For whatever reason I couldn’t quite come around to finishing The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. A combination of being overworked at office, the fact that I got only a hardbound copy of this bulky book, too many material interruptions meant that I couldn’t finish this book even though I pre-ordered it online and got it on the day it was published. This effectively meant that I was not as excited about Inferno, when it was released. Yes, Dan Brown’s viral marketing technique of having a puzzle which when solved would display the cover of the book, the pre-release hype was all noticed by me, but I didn’t quite get into the flow of things. And then, when initial reviews mentioned that this book had Dante’s Inferno as the base on which the story was kind of built on, I lost further interest in it as I had no clue about Dante except that he was a poet, in fact I didn’t even know he was Italian until I read this book.
The second half of 2013 and especially the last three odd months have been quite a whirl for me, with lots of writing and reading going on. Given that I had finished off around 5 books written by Indian authors continuously I wanted to read something a little different, a little more ‘universally commercial’ if I can call it that and that’s how I ended up picking up Inferno on 27th Dec. The aim was to finish if off before midnight on 31st Dec so that I could end the year with Dan Brown. And man, was it a wise decision or what.
When Robert Langdon (his fourth outing after The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons & The Lost Symbol) wakes up in a hospital in Florence with short term amnesia not knowing what exactly he is doing in the city and is almost immediately chased down by a potential assassin readers will know that they are in for a fun ride across this wonderful Italian city. And true to his reputation Brown doesn’t hold back any punches and delivers blow after blow in this fast paced thriller.
Assisted by the mysterious Dr Sienna Brooks who also happens to be a child prodigy, Langdon figures out that something terrible is being planned when he discovers a hi-tech projector that displays a modified version of Botticelli’s painting Map of Hell which was based on Dante’s Inferno. This is the first and significant clue that the duo has on their quest to find out what exactly it was that Langdon was doing in Florence in the first place.
The relentless action moves from Florence to Venice and finally culminates in Istanbul and suffice to say that the description of the first two cities is nothing short of a mini Lonely Planet guide, at least in terms of the architecture, sculpture and paintings found there. The details that Brown provides in terms of these two cities, their history and the famous landmarks there is simply outstanding and is illustrative of the amount of research that he and his team undertake before they start work on any of his novels. It is almost like you are there in the city and the monument itself when Brown describes the same, and this is one of the reasons that he is such a widely read author. To combine such detail in the thriller genre and not slow down the pace of the story is a gift that Brown exploits to the core in this book as well.
What worked really well for me in Inferno was the unexpected twist approximately 75% into the book. It has the effect of turning the entire situation and circumstances on its head and will probably confuse movie viewers whenever this book is going to find its way to the silver screen.
Where I do have issues with the book is the fact that invariably Robert Langdon has to be the only person who can solve a world crisis. While I understand that the thriller genre requires a ‘hero figure’ to drive the story forward, the fact remains that Brown places too much reliance on Langdon’s character time and again, and if I were Langdon I would be really tired of saving the world for the fourth consecutive time. Maybe it is time that we retired him and brought forth a protégé. And while the premise itself is quite believable, maybe the scale could have been reduced a little, the stakes a little lower, that’s all. But then, this is just me nit-picking at what is essentially a well paced lovely thriller of a story.
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23 thoughts on “Inferno – Dan Brown – Book Review”
Looks like a superb thriller. I do like Dan Brown’s characters. He makes sure they are believable. Nice review of this book. I have read this one, of course.
@Kajal, yes, this was a better Dan Brown book, especially after The Lost Symbol debacle where I couldn’t even finish the book. Have to read that one also sometime soon 🙂
Sounds like a good book. Too bad the author couldn’t introduce a partner to help save the world. ♥
@Kathy, yes, given that this was the fourth book, he could’ve introduced a partner at least now 🙂
I’ve read all his books and loved them all. But like you rightly said, I’d be bored if I had to save the world four times over 😛
@Bhavya, yeah, Robert Langdon is not getting any younger or fitter, and am sure he is tired of having to save the world each and every time 😀
i had loved Angels and Demons and the Da vinci code….but lost symbol was a disappointment(when compared to the other two books).may b i shud get around to read inferno….atleast your review implies that its god 🙂
@confusedhumanity, yes, The Lost Symbol was panned universally even by the hardcore Dan Brown fans, and my guess is that with Inferno, he is back to what he does best. Do read it and let me know your thoughts 🙂
I too was little disapointed by the way ‘The lost symbol’ ended… Da vince code and angels n demons remain my favorites, Inferno was very good too. I liked the ending too. Want to visit Florence and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul…
and yes, Langdon is too old to portray a hero…want a younger hero ..
@pratikshya2, I know, let him retire gracefully, no?? 😀
Wow ! You’ve set my thoughts in motion and my pulses racing 😉 this review has left me yearning for the book. You know what, I had pre-ordered it from FK and got it on the day of its release. It’s safe in my bookshelf at Thrissur 🙂 🙂 This time I couldn’t carry it back with me to Dubai from India, as I had enough and more luggage, way beyond the allowed limits on the flight. I regret it now 😦 Will get hold of it soon 🙂 🙂 🙂
Superb review 🙂 I just skimmed it first to check if there were spoilers, but again, you’ve done full justice in that dimension too . Good one, sir 🙂
@Sreeja, rest assured, I never include spoilers in any of my book or movie reviews ever. And trust me, if you like Dan Brown, then you will surely enjoy Inferno quite a bit 🙂 Pity about the weight restriction though.
I am a Dan Brown fan but I have not read this one yet. After reading your review, I think I have to check it fast. 🙂
@Praveen, if you are a Dan Brown fan, then you will surely enjoy the book
I am yet to read it… Its sheer volume demotivates me because I have an ebook… But you review makes me want to read it… And I loved the last paragraph… I am also kind of tiered of him.. Like the movie franchise do to us!
@Locomente, I am not necessarily tired of him, but then, there’s only so much that one individual can do to save the world, right???
I absolutely loved this book. 🙂 I am not bored on Langdon as yet. 🙂
@Jyothi Nair, yes, it is quite a fast paced on the edge of your seats thriller isn’t it 🙂
I liked Inferno, and loved the twist that you speak of…. Dan Brown is probably my favorite author behind Conan Doyle. My personal favorite is ‘Digital Fortress’, and I love the amount of research Dan puts in his book. I am glad you enjoyed the book so much. Though I think I can still get a book out of yet Langdon yet.
@ayush, somehow I am not surprised that Digital Fortress is a personal favorite of yours 🙂 And not that I am tired of Langdon, just wanted to give the poor guy a break, that’s all 😀
DB’s books are enjoyable as they are fast-paced and informative. I haven’t yet read this book. After reading your review, there’s no reason for avoiding it!
@Proactive Indian, if you are a fan of Dan Brown, then you surely will enjoy this book quite a bit…