Here we go again…Dan Brown’s lastest novel, Inferno, starring Robert Langdon (can characters ‘star’ in books? I don’t know, but I’m sure you know what I meant), proves that no matter what age you are, or what country, you CAN get the girl, as long as you know your art history facts (take note, all you art history majors out there. You may not be able to get a job, but at least you can get a girl half your age).
Like with all Langdon-centred novels, Inferno takes place in a beautiful, history-rich city, where Langdon invariably ends up in a wild goose chase, where he has to save the day in the nick of time, and only his knowledge of obscure history facts from hundreds of years ago, can save them. This stuff is genius guys, really.
In all seriousness though…the plot. Robert wakes up in a Florentine hospital with a wound to his head, and no memory of the past three days. Although he is welcomed by the sight of a pretty doctor, Sienna Brooks, things soon turned pear-shaped when an assassin rocks up at his ward, shoots the other doctor (the older, much less attractive and male, expendable one) and begins chase. Along with Sienna, who it turns out has an IQ of over 200, Robert flees to Sienna’s apartment. There, in an unknown pocket in his trusty jacket (it has elbow sleeves), they find a strange device that projects Botticelli’s Map of Hell, based on the legendary Inferno, by Dante. Only thing is, the Map has been reconfigured as part of a series of clues that will lead Robert and Sienna to the end. The end being, in this case, a plague, destined to be triggered in the next 24 hours, by a mad scientist (always wanted to legitimately use that term), who believes the human race is going to go extinct from over-population. Despite coming across as a bit of an oxymoron, the figures show that he is right.
For Robert and Sienna to stop the plague, they have to follow a set of obscure clues that lead them through Florence, Venice and Istanbul, all the way allowing Brown to provide loving descriptions of the beautiful artwork, scenery and architecture in Europe.
OK, before I go any further, I would like to point out that Dan Brown writes books to make money. He does blockbuster. He writes in a way that is easy for the average reader to comprehend, and he uses the usual ‘blockbuster tricks’ to keep people page-turning (i.e. a cliffhanger at every chapter). And despite what many others think, I knew this and still wanted to read Inferno.
Why? Because books like these are fun. They’re fast-paced, and they keep me reading whenever I had the opportunity, on the train, waiting for a friend, or just with a cup of tea. Because, as all book lovers would know, sometimes reading a great book beats a night out. No?
So overall, I enjoyed Inferno. Sure, it had its plot holes. For example, why is it that in every single Robert Langdon novel, he is always being chased by at least two different organisations? Surely by now he has a number he can ring, where he can simply say “It’s Robert Langdon. Things have gotten real in the art world, can you lay off me for a day or two?” And while I’m all for heroes who come in and save the day, why does every Dan Brown novel have a lady sidekick, who invariably falls for Robert? And even though they are pretty ridiculous within their own fields, it’s rarely shown. Sienna is described as an actual genius, yet the only qualities she was able to bring to the table, so to speak, was her deceptiveness and her ability to act on the spot. Surely Dan Brown could have come up with something a bit more inventive than a canny actress with a ‘dark secret’. That’s a bit ‘done’ now, isn’t it?
But then again, I love how Dan Brown weaves fact into fiction, bringing alive characters that haven’t been addressed in a very long time. Did I know anything about Dante? Had I read The Divine Comedy? Um, no. Before Inferno, I had no interest in reading what is described as ‘an epic poem’. As in long. Really long. And while I may have historians, literature buffs and artists around the world recoiling in horror, I like that I was able to learn a bit more about this through Dan Brown’s novel.
Not to mention, adding fuel to my desire to travel to all these cities, tacking these ridiculous monuments to a long, long list of ‘places I need to see before I die’. Which is probably a negative really, because that is becoming a ridiculously long list, and I live in Australia, which is approximately a bazillion kilometres from anywhere else in the world.
Is Inferno as good as The Da Vinci Code? I don’t think so, but perhaps that’s because I don’t know as much about Dante as I do about Da Vinci. Will Inferno win any awards for outstanding writing? Definitely not. Will you get a kick out of reading it, as a form of escapism and a general good time? I would say so.
I’d definitely suggest giving Inferno a go, if you’re not totally against the idea of a blockbuster book (isn’t it nice that blockbuster books still at least exist though, right?). Not only is it an easy, fun read, but hopefully in the future you’ll score extra points in trivia from learning a whole bunch of art history facts.
Have you read Inferno? Are you a fan of Dan Brown? Let me know!