Another Brown (Inferno, 2013, etc.) blockbuster, blending arcana, religion, and skulduggery—sound familiar?—with the latest headlines.
You just have to know that when the first character you meet in a Brown novel is a debonair tech mogul and the second a bony-fingered old bishop, you’ll end up with a clash of ideologies and worldviews. So it is. Edmond Kirsch, once a student of longtime Brown hero Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist–turned–action hero, has assembled a massive crowd, virtual and real, in Bilbao to announce he’s discovered something that’s destined to kill off religion and replace it with science. It would be ungallant to reveal just what the discovery is, but suffice it to say that the religious leaders of the world are in a tizzy about it, whereupon one shadowy Knights of Malta type takes it upon himself to put a bloody end to Kirsch’s nascent heresy. Ah, but what if Kirsch had concocted an AI agent so powerful that his own death was just an inconvenience? What if it was time for not just schism, but singularity? Digging into the mystery, Langdon finds a couple of new pals, one of them that computer avatar, and a whole pack of new enemies, who, not content just to keep Kirsch’s discovery under wraps, also frown on the thought that a great many people in the modern world, including some extremely prominent Spaniards, find fascism and Falangism passé and think the reigning liberal pope is a pretty good guy. Yes, Franco is still dead, as are Christopher Hitchens, Julian Jaynes, Jacques Derrida, William Blake, and other cultural figures Brown enlists along the way—and that’s just the beginning of the body count. The old ham-fisted Brown is here in full glory (“In that instant, Langdon realized that perhaps there was a macabre silver lining to Edmond’s horrific murder”; “The vivacious, strong-minded beauty had turned Julián’s world upside down”)—but, for all his defects as a stylist, it can’t be denied that he knows how to spin a yarn, and most satisfyingly.
The plot is absurd, of course, but the book is a definitive pleasure. Prepare to be absorbed—and in more ways than one.