The plot involves the Illuminati stealing a canister of antimatter (who's magnetic containment field will fail in 24 hours, thus releasing the antimatter) from CERN and planting it somewhere within the Vatican City during a Papal conclave, and our hero, Robert Langdon, is brought in because this involves religious and occultish symbology and only he is smart enough to follow century old clues to locate the inner sanctum of the Illuminati and prevent the total destruction of the Catholic Church.
Fortunately, with the writing style so simple, it was a fast read, so I didn't waste too much time with this book.
One of the reasons I dislike Dan Brown so much is that his writing just infuriates me. For example:
“Friction,” Kohler said. “Decreases her aerodyamics so the fan can lift her.” He started down the corridor again. “One square yard of drag will slow a falling body almost twenty percent.”
Langdon nodded blankly.
He never suspected that later that night, in a country hundreds of miles away, the information would save his life.
Does Dan Brown have to spell everything out? (Given that I was able to predict nearly everything that would happen, my guess is “yes”) Just the fact that such a wierd piece of information is given should be enough to realize it will be used. We don't have to be hit over the head with it.
Another aspect I didn't like in this book—it stretched my credibility too thin. Okay, a specialized magnetic canister filled with a few grams of antimatter stolen from CERN to be used as a bomb? Okay, I can buy that. The fact that the head of CERN didn't even realize antimatter was being created, much less stored, because the scientist doing it was keeping it top-secret?
I couldn't buy the whole “only the Illuminati could create such ambigrams” schtick, while clearly, someone could because I'm seeing it in the book.
And once I got to CERN's X-33 airplane used to ferry Langdon around, I just about threw the book across the room. Not only would you not take off and land at any old airport, but I seriously doubt a non-military government organization would even have such a craft.
It's not to say the book was completely worthless—the subplot of a scientist trying to reconcile science and religion was interesting. So too, was the backstory of the recently deceased Pope, which just alone would make a compelling story, but here was mentioned in passing (and that brings up another aspect I couldn't wrap my brain around; Dan Brown has the recently deceased Pope serving for twelve years. Was this supposed to be Pope John Paul II? In that case, the story was set in 1990, which doesn't make sense given the use of the Internet during the story, or was it supposed to be the next pope, which would put the story somewhere in the 2010s or 2020s, but that doesn't seem to fit either. In any case, that little detail just bugged me).
This book (and the others I've read) appears to be the literary equivilent of a movie—short chapters (an average of five pages) that end with some type of cliffhanger, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that if I want to watch a movie, I'd watch a movie (and I'm looking forward to watching this movie actually), not read it.