I am the Invisible Man!!

I am the Invisible Man!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A slew of book reviews


Well, I've managed to read 3 books so far this year and I've read through 1/3 of a 4th book and started a 5th. The 3 books I've already finished are a pair of Dan Brown books "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," as well as "The Runaway Jury" by John Grisham. All 3 books have been made into movies, which has been a trend I've been going through over the past few years. I'm currently reading another Grisham book turned movie, "A Time to Kill."

I'll go over the books as I read them. I started my year with the Dan Brown and went in movie production order of his 2 biggest selling books. Although "The Da Vinci Code (DVC)" was made into a movie first, it was the second in the series following Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon. Now, if you want to read both books and you're wondering about which one to read first, after having read them both, I would say it doesn't really matter. Although Brown wrote "Angels and Demons (A&D)" first, there's only a minor mention of that in DVC, so it doesn't really affect the story.

Without trying to spoil the story if you haven't seen the movie already, the main gist of the plot is that Langdon is in Paris for a conference. He's thrust into a 1000 plus year battle between two sects of catholicism fighting over a secret that could crush faith around the world. He's accompanied on his adventure by a French cryptologist named Sophie Neveu. As they struggle to understand the hidden clues laid before them by Sophie's murdered grandfather, they must also fight against the Opus Dei, a strict sect of catholicism that believes in the bible as law not suggestion. The movie stays fairly close to the book, but there are some glaring differences, in my opinion. First off, when Langdon first seeks the help of his friend Sir Leigh Teabing, in the movie they show Langdon and Teabing having serious riffs about the story of the Holy Grail. In the book, they seem to agree on all points when explaining to Sophie the story. Another big difference between the book and the movie is that there are two cryptexes in the book and the one in the movie is actually stored in the first, much larger cryptex. There are other smaller differences such as Fache is never contacted by Bishop Aringarosa, that there is no Council of Shadows at all, and Aringarosa, head of the Opus Dei, is actually getting a $20 million Euro buy-out because the Pope plans to no longer support the Opus Dei as a Vatican supported sect. All in all, it was a wonderful book and seeing the movie first didn't take anything away from the fun and excitement I had while reading it.

Dan Brown's prequel to DVC is the wonderfully constructed "Angels and Demons." Now, in terms of movies made from books, A&D is one of the most different translations that I've ever read. I don't mean to say that the movie is completely indistinguishable from the book, but they change and remove quite a few major plot points in the movie, once again in my opinion. The main plot of A&D is that Langdon, a well known symbologist from Harvard, is contacted by a man from a Swiss science research facility asking for help involving a murdered employee that occurred within their complex. From there, Langdon is lead on a chase of an ancient supposedly dead secret society, with the help of an attractive female scientist who happened to be the partner, as well as adopted daughter, of the slain employee. In terms of excitement, A&D definitely did a much better job of keeping me excited in comparison to DVC. When you read a book after already seeing the movie based off it, there is some lack of suspense because you have a general idea of where the story is going, but with A&D the story is different enough that you're kept on your toes more or less throughout the entire story. The obvious issues I had with the book as usual are the glaring differences between the movie and the book. The biggest and most important difference is that they fail to communicate the real relationship between Vittoria Vetra and her slain adoptive father, Leonardo. It brings a whole new level of her determination to find his killer throughout the story. Secondly, the assassin in the book is actually a Middle Eastern man, who is descended from a whole tribe of assassins. Thirdly, and not nearly as important to the actual story line, but in the end when the camerlengo flies the anti-matter up in the helicopter, Langdon goes with him and is left to jump out without the assistance of a parachute. This last point is what I would consider a normal movie edit of the story, but I feel it would have been such a better movie if they had stayed a little bit more true to the story in this case.

I've read about 4 or 5 Grisham books in the past, and found them quite pleasing books about Law and lawyers. This is the first Grisham book I've read that became a movie and it's special in that it is the first book turned movie that I can recall where I enjoyed the movie more than I did the book. I don't say that with the intention of making anybody think the book wasn't good, it certainly was entertaining. I just more enjoyed the premise that was presented in the movie. I think the idea of an individual suing a corporation in the gun industry is more presentable case than that of an individual suing the tobacco industry. The book narrates the story of Nicholas Easter, a resident of Biloxi in Mississippi who is notified that he is required in court due to a jury summons. He works diligently to make sure he is part of the final 12 jurors that get to partake in the trial of Celeste Wood v. Pynex, a tobacco corporation who produces the cigarette brand that her husband had smoked for 30 years before his death caused by lung cancer. His main job is to get control of the jury's opinion of the case so when his associate, Marlee who is in contact with Ranking Fitch, the jury consultant of the defense team. Fitch has been hired by the Big 4 tobacco companies as a slew of litigation has been brought up against them over the past few years including 16 straight decisions in their favor, 8 of which Fitch has been a part of. Marlee and Easter work together to show Fitch that they can persuade the jury to vote against a Plaintiff's decision and make it 17 in a row for the defense. However, Marlee and Easter are only playing Fitch to get a $10,000,000, which they use to short sell tobacco company stock and make a fortune of their own. They do this because prior to Marlee becoming Marlee, she was Gabrielle and she had two parents, both of whom succumbed to lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. Ever since Gabrielle met and fell in love with the then Jeff Kurr, they have been traveling around the country in an attempt to get on a jury involving a tobacco case. The most glaring differences from the book have already been stated. It's not a case about a gun death, but rather a case involving a man who died of lung cancer from smoking for 30 years. Some of the other big differences that I think should have been in movie were the fact that they bumped 3 jurors not just 1, including Frank Herrera and Herman Grimes, the blind foreman. In fact, Nick poisons Grimes to make it look like he has a heart attack although in the end he is perfectly fine. Thirdly, the movie makes Wendell Rohr look like a saint by telling Marlee that he doesn't want to taint himself by buying a verdict when in the book Marlee never contacts him, although Rohr on his own attempts to by the vote of Angel Weese through her boyfriend. Lastly, unless I was just too tired to understand the situation, Marlee and Easter keep the money they make from the stock transactions for themselves and make no point of it to donate it or anything, although they reimburse Fitch the $10,000,000 he gave them to begin with. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but overall if you've seen the movie and you're on the fence about the book, I would just stick to the story the book tells.

That's all I have so far this year, although I should be able to get you another 3 reviews in a week or two. Again, I hope everyone is doing well in the New Year and if your not, you still have 342 days to turn it around.

1 comment:

  1. hey good job on sticking to your goals! I have not read any Dan Brown yet, but I have read "The firm" and really liked it, so I might have to read more John Grisham.


Thanks for your 2 cents!!

The Dingo's Bookshelf reserved for his favorites

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
  • The Twilight series
  • The Harry Potter series
  • Fight Club
  • On the Road