A couple days ago I finished reading the highly anticipated Inferno by Dan Brown, the fourth installment of the Robert Langdon series. If you haven’t read any of the Robert Langdon books, I would highly recommend them! They are a quick read and very entertaining if you like suspense and thrillers with a bit of mystery. The first and second books, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were made into blockbuster movies, and the third book The Lost Symbol has been announced as a movie in the future. Unless The Lost Symbol flops dramatically at the box office, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be a movie version of Inferno as well.
I got started with Dan Brown’s novels by watching The Da Vinci Code movie, and afterwards, decided to read Angel & Demons, which is a prequel to The Da Vinci Code. Angel & Demons was so good! There was excitement and a race against time and it was just so engaging! Literally half an hour after finishing the book my roommate and I went to see the movie and I have never been more disappointed in a movie in my life.
Anyway, Inferno! That’s what this review is about. I was quite excited for this book, and I even preordered it on Chapters.ca so I would get it on release day. I have to admit that, unlike the other books, this one didn’t grab me as soon as I started reading it. Not sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the way the book started, or maybe I was just too busy to sit and enjoy it, but regardless, I had a hard time getting into the book at first.
The book follows the basic Dan Brown formula – over a twenty-four hour period the main character, Robert Langdon, some how finds himself in some dire situation, meets the pretty female sidekick, follows the clues that only he can decipher, solves the puzzle and saves the day. He’s basically the nerd version of Jack Bauer, but less of a bad ass and more tweed.
In Inferno the formula is a little jumbled. The book starts with Robert Langdon already in a dire situation, but here’s the twist: he can’t remember how he got to that point because he’s been shot in the head and has amnesia! Whaaat? Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with absolutely no memory of how he got there or how he managed to get shot in the head. He instantly meets his token female sidekick, Sienna Brooks, a medical doctor, and is whisked away on an adventure. Langdon and Sienna must decipher clues related to Dante’s Divine Comedy in order to stop a plague from being released the next day. A dangerous looking assassin and an army of soldiers in black uniforms are pursuing them and things are not quite what they appear to be.
Spoiler Alert Warning: do no read further if you don’t want the “Holy shit!” moment ruined for you! Skip to the end.
I feel that Dan Brown does a fabulous job of writing Langdon’s amnesia into the prose. For the first two-thirds of the book you feel just as confused and scared as Langdon as he struggles to remember what’s just out of reach. Then Langdon, and the reader, find out what’s really going on. The emotion the reader feels (or at least the emotion that I felt after finding out) is bretrayal. Betrayed by everyone and everything. You don’t what what’s real, and what’s an act or who to trust. Langdon feels the same. It’s revealed to Langdon that the leader of the World Health Organization approached him to help them find and stop a plague created by a transhumanist scientist, Bertrand Zobrist (who believed the overpopulation of the world would cause humanity’s downfall). Langdon finds out that after being separated from the WHO he is taken by a different organization, who was protecting Zobrist’s interests with out knowing what they were, who chemically induced Langdon’s amnesia and tricked him into working for the them. Whaaat? The hospital scene at the beginning was a huge lie orchestrated by this organization, and as it turns out, Sienna Brooks was Zobrist’s lover and has her own agenda and it now working on her own to find the plague and release it. BAM! Whaaaat?
So there you have it, the “Holy shit!” moment.
A lot of people criticize Dan Brown’s writing style, but to be honest I find it quite entertaining and really quite clever in the way he creates puzzles by weaving ancient symbols in with the modern world. These books aren’t meant to be masterpieces of literary fiction. They are entertainment. To the people who criticize Dan Brown’s work: If you think you can do so much better, then do so. Stop reading books that you know you won’t like (seriously, after three previous books you should know better), and do something constructive.
I didn’t find Inferno as exciting as Angels & Demons even though there was the race against the clock element. The plot remained formulaic to other Dan Brown books, but there was a great twist in there to liven things up a little, keep the reader on his or her toes, if you will. Over all I really enjoyed the book, and if Dan Brown were to write another book featuring my favourite tweed clad art history professor I would read it, and I would enjoy it.