The DaVinci Code/ Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The DaVinci Code/ Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci CodeHow could I resist all the hype of a New York Times best seller with a name like The Da Vinci Code! At ExperiencePlus! we’ve been pedaling through Leonardo’s birthplace, the small town of Vinci, about 25 miles west of Florence on the slopes of Monte Albano, since 1972. And in the Loire Valley in France our Slowjourn passes through Amboise, the place where Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 while living at Clos Lucé in the service of Francois the 1st, King of France. Indeed, for the last three years I’ve spent winters dreaming about a bike tour that linked these two places. But that’s for another time. . .

Does Dan Brown’s work fit our criteria for travel books for ExperiencePlus! customers? Yes, indeed, here’s why.

The best-prepared traveler for any trip overseas is a well-prepared traveler, both physically and mentally. We find that our customers who are in pretty good physical condition enjoy themselves more on their bicycle or walking tour (they hurt less!). And with all the mental stimuli you’re subjected to while traveling overseas we find that the more you can prepare and know in advance the more you enjoy your trip. (Your brain will hurt less!) Also, studies tend to show that anticipation of a travel experience amounts to almost 50% of the total enjoyment of the experience. So read Dan Brown if you are headed to Italy, Spain or France on any of our tours.

Brown is really just an amateur mix of Michael Crichton (see Rick’s review of Timeline) and Dorothy Dunnett (see review of

House of Niccolo.) His writing has yet to mature to the quality of either of these veteran storytellers who can weave history and intrigue into a book-length narrative that will keep you up all night.

The one thing that Brown excels at, though, just as the others, is his preparation and research into the history and geography of the places he uses as settings for his novels. I found the descriptions of the geography of Rome and the Vatican City in Angels and Demons to be outstanding. His descriptions of Paris and the Louvre in The Da Vinci Code were equally compelling (although I found one mistake when he referred to Versailles as being "northwest" of Paris; it’s slightly southwest).

Angels and Demons

Brown’s stories are part science fiction, part history, and part socio-religious commentary. No doubt he’s found a hot button item in taking on the controversial history of the Catholic church. Not much new, mind you, but Brown offers a whole new perspective on topics like the role of the church in art and history, conservative sects like Opus Dei, the history of the Knights Templar (see my review on Jack Hitt’s book,

Off the Road, about the Camino de Santiago) and the role of goddess worship and feminism in western society.

I recommended both these books equally. They are a little formulaic and I expect Brown will have to change his style or mature before he’ll have another blockbuster like these two, but what a great way to prepare for a trip to Europe.