by Kate Hawley
A lavish, illustrated edition of Angels and Demons, the prequel to The DaVinci Code, comes out in May. The approximate size and heft of a textbook, it’s filled with photos and illustrations of Christian sites and symbols. The book’s hero, one Robert Langdon, Harvard symbologist, must navigate these in order to find an evil weapon — antimatter.
Antimatter is introduced to the reader on a page labeled, “Fact.” On the next page is an author’s note, telling us, “References to all works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture in Rome are entirely factual.” The illustrated edition heightens the documentary feel, with slick photos and artwork to accompany the text. There’s even a photograph of something called a “small antimatter trap,” with a photo credit from CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research.
Angels and Demons, first published in 2000, drew nowhere near the vitriol The DaVinci Code did three years later, in part because it took liberties not with church history but with scientific accuracy. To be fair, author Dan Brown has taken pains to remind us that his novels are strictly fiction. But the intimation of truth is what made The Da Vinci Code titillating enough to sell over 44 million copies.
And it appears to be boosting sales of Angels and Demons as well. According to CBS News, the death of the Pope has created an appetite for the book’s brand of Vatican intrigue. Here’s some real life intrigue: was the release date of the illustrated edition timed to coincide with the Pope’s passing? Just as images of Papal splendor are flashing across the news, its glossy photos, including a shot of cardinals entering the Sistine Chapel for conclave, appear ripped from the headlines. Could this be part of our culture’s increasing confusion between fact and fiction, news and imagination? Conspiracy theorists, start your engines.