Length: 463 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon, wakes up in a strange hospital with no memory of how he got there. All he’s told is that a gunshot grazed his head, leaving him with retrograde amnesia. All he remembers are horrific visions of people undergoing the worst forms of torture one can imagine, and a silver-haired, unknown woman telling him one thing – Seek and ye shall find.
Before he can make sense of what is happening around him, he discovers something else – he’s in Florence. He’s barely begun to try and remember why he is in the city, or even when or how he got there, when he’s attacked again. Dr. Sienna Brooks, in charge of his case, saves him and brings him back to her apartment. And that is where he discovers a strange, horrifying object in a hidden pocket stitched into his jacket. What the object reveals is nothing short of terrible. The world is in danger, its population in threat because of the actions of a madman who thinks of himself as savior. When a call to the US Consulate results in nothing more than him being discovered by the woman trying to kill him and another more powerful and faceless enemy, Langdon and Brooks take matters into their own hands.
With danger at every turn, trust a rare commodity, and time ticking against them, Langdon and Brooks only have the strange references from Dante’s Inferno to help them. They need to decode the riddles hidden within the beautiful artwork of the Renaissance to solve the puzzle. Success will not be easy as Langdon struggles to understand the chaos in his vision and find the answers in the memory he’s lost. But failure could mean their death… and that of the world as we know it.
Inferno has everything you would have come to expect from a Dan Brown novel – heaps of history, riddles hidden in the most famous pieces of art, fast-paced action, and real issues that beg pondering.
When I read The Lost Symbol, I had come close to deciding never to read another Robert Langdon book – it was just that boring. And that was a big deviation from his previous works. Inferno, thankfully, redeems Dan Brown. It combines the depth of history, conspiracy theories, and information of The Da Vinci Code with the action of Angels and Demons. And the result is a pretty well thought out, well executed idea.
I found one of the best parts about the book to be the historical and art references, all of which are apparently true. The structures of Italy are described in great detail and their history, well explained. If nothing else, it leaves you with a strong desire to visit Venice and Florence – this time, with a greater appreciation for the sites you’re viewing.
I thought the story itself was very interesting. What’s really good about it is the way in which it is presented. It wasn’t just about a twist here or there; it was actually a very unique presentation which turned the entire story that you knew up until that point right on its head. A few times, you have to sit back and think, “Okay, if this is what the truth is, then how exactly did that scene from 75 pages ago play out?”
Brown has written Inferno in a way that your mind makes assumptions about the story and characters as you read, and you find most of those assumptions to be wrong when you read ahead. And I don’t mean in a way that goes, “Oh, this guy was bad not good, or good not bad.” I mean more in a way of, “Oh, this scene was actually very different and the events involved meant a host of other things.” So, you end up going back to scenes in your head (and sometimes, in the book) and rereading them from a brand new perspective.
Yet, the book does fall short on some aspects. First, the descriptions could have definitely been reduced. While the history behind the locations and pieces is interesting, its physical descriptions tend to drone on for too long. They could definitely have been shortened to maybe three-quarters of the length to ensure that they still retain their value. The second thing that bothered me, was the end. It was definitely a surprising one, but for all its build up, it was oddly underwhelming. And the worst part is that I can’t even say why – it just was. It’s not the concept that was underwhelming, but the way it was put forth. It just seemed to lack a punch.
That’s why, overall, I’d say it makes a solid mark for itself at 3.5 stars. The book blurb calls Inferno “compelling and thought-provoking”, which it most certainly is. It touches upon the very real threat of overpopulation and the growing belief in the ideology of transhumanism. It questions whether people have the courage to take the steps necessary to save our world, or whether taking those steps makes you a madman. The end leaves you wondering (scarily enough) about what is really right or wrong, and what if the powers that be, the people who can make a change, start asking that very question. A great read for Dan Brown fans, Inferno definitely takes a step in the right direction after the fiasco that was his last book. And it left me waiting for the next Robert Langdon book.