Monday, September 29, 2014

Inferno by Dan Brown

I finally completed this book that I've been reading, off and on, since the very beginning of this month. I'd decided to read this as part of the R.I.P. challenge. I do hope I manage to read more books for the challenge, God knows I want to.

Summary: Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Italy with no idea how he got there, his memory a blank. All he remembers are nightmarish visions of a silver-haired woman, beak nosed plague masks, people dying in bloody pools of red and a message, Seek and ye shall find. Stitched into his jacket is sealed canister with a label that warns against a 'bio-hazard.' When the hospital is attacked by an unknown assassin, Langdon escapes, assisted by the mysterious young doctor, Sienna Brooks. The mystery only deepens when she informs Robert that he arrived disoriented and repeating the words "very sorry."

Meanwhile, on a ship in the middle of nowhere, a powerful secret agent watches a tape that his client, now dead, asked to be broadcast worldwide, the next day. The tape shows an underground cavern and recording of the client quoting Dante's Inferno, warning the viewer of an oncoming plague that would cleanse the world.

These are the new Dark Ages.
Centuries ago, Europe was in the depths of its own misery—the population huddled, starving, mired in sin and hopelessness. They were as a congested forest, suffocated by deadwood, awaiting God’s lightning strike—the spark that would finally ignite the fire that would rage across the land and clear the deadwood, once again bringing sunshine to the healthy roots.
Culling is God’s Natural Order.
Ask yourself, What followed the Black Death?
We all know the answer.
The Renaissance.
Rebirth.
It has always been this way. Death is followed by birth.
To reach Paradise, man must pass through Inferno.

Langdon fails to rid himself of his amnesia, steadily growing more confused as he is chased not only by the assassin but also a team of soldiers. With the help of Sienna, desperate to find some answers, he retraces his steps in Italy to find the secret cavern and stop the promised inferno.

What I didn't like: My problem with Dan Brown now is this: four books later, Robert Langdon is painfully unchanged. Down to the silly Mickey Mouse watch. The good thing about writing a thriller series is you get to work on character development without having to worry about the lag in pace that it may cause. But Brown doesn't use his past three books to any advantage. Langdon is still uncannily dumbfounded every time something out of the ordinary happens to him. He is far too trusting for someone who has consistently been caught off guard with secrets and betrayals.

What I liked: Other than that, the book was surprisingly non-formulaic. Perhaps it was all the literary intrigue or the lush descriptions of architecture and culture that made this book especially attractive to me, or maybe it was simply the conspicuous lack of religious conspiracies and secret societies. The premise, of course, was unfailingly ridiculous and quintessentially Dan Brown - but the book avoided many of his usual tropes and cop outs. The story started out detailed and slow and gained speed as it progressed, delivering towards the end some genius twists of plot that arranged themselves into a neat resolution. This was an altogether entertaining thriller.

I loved Angels and Demons. I don't remember if I finished The Last Symbol, which isn't a very promising sign. Inferno was a few days well spent. But I've had more than enough of Robert Langdon now. I don't see myself reading another Dan Brown, whenever he writes the next.

What are your expectations from a mystery series? Any favourites? My favourite is still the Cooper & Fry series by Stephen Booth. But recommendations are always welcome. And what do you make of Dan Brown's writing?

10 comments:

Delia D said...

I have yet to read a Dan Brown novel, but I did see the "Angels and Demons" movie and liked it. I tell myself that I will, eventually, but then some other new and shiny book catches my eye.
I'm not a really great fan of series, especially the ongoing ones. It's something I've only recently started to appreciate. After finishing "Interview with the Vampire" now I want to read all the other books in the Vampire Chronicles.

Viktoria Berg said...

I loathed "The Da Vinci Code", I have to say, more so because it was so warmly recommended to me, I think, as something "just up my alley". I found the plot unimaginative (borrowed from authors I had previously read, and whose books he refers to in the novel), the puzzles ridiculously simple (and still hard for expert/academic Langdon to solve, several pages after myself), and the style of writing infantile. It may be the worst book I ever read.

Like you, I appreciate character development over a series of novels. I have just started re-reading the Mary Russell-series by Laurie R King. It´s even better than first time around, I have to say, and it´s mostly about the characters. It´s a matter of taste, though, I have read one Swedish critic who found Mary Russell very irritating. I guess you have to like the character, and care about them - if you do, you will forgive the author almost any shortcomings in style or plot.

Priya said...

Delia - I never did get around to reading the whole of the series by Anne Rice, but I love how intricate & detailed her world is. Angels & Demons is the book by Dan Brown I'd recommend, but I'm not sure how effective a read it will be if you've already seen the movie!

Viktoria - You're not the first person to say that. Maybe it depends on when you read the book. I was in school when I read it and I was impressed back then - by all the exciting historical references (hadn't really read anything but fantasy then) and the symbology. I am not sure what I'll think of it today.
I did start the first book from the Mary Russell series when I read about it on your site. Honestly, it was disconnecting for me, probably because I am not as well versed in Sherlock Holmes himself as I'd like. I have filed the series away for later!

Delia D said...

I'm beginning to think it doesn't matter if I've seen the movie or not because the books are so much more detailed - I've had that happened to me when I read Dracula, Frankenstein, and Interview with the Vampire (after watching the movies) and discovered they still held some wonderful surprises. Not to mention that the movie made after The Book Thief is but a pale shadow when compared to the book (my opinion, of course).

Priya said...

Delia - That's true, very few movies do complete justice to the books. The Interview with the Vampire movie gave only a glimpse of what the book covers. And, I'm not the biggest fan of the Angels & Demons movie either. But mostly, I'd say you should read Dan Brown for no reason but to see what all the fuss is about - that's why I read Anne Rice!

Jason C. said...

Hmmmm...I read Da Vinci Code when it was first released and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Dan Brown writing isn't particular remarkable by any stretch of the imagination but he is a decent story-teller. I seem to recall one part where the main character is doing laps in a pool and the author uses a dolphin metaphor (or maybe it was some other swift aquatic mammal) in such a meager way to describe his supposedly graceful swimming techniques. I knew from that point on that this wasn't going to be a well-written novel but surprisingly, the novel was entertaining enough to hold my attention to the end. I never bothered with the rest of the series.

Da Vinci Code has pretty much faded from my memory but I seem to recall the movie adaptation more clearly. Or perhaps it is just Tom Hanks' awful haircut that haunts me still. *shudders*

ebookclassics said...

I've only read the Da Vinci Code, but have always been curious about the other books. I get why there is always an attractive female companion, but wouldn't it be fun if he paired up with a guy? Maybe a younger version of himself.

Priya said...

Jason - I think Dolphin is Langdon's nickname... or something like that.The rest of the series is pretty much the same, so there's no point in reading it unless you loved the first books like I did - and even so I didn't like the rest of the series, anyway! I haven't seen the movie adaptation. I remember the haircut from a trailer though. :D

ebookclassics - That's actually a great idea! It would bring out a different aspect of Langdon's character. All the women in the four books are pretty much the same. If he does that, I might read the next book. :)

nishitak said...

I got pretty bored with Robert Langdon after two books, and I skipped The Lost Symbol or whatever it was called. But I am curious about Inferno, and from what you say, it doesn't sound bad. Will give it a try sometime. Strictly library though.

Priya said...

That's true, Nishita, I wouldn't buy it. But it's a good read otherwise. :D

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