CBS News provides the shocking information that Dan Brown apparently doesn't know how to use maps or tourist guides:
The scene takes place in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, which the book puts in the wrong piazza - one of a string of glaring errors.
The novel has the sculptures on one of Rome's most famous fountains, the Four Rivers in Piazza Navonna, representing Europe.
In fact they denote the Danube in Europe, the Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, and the Plate in South America.
Brown, of course, has been shown up many times over as a poor researcher. Let's put it this way: I know my high school history teacher would have shredded my papers if I had used research that was as sloppy, lazy, and embarrassing as Brown's. But DanBrown.com proudly features this quote from The New York Daily News: "His research is impeccable." Yes, just like Ashlee Simpson's singing is pitch perfect and Ben Wallace's jump shot is "pure."
Which wouldn't matter much, but Angels & Demons—the first Brown novel featuring his alter ego Robert Langdon (based to a large degree on Joseph Campbell)—opens with this "Author's Note": "References to all works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture in Rome are entirely factual (as are the exact locations). The can still be seen today."
Back in January 2005, Danny Loss, a British student pursuing a Ph.D. in history, decided to document some of the many errors found in Angels & Demons:
Dan Brown is an awful writer - his language is pedestrian at best, his characters flat, his plots formulaic. But that's not my concern. The problem with Dan Brown's books is that people buy into his claims that they're factually accurate. Call me a pedant, but facts matter, especially when you claim that you get the facts right.
My goal here is convince people that you shouldn't believe any of Dan Brown's factual assertions. He gets some stuff right, but he's wrong just as often as he's right. Go ahead and read his novels for fun. But don't trust a single word he's saying without doing further reading. Brown's either incompetent or careless. In either case, he insults his readers by getting so much wrong. It's amateurish, and he should be castigated for it.
I've restricted this list just to instances where Brown is flat-out wrong. There are plenty of misleading and dubious passages in Angels and Demons that I've left out due to the difficulty in verifying all of his errors. So this list is representative of the kinds of factual mistakes that Dan Brown makes. As you'll see, Brown has some knowledge on the topics he writes about; it's just that his knowledge is superficial and incomplete.
Just as long, or longer, is an essay, "The Plot Holes and Intriguing Details of Angels & Demons," by David A. Shugarts, found in Secrets of Angels & Demons, edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer (pp 336-356). An example (and one that I caught when I first read the novel): The claim that the Church murdered Copernicus "for revealing scientific truths." Uh, no, Copernicus died of a stroke at the age of seventy in 1543, a devoted son of the Church. Details, details. I suppose one man's death by a stroke is another money-grubbing author's conspiratorial homicide, courtesy of the Big, Bad Nasty Catholic Church.
But the funniest essay in Secrets of Angels & Demons is "Adverbs and Demons," by Geoffrey K. Pullum. Pullum writes that he can ignore "Dan Brown's cluelessness about academia" and even his complete lack of knowledge about physics (which plays a big role in the novel). But:
What I can't forgive is that Dan can't seem to write descriptive prose that makes sense. He drops phrases in front of the reader that simply boggle the mind with their confused klutziness. He does things to English that would be illegal if done to animals. And that really does interfere with the reading pleasure for some of us.
The subhead for Pullumn's essay, by the way, is: "Just How Good Is the Former English Teacher's English?" You see, Dan Brown's degree is in English and he taught English, as his online bio states: "Dan is a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent time as an English teacher before turning his efforts fully to writing." Which must be why Barbara Peters of The Poisoned Pen described Angels & Demons as "Well researched, and pulsingly told." Pulsingly? Looks like someone has been drinking deeply from Dan Brown's literary Kool-Aid mix.