Review: Inferno by Dan Brown
Author: Dan Brown
Publisher: Transworld Publishers
Caveat: The review contains minor spoilers from the book, but mostly restricted to only the first fifteen or so pages and but there’s nothing here that would kill the book for you.
But that don’t impress me much. The fact that pop singer Shania Twain’s hit from yester years is what I’m using to describe my first reaction after completing the 100-odd chapter long book must tell you something about my disappointment!
Four years of waiting for Harvard symbologist and art professor Robert Langdon and what we have is the Inferno. It starts off like most other Langdon novels – with him in the midst of action right away and a witty, spunky lady who is in for the ride. There’s less of the symbology per se that enthralled readers in Angels and Demons, but more a show of Landgon’s literary prowess –it is after all Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy that provides fodder for the plot. The narrative, for at least for three-quarter of the book, deserves a mention here. The fact that Langdon is plagued with Bollywood’s favorite – retrograde amnesia– means that other characters in the book aid us in catching up with the plot and it’s been done in a tight way. Also interesting is that Langdon’s nemesis plunges to his death on Page 7 and is still a force to reckon with in the narrative, right until the end. There are moments of compelling and clever writing too. An example would be how a simple quote of Dante’s is so central to the story – The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
Some of Langdon’s oddities like his Mickey Mouse watch and his Harris Tweeds actually provide some relief from Brown’s intrinsic height-and-width description of Florentine architecture. Not taking away credit from where it is due though, Brown’s ability to elicit jaw-dropping reactions is still there. Mind numbing connections and revelations about the tapestry that is the Renaissance is still Dan Brown’s forte and there’s no denying that. You have to give it to the man – he’s got me to do what no one else could – download the actual version of Dante’s Divine Comedy and admire it for what it is; a true classic!
However, somewhere through Chapter 90s, you get an epiphany. There is not going to be a big-bang ending! Forget big-bang, you could close the book and still get the feeling of having been hung out to dry by the author. So besides a tedious architectural discourse and an ending that falls flat on its face, you are actually left wondering, what good came from reading all those pages! Well, it at least got me thinking about the theme of an exponentially growing world population! And oh yes, the Black Plague.
The twists are fairly predictable, so my advice – do not play the guessing the game! The book is best read without the overt use of one’s grey cells (this is in case you’ve already spent 750 INR or more to purchase the book!).
The most befitting line to sum up my feelings is precisely what the Telegraph
had to say – Dan Brown's take on Dante's Inferno is the thriller-writer's most ambitious novel yet – and his worst.