Book Review : Inferno by Dan Brown


And so, regrettably, Dan Brown is added to that list of authors whose next book I’ll probably not read. This is sad. I mean, I kinda liked his books. Sure, the stories were overly theatrical. It was also obvious that he wrote them with the clear objective that he wanted them to be made into Hollywood blockbusters. Even then, he had a way of making them interesting and gripping. In almost all his previous books, he has stuck more or less the right balance between a reasonably good plot, impressive science and history, and interesting locations. However, with his latest offering Inferno, he has overdone everything that he shouldn’t have, and largely ignored everything that he should have focused on.

Like almost all his books, Inferno starts off with a mysterious death. A few pages later we have our beloved Tom Hanks in his coolest haircut  Robert Langdon enter the picture, all shot up and bleeding and having no recollection of what happened to him or where he is. This time, he’s having disturbing visions of a woman calling out to him from the banks of a river full of corpses. Conveniently, he also has retrograde amnesia. Anyways, someone tries to kill Langdon at the hospital and this blond gal with an IQ over 200 saves him. Then they discover a mysterious object in Langdon’s possession, and the story really kicks off.

Only, it feels less like a story and more like an extensive guided tour of Florence. In Inferno, Dan Brown has overdone the historical thing to an unbelievable extent. I mean, sure, I get it; there are thousands and thousands of mysterious and impressive historical marvels scattered all over the city. I really, really did not have to be told about all  of them. After a few dozen pages, as Langdon and Sienna are chased through Florence by an elite team of commandos, you start getting the distinct feeling that someone wrote this with generous use of the Street View feature of Google Maps, and did not bother to consider that the reader might not quite derive the same pleasure with a text-only  version. More than half the story takes place in Florence, and you can actually skip fifty or so pages without missing any of the plot. By the time the story moves elsewhere both in terms of location and plot, your interest will already be half-gone.

As for the other parts of the story, it’s hard to find anything that can really keep you glued to the pages. Like I said, Brown has overdone everything that he shouldn’t have and underdone everything that he should have concentrated on. The obligatory sinister organization is there, only that it acts more like a concierge service than anything else. The obligatory madman is there, only that he gets to play too small a part in the scheme of things. The obligatory half-baked romantic hint for Langdon is there, but like with all other books it starts for no reason and goes predictably nowhere. A few other books by Dan Brown, Deception Point, Digital Fortress and Angels and Demons all impressed me by their impressive use of science. The author has sadly chosen to overlook that strength of his. He has made half-hearted use of the overpopulation and trans-human concepts, and failed completely to generate any curiosity. The few predictable twists are weak and useless. The story also makes generous use of Dante’s Divine Comedy and depictions of hell to drive the plot forward. Unfortunately, one map of hell does not a good thriller make.

And finally, I might have forgiven all else if the story was good. However, it’s precisely there that Dan Brown disappoints the most. The entire novel is basically a search for a plastic bag which contains some unknown substance. And when we reach the end, we learn that it is already too late, and the doomsday scenario everybody was trying to prevent has already taken place. Incredulously, the book ends on the note that everybody is confused and unsure, and there’s no suggestion about what happens next. I suppose at that point Mr. Brown given up hope that this debacle will actually be published. Or maybe, just like me, he had had enough.

Final Verdict: Give it a miss, even if you get a free copy like I did. Maybe he’ll do better next time.


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