Ah yes. The book of the year. Dan Brown swept us all off our feet with The Da Vinci Code. After that became so extremely popular, Angel and Demons, his previous novel about The Da Vinci Code‘s main character Robert Langdon became quite popular in it’s own right. Films were made. And all was well and good and we were all so very excited. And then the third novel came out, The Lost Symbol. It felt formulaic and as something we’ve read before but (even more) unrealistic.
So when the news came out about the fourth novel, I felt skeptical. And when I heard it was to use Dante’s The Divine Comedy, specifically Inferno, as it’s inspiration, I felt even more skeptical. And a bit afraid that Brown would ruin Dante’s masterpiece. So my expectations were extremely low when I started reading this book.
Robert Langdon, the esteemed Harvard professor who seems to know everything, wakes up in a hospital bed. He has no idea why he’s there. Or where he is, as it turns out, when he looks out the window and recognizes the skyline of Florence. He has suffered a head wound from being shot and has barely regained consciousness before a woman arrives, gunning down one of his doctors in front of him. Langdon only survives because of the fast thinking of his other doctor, the beautiful Sienna Brooks. Together they dash off into the night and find temporary safety in Sienna’s home.
Besides being chased and nearly killed, Langdon is also troubled by recurring nightmares and visions; visions, of a beautiful silver haired woman standing by a sea of corpses and repeating ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ But what is he supposed to see and find? And why is he caring a slightly altered image of Botticelli’s masterpiece La Mappa dell’Inferno in a biotype concealed in a hidden pocket in his jacket. And where is his beloved Mickey Mouse watch?!
Quickly it becomes obvious that powerful people are hunting him and Sienna and so the two flee across Florence, only being saved by Langdon’s vast knowledge of the city and various hidden paths and rooms.
Using his knowledge of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, paintings and illustrations depicting scenes from the text and of the symbols in it, he is able to follow a trail laid out by a man who believes himself the savior of the world.
But who is he and what is the secret he was willing to commit suicide to protect? What are Langdon and Sienna chasing? Who are the soldiers hunting for them working for? And what about the silver haired woman? Is she real? And who wants Langdon dead?
Everything is set to make us fascinated and to make this a page turner. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for me. It was okay when I was reading it and I did feel the urge to read just one more chapter but when I put it down, my fingers weren’t exactly itching to pick it up again.
A lot of the formulaic story building we know from the first three books, are here as well. However, Brown has switched it a bit up this time. Langdon’s loss of his short term memory does make a difference. And Sienna is more than just the pretty sidekick we know from the precious books. She’s a girl with a past. And the stakes are higher than ever. Still, it just didn’t quite work for me. The book has issues. Or I at least has issues with it.
Even though this is a new book taking place in the present, it feels old-fashioned in some ways. Langdon talks about the new fad of googling oneself – which isn’t exactly anything new. He also admires a woman’s iPhone, admittedly to be allowed to borrow it from her, but still. Why admire it something which is now so common? Why not just ask to borrow it?
But my biggest issue with the book is the clues given to Langdon and Sienna to follow. Throughout the book, as it became clearer and clearer who the perpetrator was, I wondered more and more why this person had left any clues at all. It seemed to me to be against his interest to leave any clues. Even though something is revealed towards the end which might allow for these clues to have been left, I still don’t think it makes much sense for the perpetrator to leave these clues and thereby giving anyone a chance of thwarting his plans.
So the conclusion is that this one is not as great as The Da Vinci Code. I’m not even sure if it’s better than The Lost Symbol or if my slightly better opinion of this one is caused by my very low expectations. Just like Indiana Jones, maybe it’s time for Robert Langdon to settle down in a nice retirement home.
- Title: Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)
- Author: Dan Brown
- Publisher: Bantam Press
- Year: 2013
- Pages: 463 pages
- Source: Own collection
- Stars: 3 stars out of 5