overall though, I don’t need poetics, I don’t need five paragraphs of character monologues and I sure as hell don’t need him to make things more difficult than that book already is. It passes. You know what’s going on, until the last surplus of subplots. The only thing really grating is how he describes a few things-I didn’t know exactly how The Camerlengo immolated himself until I saw the movie of all things. There were a few other areas I felt lost in as well to say “What the hell is the architecture of this place, how did they get here? Can I have a writing GPS navigator?”
Speaking of the movie…
Angels and Demons: The Movie
I’ll admit, I never saw The DaVinci Code’s film adaptation, but once I finished with AaD I figured, “Let’s see how it translates to screen.” To be honest-not that bad. AaD isn’t going to make any awards, but it’s good popcorn entertainment.
Gone first of all is Kohler, CERN’s egotistical brains. With that out, several key points are omitted, found or welded together to make sure the storyline doesn’t have a dozen holes. Olivetti no longer makes himself a complete doofus (via not locking everyone up upon arrival) and is kinda more badass in his movie incarnation.
The story actually holds up pretty well, though there are just a few small changes here or there. The scene where Langdon actually gets into the Vatican Archives-and gets locked in (with no air) is changed, or at least different from how I envisioned it. And The Camerlengo is no longer Italian and instead Irish to keep up with Ewan MacGregor’s role in it. A decent change that shouldn’t piss off purists.
The Assassin however has the main alteration. Apparently, looking for a built agile badass was out of the question, because movie goers would realize Tom Hanks wouldn’t stand a chance. So they went out and hired Bill Gates, errr, Nikolaj Lie Kaas. A decent and threatening pick, sure. But again he’s just not who I’m thinking of for the role. He just looks more at home in a Dungeons and Dragons party than to be taking part in this plot. Thankfully, Robert doesn’t get into the chopper with The Camerlengo either-no director is going to let that scene go into a movie-everyone would groan.
AaD isn’t a bad novel, but it isn’t a good one either. I think I’ve highlighted enough plot pieces that are questionable to prove that. Hopefully within all this you were able to figure out the semblance of a story, which actually entertains nicely. The problem is-AaD is predicatble. When they say they got 4 Cardinals that will be killed at intervals-you know all four are dead. When there’s a canister of anti-matter that’s going to blow at an exact time-you can bet they’ll get down to the crucial seconds to toss it. What it does surprise you with are the few maniacal villainy twists like The Camerlengo being The Pope’s kid. But it’s mute. The only other surprise is just how agile Langdon is in this whole mess. But who cares? I read this stuff daily I KNOW what’s going to happen. Joe Book Reader wants something entertainig-and guess what? AaD is pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, this is just an appetiser for The DaVinci Code. A book I have not gotten to, but know it’s far superior than this. Take out Rome and you have a normal run-of-the-mill thriller.
Then again take out space in Star Wars and you have an everyday fantasy…so there you go.
UP NEXT: I got vampires on the mind. I think we need to look at a certain vampire novel that made a certain author become a household name. The setting is a small unknown town where some fucked up shit happens to it. There’s also some bad romance in there too….