Book Review: Angel Time

BY BEN EVANS | NOVEMBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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Angels — usually portrayed as holy creatures with light coming out of their smiles, butterflies swirling around their bodies, and bright yellow halos hovering above their heads.

But in Anne Rice’s new novel, Angel Time, angels are really demons seeking redemption.

The novel commences with a broken stream of consciousness inside the mind of a self-loathing assassin for hire. This contract killer, who goes by the codename Lucky the Fox, has a self-deprecating air about him, vaguely hinting that there is more to his life than just murdering for money.

The plot dryly continues with a constant monotony, drawing a shallow and expected picture of what a lonely killer’s life would be. Rice only varies the description of the common household assassin to foreshadow the main plot of the book — the man had wanted to be a priest when he was a child.

This desire to become a holy man had stayed with Lucky the Fox for most of his life, even while gloriously hacking away at the thicket of underground criminals and killing off people with any kind of bounties on their heads. That Lucky could dream of doing anything other than sadistic murder, especially being a priest, is superficially used to draw up sympathy from the well of the reader’s heart. It has less than the desired effect.

It is at this time, when Rice has failed to produce any shred of sympathetic emotion for the killer, that a seraph named Malchiah appears and offers Lucky an obvious and predictable choice — stay an absent-hearted demon or become a rosy-cheeked saint. His decision, with no surprise, is to become the latter.

And so, Malchiah takes Lucky the Fox back through time to 13th century England. In order for Lucky to save his own soul, he must help the Jews and correct the mistakes of the Catholic Church.

And that is the problem with this novel.

It is as if Rice is trying to recreate Dan Brown’s success in The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by referring to Christianity, more specifically Catholicism, as the ultimate negative.

At first, Rice is almost obsessed with the Catholic Church, glorifying it to the point she seems almost asking readers to convert. But then, in the second half of the book, she points out all its flaws, especially in terms of the Church’s treatment of Jews during the Inquisition.

This manic-depressive impression of Catholicism confuses more than intrigues the reader. Rice never settles on one outlook of the Church, but takes a wishy-washy stance on its teachings and decisions. Although she seems to condemn the Church for its past actions, she is forgiving. The author almost forgets the Church’s destruction and regards it as commonplace.

This obsession with the Catholic Church kills the novel, because Rice focuses too much on making small points throughout and does not focus on the plot or the depth of her characters. She uses minute details in the wrong places, like historical context, and forgets to follow through with the details in the lives of her flailing characters.

Rice’s Angel Time tries to put a fresh look on Christianity’s faults, but unfortunately, it is not fresh enough.

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