Our Thursday Evening Reads pick for this week, is Dan Brown's Inferno. Like thousands of other readers around the world, we bought this book on the release day, and have been reading feverishly ever since.
Our Tuesday and Thursday Evening Reads segments are specifically designed for books that we think readers can dive into, and lose themselves in, after a long day at work or school.
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 464 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Doubleday (Random House)
Format read: E-copy (purchased)
While Brown’s books definitely aren’t perfect, they’re entertaining. They’re fun. They have their own smart spins on art and literature of historical importance, and most importantly, they encourage readers to seek out and discover these art and literature pieces on their own.
(Think about how many people signed up to do DaVinci Code tours in London and Paris after the book came out, right?)
So when I heard that Brown had another book coming out this year and it was about Dante’s Inferno - a book which both intrigued and horrified me as an undergraduate – I knew I had to check it out.
Be warned: my review will be vaguer than usual, because I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone!
When Robert awakes, he’s told two things:
* When he arrived, he was mumbling "very sorry, very sorry"
* There is a storage container sewn into a hidden panel of his coat, but both the container and the panel are things that Langdon's never seen before.
As Robert begins to piece together just how and why he arrived in Italy in the first place, he's pulled into a global conspiracy involving one of the famous literary works in history. However, Langdon only has a short period of time to figure everything out, before there are global ramifications.
Things that worked:
As usual, Langdon’s a slightly more intellectual version of James Bond. He’s quick on his feet, eager to learn and humble, despite his international fame.
However, because of the unusual set-up of this book, Langdon’s also more off-kilter as Inferno opens. He doesn’t know what’s going on; doesn’t know who to trust, and has to spend a substantial amount of time playing catching-up.
Brown does a good job of balancing Langdon’s uncertainty, along with his natural ability to want to learn and absorb a situation. While Langdon’s internal monologuing was a little excessive at times – I felt like there were some points, where I got a little toomuch history about Florence and some other locations – Langdon was still very much a hero to root for.
There’s a secondary character which I really liked, largely because she’s far more uncertain than your average Langdon heroine.
I really liked the fact that the story started off in medias res. Unlike the standard Langdon formula of foundation laying + person approaching him = him getting pulled into an adventure, the uncertainty of the opening really upped the stakes considerably.
I was genuinely curious as to how Langdon ended up in such a situation in the first place, and I think that other readers will feel the same.
Bear in mind, the plotting isn’t perfect: there are some points where the action does drag, including a bit of misdirection where Brown repeats the same scene twice. But all in all, it’s pretty much a riproaring adventure.
Brown’s admittedly never been the best writer out there, but he writes in a easy and flowing style which really works.
His prose is never too verbose that it’ll distract readers as they try and figure things out, but it’s also not so simplistic, that characters like Langdon won’t seem credible as well-educated academics.
I especially appreciated Brown’s writing choices when relaying some of the scientific concepts incorporated in the book. He explains them in a way that’s easily comprehensible – including some complex science that most people wouldn’t have considered – but also interesting.
Things that didn't work:
Without getting into too much detail, it felt like Brown had taken a page out of M. Night Shyamalan's book, and threw in a big!crazy!twist, just to prove that he's not as formulaic as critics have been saying.
While the twist was certainly intriguing, and did motivate me to go back and read certain sections to see if there were any hints of the twist, the twist ultimately almost felt too outlandish, if that makes any sense. It's like Brown went out of his way to fool us and give misdirection in the earlier chapters, just so we would have that moment of shock/surprise when all was revealed.
* The ending.
I liked the fact that the overarching situation in Inferno wasn't wrapped up neatly in a bow, like previous Robert Langdon adventures. There was definitely more fallout, this time around. However, the fallout also bordered on the slightly ridiculous.
While the ending is certainly intriguing and definitely a real-world concern from a scientific standpoint, I couldn't get past my mental image of Brown, laughing slightly manically and going "Muhaha! That's right! I DID IT! I WENT THERE!" while writing it. Because that's just how the ending came off. I can't really detail the ending without spoiling it, but I think other people will agree with me that it takes a writer a lot of chutzpah to write something like that.
I also recommend this to anyone who just wants to get lost in a cinematic-style adventure in general, for a few hours. This is the book for you.
About the author:
Although many see Dan Brown's books as anti-Christian, Brown is a Christian who says that his book The Da Vinci Code is simply "an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate" and suggests that the book may be used "as a positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith."