By Bernice Owen
This is the fifth novel in the Dan Brown series of thriller novels featuring Professor Robert Langdon. Tom Hanks plays Langdon in the films based on three of the titles: “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” and “Inferno.” So I, probably along with quite a few fans, automatically picture Hanks as the good doctor. Another easy transference would be Harrison Ford in the guise of Indiana Jones. Neither character is your ordinary college instructor.
Dr. Langdon is a professor at Harvard University. He teaches symbology and religious iconology, so it follows that he is called on to explain the meanings of mysterious drawings and artifacts that appear at crime scenes. Or, in this case he is called on by a former student to lend credence to a new theory on the beginnings and the possible endings of life on earth as we know it.
The student, Edmond Kirsch, now a 40-year-old businessman, has achieved brilliant success financially and is recognized as the leader in the developing field of artificial intelligence and as an infallible predictor of future breakthroughs in modern technology. So Langdon journeys to Spain to observe the unveiling of Kirsch’s new theory at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
As always, author Brown introduces an intriguing cast of surrounding players as he leads up to the critical moment: three influential clergymen to represent Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions, the Royal Prince of Spain and his new fiancé who is managing the big event at the Museum, various policemen and security guards and Winston – a student especially assigned to be Langdon’s guide.
When Kirsch is assassinated during the speech introducing his vision, Langdon must scramble to understand what happened and why it happened before more lives are lost. To honor his friend, his former student he decides to release the signal to display the programmed data world-wide. However, the data is protected by a 37-word password.
Because of his long-time acquaintance with Kirsch, Langdon has at least a chance of figuring that out, but it is not an easy task! First he identifies a symbol Kirsch used in his introduction to his revelation, which leads to an author, which leads to a piece of work, which, with the help of Winston, leads to the source of the 37-word password! (And here I thought eight-letter passwords were tough!) Langdon unlocks the mystery.
The finale takes place in one of Barcelona’s architectural showpieces—La Sagrada Familia Basilica by Antonio Gaudí. This unfinished cathedral has been under construction for over 150 years. A picture in Wikipedia shows compact spires with scale-like attachments on the outer walls. Inside are narrow, winding stairs that challenge Langford’s claustrophobia and add a touch of vertigo.
I have never travelled to any of the world’s exotic places except in books, so Dan Brown’s use of such places adds a lot to the pleasure of reading Langdon’s adventures. The action is fast and the science is compelling. The religion is less so, but it is a darn good story nevertheless.
Bernice Owen is a retired librarian and resides in Rohnert Park.