So I’ve just recently finished reading through Inferno, Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon instalment (which takes up the tally to 4, I think he knows when he has a winner, he should stick to it, well it’s a winner in terms of popularity). I wrote about Dan Brown in this post which was just before Inferno was published, and I mentioned how Dan Brown has essentially the same sort of story, but just with different characters, different organisations, and different places. And Inferno is no different, it’s classic Dan Brown, but there are a few things that mean it is different. As always, the latest work is divisive, because there are always those people who slam his book (especially since they are all similar) and slam those who read it, and then there’s the fact that so many people read it, despite these claims. And I think the theme of Inferno is quite interesting for Brown to try to tackle.
In traditional Brown style, Robert Langdon is gallivanting all around Europe (just like he was in Da vinci Code and Angels and Demons – and it really, really, made me want to go to Europe immediately and see all the places he was talking about. We certainly don’t have anything like the Hagia Sophia, Florence Baptistery or Palazzo Vecchio in Australia!), and he’s soon accompanied by a beautiful woman, who, in addition to being a genius, is more than she appears (spoilers later). Quickly Robert and this woman, Sienna Brooks, a doctor, are running for their lives. They are pursued by a number of parties, trying to kill them both, presumably to prevent them solving the mystery. And what a mystery it is! As always there is a shadowy figure (the provost) who makes ominous and shadowy phone calls to people, and there’s a man who comes into the picture, and suspicion is quickly placed on him to be a traitor!
I have to say that once again, I was captivated. Sure it isn’t the best book ever, sure it may not have that creative an idea, sure it is just like all of his other works, sure he had short chapters and swapped around to build suspense, but I don’t care. It was a riveting read, and I wanted to know what was going on. It was fun, and a nice easy read. You don’t have to do anything for your entertainment, Brown will take you where you need to be, and direct you to things without you haven’t to think about anything. It really is a good book, it isn’t great literature, and isn’t something that needs to be reread, or thoroughly analysed, it’s just something for enjoyment, and books need to be enjoyable! Even critics generally admit that the books keep people ‘glued’, but when they start claiming he is actually ‘mad’ like the Guardian’s Peter Conrad, that’s just extremism, to sell newspapers in my opinion. Actually, I find a great irony in that, because Mr Conrad obviously is taking such an extreme view on the book, to hopefully elicit sales, and really that’s what Dan Brown does, he creates a world of farfetched events, chance happenings, and hard to believe life-threatening moments for a professor of symbology, to get people to read! And I think Dan Brown does a better job than Mr Conrad, with a huge quarter of a million books sold in its first week, he obviously does something right (source)!
As always there are strong religious undertones, and the world is under threat, and it’s up to Langdon to save the day from someone trying to destroy the world, another genius, Bertrand Zorbist. And this time, they are trying to destroy the world by killing off billions of people to curb over-population, to try to elicit another renaissance, like what happened after the Black Death, with another plague. Interesting idea, and I for one am glad that Brown decided to bring up the issue of overpopulation, at least it has gotten people thinking about the topic. And there is a good question in there, “If you could flick a switch which would randomly kill 1/3 of the world’s population (you could kill yourself, your friends, your family) would you do it to save the human species?” Like if you knew that by not flicking the switch humans would become extinct, after using up all the resources, and after living our last days in war, famine, terrible conditions, would you do it? It’s a tough question.
Now for some spoilers so you are warned (after these links)
Read some of the ‘professional’ reviews here from the ‘critics’ here:
Guardian Book Review by Peter Conrad
The Independent Book Review by James Kidd
New York Times Book Review by Janet Maslin
I think the way that Brown opened the novel, with Langdon waking up with amnesia, and not knowing how he got to Europe, placing him right in the middle of everything from the beginning, was really clever. And it was unlike his other openings, which is always good.
But the most interesting thing was the reveal near the end that, all of that was fake! Now that just shocked me completely! Who would have thought, that everything was a set up? And Langdon was never in danger! What’s more, is that Sienna was in on it, and not only in on it, was actually Zorbist’s lover (okay that part was sort of predictable, though Brown made threw suspicion of that role onto Jonathan Ferris).
Okay the climax of the book when they were in Basilica Cistern and the orchestra were playing Liszt’s Dante Symphony that was exciting. And then we find out Zorbist is more clever than everyone gave him credit. He had made the free Symphony last a week, and the final day wasn’t the day of release of the plague, it was the day when the whole world was infected (though I doubt that the entire world was infected in 7 days…)! And wasn’t it frightening not knowing what the virus would do, but as Sienna explains, it turns out Zorbist wasn’t that great a monster after all. Instead of killing people, he just made 1/3 of the world sterile, which is just damn clever. Instead of causing great grief and death, and a probable collapse of everything trying to deal with billions of dead bodies, people just can’t have kids. Obviously still a big issue, but, better than the alternative. And it ensures that Brown didn’t have to explore the consequences of killing billions of people, and it wasn’t a plague story.
As I said before, I really liked it, so I hope you at least enjoyed it. I guess it depends on how you go into the book, if you are looking for an easy read, and like Brown’s style, then you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t like it, then don’t bother, it’s the same as before!