Book Review: Inferno

by Dan Brown, Fiction (Released May, 2013)

Bottom Line: Skip it.
Summary: Robert Langdon (symbologist and Harvard professor of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons fame) finds himself in Florence, Italy and must solve a mystery involving Dante’s Inferno, many famous tourist destinations, a scientific question, and a secret organization.
My Thoughts: I never thought I would recommend skipping a Dan Brown novel…but here I am. I LOVED The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons and really enjoyed The Lost Symbol, but am sad to say Inferno veered off track. It wasn’t horrible and I didn’t have trouble finishing it, but it was not the Dan Brown I love. Brown has a pretty standard formula for his books and this novel sticks to it in general, but there are some key differences in Inferno that rubbed me the wrong way. First, the Prologue is completely bizarre and made no sense to me when I read it. It was not typical Dan Brown and almost felt like it was written by someone else entirely. Not a good start! Second, Brown went haywire with his descriptions of Florentine art and architecture. I understand that he must be really into these things and Robert Langdon is an expert as well, but it was too much for a reader who is not an art and/or architecture aficionado. I felt like I was reading a history textbook at times and got bored with these sections (and there are many!). However, if you really enjoy this type of stuff, it probably won’t bother you. Third, and I don’t remember thinking this about any of Brown’s other books, but his writing style felt cheesy. Maybe it’s because I was younger when I read his other books or maybe his writing style really has changed. Finally, the plot does take the unexpected turns you can count on from Brown, but this time they struck me as perplexing and odd rather than surprising and exciting. They left me saying “huh?” rather than “wow”. All that being said, Inferno wasn’t all bad. There is a large scale scientific question and subsequent moral dilemma that I thought was incredibly interesting (and somewhat terrifying!). I wondered how it would integrate with the Dante portions of the mystery and it was one of the suspenseful elements of the story that I enjoyed. I even Googled it afterwards to see if it was based on fact – I did find some information about it and one source in particular that says Dan Brown is a believer in the “transhumanist” movement relating to the science that appears in the book. If you love Florence and/or art and architecture, you will probably enjoy this book more than I did. But, I would rank it last out of all the Brown novels I’ve read.

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