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Book Reports in 2007

Angels & Demons, written by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons was published in 2000 which means it was before the publication of The Da Vinci Code in 2003. I enjoyed this book much more than The Da Vinci Code. This book provides the same debate about science and religion and fanatics as The Name of The Rose does.

One day early in the morning Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (the same main charactor in The Da Vinci Code) is awakened by a telephone call by CERN director Maximiliam Kohler. Early on that day Kohler discovers Leonardo Vetra, one of the most respected physicists, murdered in his private office at the institute. And on his naked chest the ambigrammed word "Illuminati" is branded with a hot iron. As Kohler wants to know what causes this murder, calling Langdon instead of the police.

Since Langdon's study is on historical symbols, he has a certain knowledge about Illuminati, the legendary secret society, long thought to be annihilated. Nevertheless Illuminati seems to have survived. Kohler introduces Vetra's adopted daughter Vittoria to Langdon. Then they find out that the canister that contains "antimatter" was stolen and placed somewhere in the Vatican. The antimatter, which can be a hell of an explosive if it contacts with any matters even air, has been produced by Vetra with Vittoria's help.

The inside of the canister, containing the antimatter, has to be kept as a complete void controled with a magnetic field so that the antimatter floats in the middle of it. Once the canister is taken away from the electricity charger at CERN, it's back-up battery lasts only 24 hours. If they can't find the canister and bring it back to CERN in a day, it will cause astonishing damage, much bigger than an A-bomb. Now in the Vatican the papal conclave is going to be held.

When Langdon and Vittoria arrived at the Vatican by papal helicopter, they also know that four most important cardinals have been kidnapped. Given some hints through phone call, by an Illuminati killer, the Hassassin, Langdon tries to find out the clues where those cardinals are supposed to be murdered. In the Galileo's writing, DAIAGRAM DELLA VERITA in the Vatican Archives, he discovers four lines of Milton's poetry which seem to show the route to the aciant meeting place of Illuminati.

Those are something to do with the classical four elements of matter : Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The charade starts with Langdon and Vittoria, with the help of the Swiss Guards. On the course they discover that at the all four murder locations, there may be Bernini's works and they point to the next location and the next, leading to the Illuminati church.

This is an "Unputdownable" book. I read it quite fast. I've got some knowledge about antimatter, Rome, Vatican and the conlave. I think it's hard to find out from where the fiction is, though the author writes the fact about antimmater. And he also writes "References to all the works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture in Rome are factual (as are their exact locations). They can still be seen today." "The brotherhood of the Illuminati is also factual."

(May 2, 2007)


Shalimar the Clown, written by Salman Rushdie

This is the second book that I read wriiten by Salman Rushdie. I liked this book very much after I hadn't met any enjoyable book for a long time. Though there were some parts that I couldn't enjoy because of the hash description for the war, they play an important role in this book. Also I found Rushdie's humorous cynicism: he caricatures some scenes and characters.

Rushdie combines wonderfully a fairy tale-like love story with the brutal reality of wars and a revenge story. One brutality is that of Max Ophuls, one of the main characters, experienced during WW2 as Jewish. He was born in a rich Jewish family in Strasbourg and educated in Paris, and then he becomes a resistance. After the war he comes to live in California.
And the other cruelty is that of insurgency-type warfare and terrorism in Kashmir.

In California, Max Ophuls, who was once the US ambassador to India, is killed by his chauffeur, who is from Kashmir, at the entrance of Max's daughter, India's apartment. At first it looks like a political assassination. Then the story flashes back to Kashmir, which used to be breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful place. Rushdie tells of a love story of two people, Booni, a beautiful and alluring Hindu dancer, and Shalimar the Clown, a sanguine and handsome Muslim tightrope walker.

Even though their religious faiths are different they get married with some supports of both families, though they are not very happy with that. This part is peaceful and humorous; Rushdie presents it as if saying that (I thought) we human beings can live in this way. Because of this blissful Kashmir love story, the later cruelty stands out. But the author also talks about human vanity and selfishness or foolishness, and the shocking encounter of Max Ophuls and Booni. Their relationship of marital infidelity and the jihadist training camp lead Shalimar the Clown to be a professional assassin.

Rushdie spares many pages for the story of Kashmir's scourge of terrorism and the war between India and Pakistan. The paradise on earth becomes veritable hell now.
Rushidie laments over the brutality of terrorism and indifference of the government to the dying and the suffering. Why's that, why's that, why's that....
These parts were very hard for me to read, I nearly cried 'Why's that, why's that' with the author.

Like some kind of patchwork, Rushdie depicts the missing parts as flashback style; how India, later known as Kashmira, was born, raised and becomes what she is now. Then how she finds out who Shalimar the Clown and her real mother are.
I'd better stop here now otherwise I might deprive your enjoyment of reading this book.

(Apr. 16, 2007)