Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: "Angelology" by Danielle Trussoni

"Once angelology was the center of attention in religious circles, one of the most revered branches of theology. That quickly changed. After the Crusades and the outrages of the Inquisition, we knew that it was time to distance ourselves from the church. Even before this, however, we had moved the majority of our efforts underground, hunting the Famous Ones alone. We have always been a force of resistance-- a partisan group if you will-- fighting them from a safe distance. The less visible we became, the better, especially because the Nephilim themselves had contrived to create an almost perfect secrecy. The Vatican is aware of our activities, of course, but has chosen to leave us in peace, at least for the time being. The advancements the Nephilim made under the cover of businesses and government operations made them anonymous. Their greatest achievement in the last three hundred years has been hiding themselves in plain sight. They have put us under constant surveillance, emerging only to attack us, to benefit from wars or shady business dealings, and then they quietly disappear. Of course, they have also done a marvelous job separating the intellectuals from the religious. They have made sure humanity will not have another Newton or Copernicus, thinkers who revere both Science and God. Atheism was their greatest invention. Darwin's work, despite the man's extreme dependence upon religion, was twisted and propagated by them The Nephilim have succeeded in making people believe that humanity is self-generated, self-sufficient, free of the divine, sui generis. It is an illusion that makes our work much more difficult and their detection nearly impossible." ~Excerpt from Angelology by Danielle Trussoni "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them." ~Genesis 6:4 Mixing suspense with biblical lore proved very profitable when Dan Brown released "The Da Vinci Code" and Hollywood seems poised to try for the same success with "Angelology," which has already been the subject of a bidding war for film rights. But the success of the film-adaptation may depend on a boost from a good scriptwriter as "Angelology" does well with the theological aspects of its story but falls flat with the action sequences. Sister Evangeline, a twenty-three year old nun, has been living at the New York Convent of St. Rose since she was twelve years old. Placed there by her father after the death of her mother, Evangeline has never really questioned her place in the world and expected to live out her life in quite worship at the convent. But a strange letter from an art scholar piques Evangeline's curiosity and she begins to investigate a strange connection between the former Abbess of the convent and Abigail Rockefeller. Through letters exchanged through the two women Evangeline begins to suspect an artifact of great value has been hidden at the convent and soon begins to talk to an old nun at the convent who knows the secrets of the artifact, and why it has been hidden since World War II. Evangeline also learns that she was not placed at St. Rose by accident and that she comes from a long line of angelologists who have dedicated their lives to studying, and trying to stop the advancements of, the Nephilim; a breed of half-angel, half-human beings that have lurked in the corridors of power throughout human history. "Angelology" shines when it delves into the history of the Nephilim and the angelologists. Trussoni goes back to the time of Noah and creates a convincing mythology for the Nephilim; explaining how and why the angelic beings have moved society from the time of creation. An intriguing chunk of the book is set during WWII and explores the Nephilim influence on Nazi Germany-- and the fact that the Nazi obsessions with the Aryan ideal are based heavily on the physical characteristics of the Nephilim. Yet, as good as Trussoni is at creating a convincing history, she doesn't have Dan Brown's knack for action sequences. In fact, when action is introduced to the story, "Angelology" just falls apart. The maddening thing about "Angelology" is that it has all the ingredients to a really good book but it never comes together the right way. I like Trussoni's writing style when she is building the back-story, but the suspense has a forced feel to it. Instead of building naturally and moving toward a natural conclusion, the tension mounts only to be dispelled by one deus ex machina moment after another. In one scene, the villains just kind of go away when the character they're menacing switches train cars--kind of strange and unconvincing. I wanted to like "Angelology," and at times I did, but there were just too many weak points to the overall story for me to end up really invested in the story. I enjoyed the idea of fallen angels and how they might factor into modern society but the narrative and history falls off when the story leaves the WWII section and never regains the flow it had during that part of the book. The action sequences feel as if they were added to give the book a Dan Brown-like feel, but in the end they just kind of lumber along. Something tells me that we will see "Angelology" on film in the near future, but I predict that it will be tweaked quite a bit before it hits the big screen.


Sullivan McPig said...

I already had my doubts about this book so I'm glad you confirmed my suspicions.

ShadowFalcon said...

Thanks for the review I think I might just get this from the library rather then buying.

furiousBall said...

yeah, I don't think I would have picked this one up anyway, but danke for the confirmation

Stewart Sternberg said...

I read this book, and I am afraid that it didn't work. Don't get me wrong, she is a wonderful author. Or at least she is potentially a wonderful author who has fine technical skill. The problem is that this is primarily a genre book. As such it is too slowly paced and ponderous. It's characters are a bit heavy handed.

If she was planning this sort of novel without understanding the genre audience, she should have spent time on subtext and truly worked on the metaphors. Too often this book strides the middle and fails miserably.

SQT said...

Stu-- I think you're right. I know her first book was a memoir and this is her first attempt at fiction. I agree that she is a talented writer and there were moments in this book that worked. But it didn't feel cohesive. It felt like she was reaching for something and didn't quite know how to get there.

Raine said...

This is the sort of book which sounds like it will really frustrate me.

I do enjoy a bit of biblically inspried fiction, I think used well it can create an added feeling of mystery and wonderment as well as suspense and intrigue.

If it isn't done well then it ends up feeling as you say forced.

I shall give this a miss, thank you for the review.