Book review 32 – Inferno

Inferno-coverInferno (#4 Langdon)

by Dan Brown

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Goodreads summary:

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.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

4 star

The latest Dan Brown bestseller continues the tried and true formula, but remains an amusing read, especially for people who’ve been to Florence. It’s a trip down the memory lane of the streets and sights, the museums and tourist crowds. A nice background for a chase to be sure, but still a transparent advertisement for a cultural holiday in Italy since the obligatory movie adaptation will draw in even more people. No doubt, the authorities in Florence already prepare for a new guided tour of Langdon’s flight through the city streets, swelling already tourist-packed streets.

A word of advice; they might find themselves a tad disappointed regarding access to hidden tunnels, walkways and the obligatory endless waiting lines. Uffizi gallery alone can make you waste three hours in a queue before you’ve even stepped a foot inside it. Prepare for long hours standing on your feet, being jostled about by the people, and for criminally overpriced cappuccinos and gelatos in the main tourist areas. The art is worth it, and you’ll be blown away by the Duomo, but don’t expect other adventures. 😀

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Brown opens the novel with a cliché amnesia plotline that he exploits to keep the suspense high, to send us down a merry chase of plot turns and twists, and a few ‘surprise’ revelations. I won’t spoil the book here because I think his allusions to Dante’s Inferno are truly fascinating, a delight, and a stroke of brilliance. It’s the only thing that makes this novel work, engages the reader’s interest. I’d say – go and grab the original; with excellent footnotes so you’d fully grasp the harsh, sarcastic, and barbed undertones Dante uses to castigate people he did not care for. Dante’s Inferno is a masterpiece (which can’t be said for the modern incarnation, but it’s still a nice novel to spend a few hours with).

The only thing that truly bothered me and kind of broke the mood and the tension was a big reveal around 100 pages before the end. I did not expect it, but it completely derailed the action for me. It was sudden, ridiculously cliché, and I was really disappointed. But, the villain more than made up for this failing – he was devious, intelligent, and utterly convinced in what he was doing. I doubt Brown will ever manage to top him.

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Dan Brown is an author I like to read because he makes old art, literature, and history intriguing, relevant. He makes people ask questions about organisations, places, and historical events. It is a great power to have as a writer and his sales surely show people appreciate his ideas. Then again, he knows how to pace a story to make it get under your skin and turn the pages ever faster. Characters do need more fleshing out since regurgitating the same facts about them  in every book doesn’t make for great characterisation, but he does keep things consistent.

I’m really glad for this book though, because it got me out of my reading slump. I’ll definitely read the next book Brown publishes. I hope he’s learned form the mistakes he made in his previous books and will, hopefully, delight us with a truly amazing new story and a fresh formula.

Good job, Mr.Brown.

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