I pulled an all-nighter and finished reading Dan Brown's latest, Inferno. I'm half-dead even as I type this, but it has been worth it. I assure you that I will not give away any spoilers.
I speak for most fans of the thriller fiction genre when I say we loved Dan Brown for creeping us out with the now-real-now-fake Illuminati and the mad Camerlengo. We were convinced by Brown to go to the Louvre and search for Mary Magdalene's remains, swearing that the Knights Templar and the Priory were protecting the descendants of Christ. We loved the search for the fake-but-real-but-fake meteorite with alien life. We wanted the uncrackable code to remain undecodable forever.
But The Lost Symbol faltered. The symbol was finally... just that? And some nutter wanted to become God and died in a helicopter explosion? No, clearly, Robert Langdon had passed his expiry date. No hero should hang around beyond a trilogy. I was prepared to hate Inferno for persisting with the good but distinctly ageing symbologist.
But Robert Langdon is back, thankfully in the country where he had his first hair-raising adventures. He's down right at the start this time, so he can only get up and running as the book progresses. And, he stays within the plot, not becoming larger than life and overshadowing the plot, as he did the last time we saw him. One even wants him to get his Mickey Mouse watch back.
I didn't like the prologue. Of course, the event that occurs in the prologue was necessary, but until you understand it - by page 175 or so - the prologue is just twaddle. The verses and the didactic-ism could have been avoided. In fact, I hummed and hawed my way through till chapter three, when things sloooowly began moving. But it all begins to boil nicely by chapter nine. Even so, Langdon's hallucinations were annoying, until I found out why they were occurring.
Now, the plot. Those who have read James Rollins's The Doomsday Key and Andy McDermott's The Hunt For Atlantis have come across this particular premise before. In fact, any lover of the thriller fiction genre has come across a weirdo who wants to bring about the end of the world for good reasons. And, our hero has to stop him. Nothing new. But a jealous husband became Othello and a vengeful son became Hamlet only when Shakespeare wrote about them, so it isn't about the plot; a good read, for me, is about the writing style alone.
Inferno comes into its own with the Dante connection, combined with Brown's own style of hair-breadth escapes via bridges, maps (yes, an escape via a map) and corridors and, of course, symbology embedded in paintings (and masks, this time). Yes, there is a cylindrical object. No, it isn't a cipher. You will love the "projector" and the Dante and hell images. There is enough interpretation and hopping - racing, rather - from one monument to another to keep you on the edge of your seat.
And, the people. One moment you suspect one character; the next instant, you vouch for their innocence and point at someone else. For me, the winner here is the WHO director. She is one step ahead of everyone, including Langdon. Until the end, when they all fall down. Oh, and don't you love the artwork on the cover (not the dustjacket; the book cover itself)?
I'm not happy with the ending. It is all too convenient, too easily wrapped up; a tad abrupt. And the reader's credulity is pushed more than it should have been. One is forced to say, "No way!" Come onnnn, is the WHO going to actually agree with that preposterous scheme? And sit back and do nothing about it? That's not the WHO director I've known through all these previous pages!
Full marks to Langdon's character. This was the Langdon we knew and loved in the first two books. I wish he would stick to a woman for more than one book, though. Brown has gone back to his niche - the brainy thriller. Anyone will love Dan's amazing ability to create such intrigue out of a poem, a painting and a palace.
Overall verdict: A page-turner that keeps you guessing - definitely worth a read, and you'll embark on a fast-paced roller-coaster ride. You learn more about Dante, a couple of Italian (and Turkish) cities and monuments while your blood races. Just don't pay attention to the plot itself. The book is still nowhere near the first two Langdon adventures.
To sum up in four words: average plot; thrilling writing.
To those who actually scrolled down through the above - I promise I'll go back to beauty blogging from the next post!