I guess it is no secret anymore that I’ve enjoyed reading Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels. The farfetched adventures this Harvard Symbologist seems to find himself in are yes, perhaps a bit silly, but no less entertaining I’ve got to admit. Inferno was a huge secret before publication, and is Dan Brown’s most anticipated release of recent years. It is his fourth novel in the Robert Langdon series, and sees the protagonist in his more deadly adventure yet.
‘Seek and ye shall find …’ starts off this book and seeking and finding pretty much sums up the plot for this thriller. Langdon awakes inside of a Florence hospital suffering from an extreme case of amnesia. He does however, suffer from some pretty scary nightmares as bodies float upside down in a huge lagoon – and who is this silver haired woman who keeps appearing to him in his dreams? It’s an unusual start for this series of stories as it goes against the trend as it were. It soon becomes clear that Langdon is suffering from a head wound, and as the action spices up, we see a spikey-haired assassin soon at his bedside.
With only his nightmares to go on, Langdon must stay one step ahead of this assassin who does everything in her power to kill the professor, and also try and solve the riddle of why this historical figure, Dante, keeps on popping up. His epic poem, The Divine Comedy, follows Dante’s travels through hell known as ‘Inferno’, and with the help of a young doctor, Langdon must work hard to solve the mysteries presenting themselves at every corner, as well as piece the gaps in his memory.
It is actually quite an interesting and intriguing storyline – we follow the discoveries in Langdon’s footsteps as his amnesia reflects us, the reader. But I have to say, that for a good portion of the book, the storyline isn’t very clear. Is it about Robert Langdon’s missing memory and why this assassin is trailing him? Or is there something lurking in the background, just waiting to be unleashed on to us? Well, in true Dan Brown style, the true intents and purposes of the book’s posthumous villain slowly begins to sink in. Overpopulation is slowly, but surely, contributing to our own extinction. With a suspected plague on countdown, Langdon and Sienna must solve the clues and try and stop this deadly unknown virus from contaminating the world, and save mankind once again.
Many people criticise Dan Brown books, and actually I think it is extremely unkind. Inferno is extremely readable and at times it must be said, addictive. Dan Brown has a knack for crafting stories that stick and infest your mind, never leaving you a moment’s peace. You simply have to know what’s going on, and that means picking the book up and pushing real-life to the background.
Langdon is an unlikely hero – he’s picky, he’s got no superhuman powers and perhaps more importantly, just an learned man, but it’s his knowledge base, his intellect and his fast-thinking mind that actually helps save the day. It’s an interesting concept, and I think that’s one reason why these books are always so readable. You know there is not going to be any courageous fight scenes, or wrestling matches, but you can always expect to find some cracking of the puzzle, and as most Dan Brown books are so interactive, you the reader, can actually try and play the game along with him.
Does Dan Brown deserve all of the awful, slating and ridiculously absurd reviews? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect either. I absolutely loved The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons; The Lost Symbol lost its way somewhat, and Inferno unfortunately doesn’t deliver on that high-platform level we’ve seen from Dan Brown before. It’s been said that Inferno is actually more of a travel guide than a novel, and although that’s probably a little unjust, it most certainly is easy to see why. We get it; Dan Brown loves Florence, or Venice, or wherever the book is set next. Dan Brown just goes into so much detail regarding street name, the history, the etymology, the unheard of reality … of each and every piece of artwork, architecture, building … It really can be quite absurd at times; yes we want description Dan, but we also want story too and unfortunately it really starts to disrupt the flow.
You can’t question Dan Brown’s research, but you can question why so many things get repeated. It is this repetition that really hinders Inferno, I’ve got to be honest. You could almost go as far as to say that the book could have been a hundred pages shorter and still delivered the same impression. In fact, I think I would even go as far as to say that if you skimmed about fifty pages, you wouldn’t have missed a great deal. And even though it does have its moments, the puzzles and riddles in here and nowhere near as exciting as ones we saw in The Da Vinci Code. It’s Dan Brown’s often controversial storytelling that makes him one of the greatest guilty pleasures amongst historical thriller readers, and in Inferno, I’m afraid to say that there isn’t even an ounce of anything a tad bit taboo. He does make a great argument about world population, but you find that he tries exceptionally hard to justify his argument, rather than leaving it for bloggers, readers and journalists to question and argue over.
It does redeem itself somewhat in the last quarter of the book however. Twists and turns are always to be expected in his books, but I’m almost ashamed to say that the biggest twist in here – I never saw coming. I should have, but I didn’t and I almost gasped aloud when it was revealed, and when you do find out the twist, it is from that moment that you have to read huge chunks because you simply have to know the answers. And the ending is so unpredictable, so un-Dan Brown, you can’t help but applaud the change in tact. You’d have to read it to understand why, but let’s just say that things won’t be the same when we return to the usually formulaic structure in the next book.
It isn’t perfect, it suffers from repetition and lack of fluidity at times, but yet again Dan Brown has proven to the world why he’s sold millions and millions of books. Inferno is incredibly readable, enjoyable, and actually for a change, completely surprising. The personal trauma of Robert Langdon makes his character slightly different, and the unknown events that led to Langdon’s amnesia create just enough suspense to keep the book moving until the true storyline presents itself. Instead of religious and historical secrets, this book is incredibly current. If you can leave the real world behind, and open up your mind, then there is plenty to find in the Robert Langdon novels. Inferno isn’t the worst story in the series, but sadly, it isn’t the greatest either.
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