Book Review: Inferno – Dan Brown

‘Remember tonight…for it’s the beginning of forever. ‘

Robert Langdon is fast becoming the John McClane of the literary world. The man who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again. And then again. And then once more for good luck. However once you remove the implausibility of situation and the common tropes which Brown often aligns to, Inferno is an excellent read.

As the 4th instalment of Langdon’s adventures (following the most recent The Lost Symbol) the reader is once again plunged into a cryptic maze which presents enigmas wrapped in history and symbology (this time focusing around Dante’s Inferno). By focusing on this Italian work the reader invariably is given more focus, as all the clues and mystery have a central theme. This does not mean however that if you know nothing about Dante’s Inferno that you will be lost as Brown’s ability to weave context and information is elegant.  With facts threaded throughout at times Brown does have a tendency to show-off, leading to large swathes of, by the end, fairly superfluous information. Nevertheless the facts are relevant and interesting enough to remain avid, especially for fans of history or symbology.

Brown fuels an addiction which leaves a craving for more understanding

For non-readers of the series there is not too much to worry about. Although having read The Lost Symbol or even further back to more widely recognised The Da Vinci Code may acclimatise you to the style of the novel and character, Brown is excellent at gripping any reader and providing enough necessary detail. Langdon is also an extremely likable protagonist and is surrounded by characters which seem properly fleshed out so that they do not remain shadows in the background. The style at times for fans may at times seem repetitive (certain idiosyncrasies such as a single female lead, rapid historical recall, multi-story narratives) but this does not make the story or style any less compelling then it previously was. It is, after all, what Brown is renowned for and in Inferno he exacts the mystery to a T, placing just enough mystery throughout to keep you guessing, but not necessarily finding the right answer. Moreover his ability to string readers throughout is incredible, a light balance between building tension and then subtly phasing away from it. This, when combined with a pulsating race through the streets of Florence, develops a novel which is incredibly hard to put down.

The story is still viciously compelling

What I found most intriguing about Inferno is that instead of focusing specifically on a religious context, much alike the previous two books, it returns to a much more balanced storyline, much like the original Angels and Demons. The story presents the reader with a real-time (disturbingly close) threat, then allows that to mould into the historical symbology. This also interestingly allows a more scientific aspect to incorporate itself into the narrative, meaning that readers of both a creative or exacting mindset can appreciate the themes that arise. The ending is compelling and when the final framework of the story descends, the threads which have unraveled, sometimes over the entire course of the native, is satisfyingly concluded. It does however feel as though one final chapter is needed, with Brown fuelling an addiction which leaves a craving for an essence of more understanding, a frustration shared or enjoyed depending on the type of reader.

Undeniably what Brown has written is essentially the exact same framework of the previous novels with new characters, symbols and threats incorporated. However the story is still viciously compelling and, even with the large scrutiny that he receives for his style of writing from linguistics critics, Brown remains one of the most widely accessible writers currently writing. Inferno is no exception, and becomes a fine instalment into his successful series.

James Hamilton


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