Friday, July 30, 2010

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

In a convent on the Hudson River in New York State, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration maintain a library devoted to the study of angels. Sister Evangeline is 23 years old in 1999; she is the youngest of the nuns and has lived there since she was 12.

It turns out that the angels thrown out of heaven were a very bad bunch of creatures. The males bred with human women, producing hybrid offspring called Nephilim. An elder nun, who had seen Nephilim when they attacked the convent in 1944, describes them to Evangeline. "Their beauty was a terrible manifestation of evil, a cold and diabolic allure that could lead one all the more easily to harm." The goal of the Nephilim is world dominance.

Angelologists, devoted to protecting humanity by ridding the world of Nephilim, have struggled in secret for centuries. It is all very Dan Brown Da Vinci Code-esque, with apocryphal texts and much rushing around. Author Danielle Trussoni throws real scientists into the mix: the Curie Foundation funds research into the radioactive nature of angelic light; Watson and Crick's genetic research is applied to the hybridization of Nephilim with humans; the effects of sound on organisms is compared to Masaru Emoto's experiments with water molecules.

The whole thing is much more gothic than I like and I wasn't sure I would make it through the entire book. Even at the half-way point, I was considering giving up on it, but I gave it another day and finished it.

A review in the New York Times called Trussoni's writing exquisite, but it's easy to find examples of what I disliked about her style: "In the last minutes of his life, his lungs burning for air, X____ was drawn into the horrifying translucency of his killer's eyes. They were pale and ringed with red, intense as a chemical fire stabilized in a frozen atmosphere." "When he clutched her collar, the tiny buttons of her black jacket broke free, scattering across the concrete of the platform like so many beetles fleeing the light." "The cut over his eye had been sutured and cleaned and had the appearance of raw and gruesome embroidery." "I took a sip of the cold, dry champagne. The taste was so wonderful that my tongue recoiled as if in pain."

If you don't mind overwrought prose and are looking for a thriller with lots of arcane biblical references, this may be for you. The reading experience for me was similar to Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. I was often pulled out of the story because of the OTT language. (Plus a few notable typos, like "choir of angles.") The unresolved ending turned out to be my favourite part of Angelology. It is likely that a sequel will follow, but I've had enough.

No comments: