In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces--Dante's "Inferno"--as he battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle.
I don't remember The Lost Symbol -- that's how boring it was. At least the premise of Inferno was interesting -- beyond that it was kind of ridiculous and repetitious. Robert Langdon is wry, he has a Mickey Mouse watch, and he wears tweed...blah blah blah. I mean, I had to read what the "bad guy" said in his video SO many times. Oh! And in case you didn't know, Sienna Miller has a ponytail. Then the big twist...umm...the already over-the-top idea of the book moved into LUDICROUS territory. Some parts were so torturous, I stopped reading to do laundry and dust.
Dan Brown stays true to his formula. Fortunately, I enjoy this particular formula. Here, Robert Langdon awakens with a head injury in Florence, with no memory of the last couple of days or how he got here from Harvard. Almost immediately, it seems, he is being pursued by a mysterious killer, accompanied by Sienna Brooks, a beautiful doctor with secrets of her own. He learns that a powerful man who is fascinated by Dante's "The Divine Comedy" (particularly "The Inferno") has hidden a horrifying creation of his own design that will change the human race forever, and Langdon must decipher the clues hidden in Dante's writing to prevent an Earthly Inferno. The plot stretches the bounds of credulity, but not to the breaking point, and I quite enjoyed the fast pace, sudden twists and surprise revelations. And, if Brown's research is to be believed (not quite sure if I do), I came away knowing quite a bit more about Dante and the Renaissance than before.
More courage of conviction please Mr Brown. Stop playing it safe and trying to appease everyone.
Whilst I'm there, it's great naming all these fantastic and beautiful historic buildings, but sadly I haven't been there myself, nor do I know what they all look like, so as you name them all, it wouldn't hurt to actually describe to the reader what they look like. If I had really cared to get a sense of the location, I'd have needed google open and constantly searched for the images to picture what it looks like. Perhaps I should know what the "Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore" looks like, but sadly I'm not that intelligent or knowledgeable. Which probably explains why I'm reading Dan Brown novels and not Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy....
Don't get me wrong - I have been a big fan of Dan Brown and really enjoyed his previous work but this novel was a far cry from his previous work. With regards to the monotonous drifts into travelogues and tedious descriptions/opinions of art related to the story, I understand the need to set the scene but in this case it went too far - way too far and drowned out the story. Not sure if there just wasn't enough story there and these too-frequent, too-boring discourses were just there to fill space.
First, I kept getting interrupted by other books that needed to be read first, or college classes I needed to complete. But any other Dan Brown book would not have been interrupted no matter what. So I began to wonder: Why am I not loving this book?
One reason was strictly physical: Why on earth would anyone publish such a ginormous, unreadable, heavy collection of pages between hard covers??? I'm not a big fan of e-books (I forget they are there and forget to finish them, being out of sight). But in this case I wished I'd ordered the digital version instead. Oh, how I longed for that neat little Kindle device! I lugged this massive tome around with me and many times wanted to ditch it in favor of something easier to tote, hold, and read. My hands and arms ached. In this age of the diminishing influence of bookstores, I think the publishers did the author a disservice with this choice. It was not necessary to fatten it up like that to become visible on shelves. I suppose it was designed for the massive hands and arms of massive men??? Silly conceit on the publishers' part and it was no fault of the author's, so my reluctance to pick it up is an unfair gauge of its worthiness, but nevertheless played a big part in the length of time it took me to finish this book.
Secondly, the imagery of Dante's Inferno and Botticelli's artwork was not exactly appealing to me. Since I believe that sort of "hell" is created in the minds of people who believe in it, I wasn't happy to be spending so much time contemplating it.
Next, I grew impatient with the pacing and repetition, thinking perhaps the author or his editors had drawn things out for the sake of creating that enormous physical book. Some of the actual writing seemed careless to me.
HOWEVER, the tour of Italian art and architecture was appealing, to a point. About 3/4 of the way through, I grew bored with that, as well. Once again, it was frustrating to have to lug the book into my office, fire up the computer, and Google the various artworks or locations in order to follow the author's heavy-handed insistence. It would have been easier for him to post a website and give us the images all in one place rather than construct a plot around his trip to Italy and try to build it into a novel. Or perhaps if the book was going to be so physically imposing, it might have served better as a coffee-table art book? Again, this was the first time in my life I have longed for a wirelessly-connected, hand-held device for accessing the Internet. Was he trying to create an App, but his advisers insisted he must produce another book instead?
This might also have been the first time in my life I found myself rooting for the villain from the beginning. So bottom line, I complained all through it but I'm glad I read it, and I hope the next book is better.
Meanwhile, Robert Langdon wakes up in a makeshift hospital with a head wound in Italy. Apparently he's been shot in the head and mumbling something that sounds like "very sorry" over again when he was admitted. Langdon tries to recover the last two days of his life with the help of Dr. Sienna Brooks, a troubled genius in her own right.
Then, all hell breaks loose in the form of a lone soldier.
Langdon and Sienna make haste out of the hospital and momentarily get shelter however, it is short lived when a call to the U.S. Embassy results in that same soldier finding them and because of Langdon sending an email brings about a heavily black leather clad team whose loyalties are not known.
As Langdon tries to piece together his memory, he will embark on a journey through the most grand places of Italy trying to figure out exactly how Dante's Inferno fits into a bioterrorist's plans to control the world's population.
I thought Inferno was really good. It was very captivating and compelling. It was a typical Dan Brown novel. It was rich with character development and chock full of Art history and linguistics. One thing I always loved about Brown novels were the historical aspects. Thank God for my Art History class because I felt comfortable with the material.
I thought the transhumanism movement was a really interesting idea, drastic but honest. The ending I thought didn't live up to all of the drama although it was probably the most realistic.
Robert awakes in hospital to a splitting headache and a nightmarish vision of war and death. Worse yet, he's in Italy and he doesn't know how or when he got there! Before he can get his bearings, the chase is on. He and his surgeon are running for their lives.
Normally I cringe at amnesia plots but the Robert Langdon books are inherently silly. Here the clues are derived from Dante's Divine Comedy (and mostly the Inferno part). Dante apparently put a lot of himself and his life into his works and now a master criminal (mad man) is taking advantage of that fact.
This mad man has taken Dante's work to heart and has hidden clues to the whereabouts of a new plague within the landmarks and artworks that date back to Dante's time.
The introduction of a plague (or a formula) combined with European history and a male and female team on the run makes for an adult caper very much in tone with the original 39 Clues series. The ending, though, set in Turkey, felt like a jarring crossover with Clive Cussler's Crescent Dawn.
Angels and Demons disappointed me greatly, and Lost Symbol, though marginally better, shared many of the problems I had with Angels and Demons. Inferno fits very comfortably in the Dan Brown mold and while sharing many of the best points of his better efforts, also has its share of drawbacks.
First, the good: Dan Brown novels are outstanding opportunities to learn about art, architecture, culture and even literature. In this novel, readers can become conversant about the history of the city of Florence (one of the most magnificent cities ever inhabited), its landmarks and most famous works of art. Most particularly, the reader is immersed in the life and works of Dante Alighieri, and his seminal epic poem The Divine Comedy, which many consider to be among the greatest works of literature ever penned.
Dan Brown is a master of weaving a story, slowly releasing bits and pieces of a puzzle and ending each chapter with a cliffhanger so compelling, the reader is reluctant not to continue. Many times I’ve found myself reading into the early morning hours, unable to find a stopping point.
Now the bad: The scenarios in many of Brown’s novels become so ridiculous and ludicrous that enjoyment becomes difficult. Reading, in fact becomes a chore between eye rolls. As in Angels and Demons, where the “bad guy” is imbued with such superhuman strength and durability that he could have seemingly survived a direct hit with an atomic bomb, our hero in this novel, Robert Langdon, and his female sidekick are surrounded and hopelessly defeated countless times, only to discover “hidden passage ways” over and over and over again. I understand that the medieval city is rife with such escape hatches, but apparently Langdon is the only one that knows about them, he knows all of them, and they just so happen to appear when most desperately needed.
Message to Dan Brown: THESE ABSURD PLOT TWISTS ARE NOT NECESSARY! The underlying story is engaging and vastly entertaining. Your subject matter is incredibly rich and complex. The absurd chase scenes and miraculous get aways are detracting from the story.
Inferno revolves around the issue of world overpopulation and what to do about it as well as what some people are willing to do. Set mostly in Italy, Brown gives the reader a peek into the various museums and towns that the Masters worked and lived in while creating some of the greatest paintings and literature of all time. Dante, of course, takes center stage in this book as his book The Divine Comedy, specifically the part on The Inferno. I'm not a huge fan of Dante's Divine Comedy but this is the 2nd book in the last couple of years I've read on the topic. Craig Johnson used the work as the theme for his book "Hell is Empty" and now Brown.
It took me a while to get through this one. Not because it was bad but because life kept interrupting me! I'll keep reading Brown until he disappoints me, but it hasn't happened yet.
As with most of his books I find them informative and entertaining as hell. Brown is a detail focused writer and very descriptive with the places and items that he writes about. Always has been, so those readers who were expecting something different should probably stop reading his books, I'm sure he isn't planning to change.
I actually enjoy the descriptive nature since most of what he describes I will probably never see. Yes I can Google the image but that doesn't evoke the same mental picture as having a description in writing. Sounds strange but a professor of mine once said that a picture cannot evoke words but words can evoke an image, and that is how I prefer my imagery: descriptive and wordy!
Anyway back to the book. I've already stated I enjoyed the book, immensely and finished it within a day. The main reason I loved it so was it's focus on a very important, yet overlooked, social issue: overpopulation. The statistics quoted in the book are outstanding and oh, so terrifying. I loved the ending and the way the story progressed to reach that ultimate conclusion. There were parts that perhaps got a little flowery and descriptive but the story was fast paced enough that it wasn't irritating (Anne Rice being an author I think is great, but can go on and on about flowers!).
Using Dante's Inferno and the Black Plague as indicators of what is to come was a beautiful twist. I've never read The Divine Comedy but this book has inspired me to do so (when is another matter altogether). While I don't believe in a Hell in the afterlife (or an afterlife at all) the idea of what others see as the worse sins and how they are treated in Hell, and the path to Salvation, is an interesting one. Brown works clever twists into his plot line that ties in with what happened in Europe during the Black Plague how it may have the answer to the problem:
Would you kill half the population to save the future of the human race?
A question that is asked, and mulled over and over again in this story. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this question - but one that must ultimately have an answer. And this book will make you start thinking about what your answer should be.
A must read for the Dan Brown book-lover, and for anyone else who wonders what will happen when our population is too great to be sustained.
Perhaps Dan Brown could try writing for Lonely Planet; at least half the book was taken up with describing the scenery.