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    Oh. My. Where to begin? As my regular readers know, I am a huge Dan Brown fan. This is his seventh novel, and his fifth "Robert Langdon" thriller. I emphasize the word thriller, because, as usual, those 600 pages flew by at lightning speed. For a while, my interest in Robert Langdon had begun to wane, but Inferno revved it up again, and with this one, it is in full throttle. As is always the case, I am hesitant as to what to include in reviews of Brown's books because there are twists and turns on every page, and I don't want to spoil the surprise. So I will briefly provide a synopsis of the plot, then continue with my thoughts and reactions. My first reaction was that Brown really outdid himself on the architecture included in the book. Both Brown and his wife are very knowledgeable in this area, so art and architecture are always a big part of his novels. But this one!! It takes place almost totally in Spain, making it rather unique, as Brown's novels often cover a larger territory. Nearly all of the art and architecture here is modern, and I am a huge fan of modern/avant-garde art, both visual and musical, that being my major back in my grad school days. The architecture in Spain is indescribable. (Why is the U.S. so boring?) Below are included images of just a smattering of the fascinating places our characters visit in this story.
    As might be expected from the title, this story is built on the debate of "religion vs. science." I will make one comment ahead of time here, and that is, until the very end, there seemed to be no grey areas—you either believe in "God," so therefore, think "he" created all life through Adam and Eve, OR you are an atheist, searching for the "real" origin of life. But of course, that's not true at all because there are numerous possibilities in between. I do not believe in god, but I would never refer to myself as an atheist. Though I really am not part of any organized religion, I identify with Paganism the most, in other words, I believe that all nature is sacred and divine, infused with spirit, as the Indigenous Americans knew. And though there may not be a single, or even multiple "divine beings," there is certainly a divine energy from which we all draw life, more like electricity—impersonal that anyone can tap into; a source rather than a being, although certainly a "conscious" source. I absolutely believe, not in life after death, but in the illusion of death, because our physical reality is only a projection of the mind, and that, of course, is quite Buddhist. But the fact is, the majority of Christians, including Catholics and Mainline Protestants, do believe in evolution, though they believe it was set forth by "God." Well, it had to be set forth by something, and neither the novel or anything else resolves that, and, in our present "reality," probably never will. Here is an interesting page of statistics from Wikipedia. And I have even more to say about the other side of the debate, that being technology, but that can wait until later.
    So, having said all that, let me tell you a bit about the story. It begins as the ancient train carrying Edmond Kirsch slowly makes its way to the Santa Maria de Montserrat, and 11th century abbey that was rebuilt beginning in 1811, and appears to be emerging from a wall of rock in Catalonia, Spain. (See image below. YIKES!!) Kirsch is a brilliant quantum computer scientist and visionary, and an atheist who believes he has found the answer to the questions of "who are we?" "where did we come from?" and "where are we going?" And he has decided to make this discovery known to three religious leaders who are present at the abbey for a conference. And so, thus, he shows his video documentary to Bishop Antonio Valdespino, Rabbi Yehuda Köves and the Islamic scholar, Syed al-Fadl.
    As is typical of Brown's books, which contain lots of characters in different places, each short chapter jumps from one scene to another. We now see our hero, Robert Langdon as he struggles to ponder the sculptures outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, an ultra-modern building housing ultra-modern art. Brown describes it as "something out of an alien hallucination—a swirling collage of warped metallic forms that appears to have been propped against one another in an almost random way. (Indeed!—see image below.) Langdon has received an urgent invitation by his former student, Edmond Kirsch, to attend a program given by him. And here is where we get into the ultra-modern technology, too. Langdon is given a headpiece, of sorts, that doesn't really go on his ears, to act as a personal guide around the museum. The guide's name is Winston, and he knows of the close relationship between Langdon and Kirsch. (He later admits that he is not human, but a quantum computer, who is programmed to observe and utilize human traits.) He leads Langdon eventually to the room-sized sculpture, The Matter of Time, (see below), and from there through the spiral. Keep in mind that Langdon is claustrophobic, and does not see that the center isn't cramped. He is soon joined by Edmond, who looks pale and thin, and worried. He shares an almost threatening voice mail from Valdespino, and of course also shares the reason for Langdon's invitation—the grand announcement of his scientific breakthrough that will shake the religious world—religion killed by science.
    But meanwhile, lots of other things have happened. We meet a violent former Spanish naval admiral named Luis Ávila, who has been summoned by an unnamed person known only as the Regent to attend the event and is mysteriously added to the carefully scrutinized list of guests attending. We also learn that Syed al-Fadl, who has returned to Dubai, has been kidnapped and thrown out into the desert. Blinded by the sand, he soon dies.
    And, in keeping with Brown's tradition of always pairing Langdon with a beautiful, independent, and highly intelligent woman, (inspired by and modeled after his wife, Blythe, I would guess!), this novel's heroine is Ambra Vidal, who is the director of the Guggenheim Museum, and also the fiancée of Spain's Prince Julián. The king is now critically ill, and Julián, who has led a sheltered life, prepares to take over as royal head of Spain.
    And so, the time arrives, and Edmond must cut short his conversation with Robert, but gives him an address where they may meet later. Langdon is given a blanket, and led into what appears to be the outdoors, complete with breeze and starry sky. It is all a simulated reality, of course. They are still inside surrounded by fabric connected with Velcro. Outside the fabric, Luis Ávila finds a seam, then steps inside.
    Edmond begins his presentation speaking of religion, myths (actually the same thing), the stars, and plays a video of one of Langdon's lectures. Until this point, Edmond remained "invisible," but very soon after, Langdon realizes Winston is urgently attempting to contact him. Suddenly Robert jumps up quickly approaches the podium. But not soon enough. A shot rings out, and Edmond falls dead.
    Then begins the chaos, with Winston providing directions. Though security guards are in the building, Ambra and Langdon refuse to follow their orders, and Ambra will not go to the palace. The two escape. Meanwhile, the event, which was being broadcast to the world, suddenly explodes with listeners, thanks in part to a website called ConspiracyNet.com. Winston guides the two outside the building as he fakes their whereabouts. They lose contact with him when the outer door shuts, but regain communication on Edmond's cell phone. They also learn that the announcement Edmond was so urgent to release is actually stored on Winston. The password, however, is 47 characters long, and is the line of one of Edmond's favorite lines of poetry. Robert and Ambra go on a wild search to discover the password, knowing that their lives are in danger. Soon no one trusts anybody. Rabbi Köves is murdered, and the palace, especially Bishop Valdespino, who has been a lifelong close companion to the king, are now suspects. Anyone who wanted the information stopped becomes a suspect, and if fact, rumors also abound that Langdon has kidnapped Ambra. Brown has certainly used the modern practice of disinformation to enhance his story. In addition, a blogger at the ConspiracyNet.com site named monte@iglesia.org seems to be supplying up-to-date information that proves to be true.
    As Robert and Ambra slowly follow the leads, they end up at the Casa Milà in Barcelona, where Edmond has rented the attic as his apartment. They hope to find a book of poetry where perhaps Edmond had marked his favorite line. They do not find it, but make a heartbreaking discovery, plus another lead. Below are two images of this amazing and bizarre building built by Antoni Gaudi. Here is the Wikipedia page, and the Home page for La Pedrera. I urge you to explore all of this incredible architecture.
    The lead they discover is that Edmond was a William Blake fan, (and so am I). He seriously questioned religion, and had his own perceptions of "god." And they also discover the Complete Works of William Blake in a locked box. But the book itself is missing. Edmond has loaned it to La Basílica de la Sagrada Família. The police have now surrounded the building and Ambra climbs to the rooftop (see image below). A helicopter with the two museum guards are there to pick her and Langdon up. They know he did not kidnap her. Ambra has been shot at and slightly wounded, but worse yet, she has dropped Edmond's phone off the building. They then fly off to the basilica, another of Gaudi's strange buildings. After a over a hundred years in the making, it is STILL under construction, with a finish date now set for 2026!! (See below.)
    A lot happens here, and the two have one last place they must visit, that being the home of Winston, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, housed in—yep, an old church! (See bottom image.) There they are able to key in the password and present Edmond's message to the world. OK, I included that because it really should not be a surprise. I didn't think Brown would build us up for nothing. But the book doesn't end there, and here is where perhaps the deepest questions arise. Throughout the entire story, Edmond has been the superhero, and our two friends have risked life and limb to finish what he started. But after we know the whole truth, we wonder if Edmond was an Angel—or a Demon.
    Throughout the book. Brown seems to write in favor of science as opposed to religion. I remember reading somewhere that he loved all the new technology. But the last few chapters take a harder look at technology and the ethical implications. He states that technology offers so many cures for our ills, not just human, but the planet's, and perhaps theoretically, that may be true.
    But here is my opinion, and a strong one. As my regular readers know, I have been saying for years that our technology has advanced WAY beyond our spiritual evolution. And the technology is NOT being used to help humanity, but to destroy it. I wage a battle every day of my life to stop the technological nightmare going on in the skies called geoengineering or climate engineering, which is literally killing everything on the planet, and screwing up the weather to the point where we will soon have no inhabitable land. Is our military "playing god" however you may perceive it? ABSOLUTELY and it is something we should NEVER have messed with. I just saved an article that DEATH VALLEY received so much rain that a lake formed in the desert! Houses in California are literally falling down off the mountains. The central plains are receiving hurricane-force winds today and parts of Australia are under water. You can click on any of my articles above to read more about this assault on the planet.
    And if technology supposedly will help us live longer, why do I see people—young people, too, just dropping dead all over, the poor ones up to the movie stars. Every day, someone is in the news with cancer. Or suicide, or a stroke or heart attack at a very young age. That doesn't seem like an improvement to our lives. Everything has been poisoned—our food and water supply, air, soil—what's left of it. Here is an article on the ongoing catastrophe of Fukushima. Do we care that sea life washes up dead by the millions? No, most do not. If technology is supposed to make us so much smarter, then why are most people so much dumber, with little motivation to do anything but keep their noses glued to their "smart" phones. Perhaps Dan Brown lives in a different world than I do, because I see nothing but extinction looming on the horizon. And that will accelerate exponentially when 5G rolls out, despite the fact that doctors, scientists and institutions are screaming out about its danger to every living species on earth. And speaking of scientists, they have becomes the dumbest, most selfish group of people on the planet, refusing to speak the truth on so many issues, like vaccines, fluoride, GMO foods, and the big one, the truth about "climate change" and its most deliberate cause, being climate engineering by our own U.S. military. Of course, those who benefit from these deadly practices are the ones making big bucks and greed is all that matters. As 2019 progresses, we are finally seeing many in higher positions calling out these people who have become way too powerful. Brown says:

Admittedly, practicing restraint felt counterintuitive to most tech visionaries, especially in the face of the exciting possibilities now blossoming almost daily. Beyond the thrill of innovation, there were vast fortunes to be made in AI, and nothing blurred ethical lines faster than human greed.

    But I think one of the most disturbing aspects of AI is the human tendency to "bond." We loved the mechanoid Kryton in the BBC comedy Red Dwarf, and didn't love HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here, Robert has a difficult time saying goodbye to Winston. It is hard for us to cope with the fact that if something speaks and assists and behaves as if it cares, it is still a machine, programmed to behave in a certain way. It does not "feel" emotional attachment. Here is a scene from the book:

"I sense you are conflicted," Winston continued. "It is quite common for humans to sentimentalize their relationships with synthetic intelligences. Computers can imitate human thought processes, mimic learned behaviors, simulate emotions at appropriate moments, and constantly improve their 'humanness'—but we do all this simply to provide you with a familiar interface through which to communicate with us. We are blank slates until you write something on us . . . until you give us a task. I have completed my tasks for Edmond, and so, in some ways my life is over. I really have no other reason to exist."

    I cringe to think of a world in which everyone owned a human-like computer, as Winston was in the story. Right now, we are experiencing people losing their ability to hold a basic intelligent conversation with other human beings. How much worse would that be if their computers could speak? People would regress into themselves where no other reality existed. Of course, that is the plan of alien interference that is mind-controlling the human race, but I won't go into that, 'cause Brown seems to think that is silly. Well! You can read more of MY thoughts on alien interference in just about any of my articles, and I hope Brown will do a bit more serious research on the subject at some point.
    I suppose my very last thought here would be, if this scenario were true, do I think the information "Edmond" had discovered would have such a global impact? Well, I know my opinion, but I will let you read and decide. As with all Dan Brown's books, very highly recommended reading.

Below: Santa Maria de Montserrat; La Basílica de la Sagrada Família
Guggenheim Museum and sculpture, The Matter of Time
Casa Milà, exterior and rooftop
Barcelona Supercomputing Center

La Basílica de la Sagrada Família

Santa Maria de Montserrat

The  Matter of Time

Guggenheim Museum


Casa Milà, exterior

Barcelona Supercomputing Center

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