Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Inferno - Dan Brown

Ever since inciting scandal with his book The Da Vinci Code, the world has met new work by Dan Brown with great anticipation.  He released his fourth and latest foray into the world of Professor Robert Langdon May 14th of this year.  The book received much media hype in the months leading to its debut and even faced some controversy over the extreme methods used to keep its contents secret before public release.

Since the reveal of its title on the Today Show a few months ago, I have been sitting dutifully on the library waiting list.  By the time I got on the list, I had ended up in the 60s somewhere.  I did not expect to indulge in Langdon's latest adventure until late summer, maybe even fall.  However, in a stroke of luck, while hunting for a book for Kevin to read on his iPad, I saw Inferno available through our library's digital loan website.  I snagged it immediately and tried to express my astonishment to Kevin.  I must have logged on right when they added the digital edition to the website, because at the time of this writing, there are nearly 300 people on the waiting list for the same privilege.

I have read all of Brown's novels about Langdon in the past.  Despite debate over his facts and portrayals of historical figures and events, I very much enjoyed his use of these elements to weave a modern adventure story.  He has created Langdon to be a modern Indiana Jones of sorts.  

In the same way the Indiana Jones movies provide endless entertainment without a solid backbone of strong acting or plot (I realize I may be invoking passionate argument with that statement. I adore Harrison Ford and have seen nearly all of his movies, but the man could learn a few things from Daniel Day Lewis.), Brown fills his pages with literary special effects.  He relies heavily on ending chapters with cliff-hangers and keeping his characters running at full speed to distract from any holes in their actions.

This particular adventure revolves around Dante's Divine Comedy, specifically the portion entitled Inferno about Dante's descent into hell.  Lagdon awakens in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of how he got there or the mystery with which he has become involved.  With assistance from an inscrutable young doctor, Sienna Brooks, he escapes those hunting him and sets out trying to decipher the clues which have been left in his possession.  

The book follows standard Brown format: Langdon seeks solution to historical mystery with the assistance of a beautiful woman and his eidetic memory.  Art and history lend clues while a dark force places them on a strict timeline.  Twists ensue and Langdon eventually finds himself at the end of the trail of clues, having revealed a great secret.  The book, as with Brown's others, maintains a quick pace and exciting plot.  There is plenty of intrigue to keep the reader engaged.  

Unlike with Brown's other work, though, I found Inferno to be a bit too formulaic for me.  Perhaps it's because this is now the fourth Brown has written about this character in this style.  Perhaps it's due to its setting in cities and its references to artists and thinkers with which I am less familiar than previous works.  Perhaps its due to Brown's attempt to create controversy over the subject of overpopulation.  Perhaps its that I have been ready better, more well-written work lately in my pursuit of the 100 Best Novels goal.  Whatever the reason, I found myself growing weary toward the end of the story.

Brown's twists near the end were difficult to follow at times.  The characters' motivations seemed suspect and pliable.  While the approach of Langdon's amnesia was meant to be clever no doubt, it really left me feeling confused as well when the truth began to come out.  Everything did come clear eventually, but the process of getting there was quite muddled.

I still enjoyed the book.  It was a great vacation read and I am thrilled I got to read it so much earlier than I expected (Being a faithful library patron often means I end up waiting a while for new releases.).  While few authors can ever return to the same height of their breakout book, I still hope for a higher standard of quality, even from this genre.

Pages: 464
Date Completed: May 25, 2013

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