by Dan Brown
Doubleday New York, NY 2013
All the things people say about Dan Brown’s writing are true. His books are entertaining but his prose is repetitive. I suspect that makes it easier for distracted summer readers. Brown takes conspiracy theory to an absurd level and twists some of the facts. He is, however, a best-selling author for a reason. He appeals to some inner sense of desire to tie things together, to make connections in odd places.
It takes me forever to read a Dan Brown novel and this was no exception. Not only is the writing labored but I can’t read one of his books without Google. He proliferates his novels with art and visual references, and they are actual pieces. I can’t read about them without “knowing” what he’s talking about. I have to look them up and LOOK at them. If Dan Brown’s novels weren’t already so long I’d be begging for an illustrated edition!
This story is based on Dante’s famous Divine Comedy and specifically the first section the Inferno. It starts in Florence with Robert Langdon in the hospital with a concussion. The subsequent memory loss is so atypical for someone with an eidetic memory that it adds interest to a familiar character. But, thanks in part to Brown’s “stick it in your face” writing style, it is not necessary to approach this book with any familiarity with previous works or with Langdon as a character.
In the Da Vinci Code explored a question central to Christianity. He expanded upon a mythology (much the way the National Treasure movies with Nicholas Cage do) that Mary Magdalene fled to Europe after the crucifixion. In Angels and Demons he explored the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the mysteries of the Papacy. This book focuses on a moral conundrum as well, but the issues go beyond the scope of any one religion or religious practice.
Dan Brown’s Inferno relies heavily on Divine Comedy for its clues and codes. The premise, like the poem, is that in order to get to heaven it is necessary to go through hell. Robert Langdon explores the twists and turns of this mystery relating them (very loosely) to the levels of hell immortalized by Dante. The moral dilemma: Are acts of terrorism justified when they truly (scientifically) are for the greater good?, is explored from several angles. It’s food for thought, or just another Dan Brown summer read.