The latest from the pen of Dan Brown – Inferno – is, in my opinion, his best work – including The Da Vinci Code. While The Da Vinci Code used a combination of religion and fast-paced narrative, the book under review manages to hold its own without the additional support from our core beliefs, or our curiosity. This one does not incite controversy, and is yet a superbly fast-paced thriller.
It is very, very different from The Da Vinci Code or The Lost Symbol in just about every way imaginable. There are no dead bodies in the first 10 pages from where the story picks up. Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital with retrograde amnesia. He remembers his name, his entire life, remembers having nightmares of hell, and people being tortured in hell – but can recall nothing from the past few days. He has been shot in the head – and the assassin traces him to the hospital, forcing him to flee, aided by a young lady Doctor Sienna Brooks. His only hint is an artifact which guide him eventually to the The Inferno – an epic masterpiece of Dante Alighieri. Adding to his confusion is the fact that this artifact had been in his pocket in a bio-hazard container. On a parallel storyline, the World Health Organisation’s Director gets into a tussle with a famed and world famous (later infamous) biomedical specialist, and is then kidnapped. The story progresses rapidly through several cities in Europe, taking the reader of a tour of its famous art masterpieces, with Langdon and Brooks being chased both by the good as well as the bad guys – till the final confrontation. Is this a biological weapon threat? If so, how did a Symbologist like Robert Langdon get involved? And how is the WHO and its director concerned with it? Why did Robert Langdon state Very Sorry, Very Sorry to the hospital staff in his delirium? Why are the good guys chasing him? Read the book to answer these questions…
First, the charectarisation. Robert Langdon is the same that we have know him to be through Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code – expertise par excellence in his chosen field, slightly slow to adjust, dependent on help initially for the escape routines, not a man of action, but a dynamo once started. This is in line with what we have come to understand and visualize of Robert Langdon. The other characters have not been as well developed; but Sienna Brooks and Dr Elizabeth Sinskey, the WHO Director, stand out among these. They are the other 2 central characters In the book. The character of Bertran Zobrist has been beautifully handled and developed; he is introduced and developed in bits and pieces – and despite having only 2-3 actual pages in the book – almost takes over the book
Next, the plot. This is fast-paced : in fact, faster than The Da Vinci Code. You have page after relentless page of pursuit, interspersed with a few pages of revelation and intrigue, as one layer of the mystery is surprising; not only that, the twists in the plot also establish the authors’ ability to create an independent scenario in each book. Saying any more will be a dead give-away, so this hint is all I can give. This is a totally different book – as you quickly realize – and yet is in his distinctive form. This ability to vary his style, while simultaneously adhering to it is worthy of special mention. Dan Brown’s book – as this one establishes – do not follow an identical pattern. This keeps you glued to the book – which is a page-turner. Dan Brown has mastered this style, which all of his fans have come to love. In this, he is in his element; add to this the usual pursuit over several European cities which is another staple of his books – and you have a vintage Dan Brown thriller in your hands.
The vivid descriptive narrative of the art pieces that feature in the book make for fascinating reading – and don’t take anything away from the pace of the narrative. They are spread throughout the book – and are so vivid in their detailing, that you can almost picture them. The writing is very simple and easy too comprehend – no technicalities or long words. Simplicity is the name of the game! And, of course, in typical Dan Brown style, they are an intrinsic and inseparable part of the core plot. And, to reiterate – he has steered clear of any controversies as far as I can see. That is the icing on the cake
Dan Brown is back with a bang: and it is a tremendous bang. I was very doubtful as to whether I should buy this book – not having liked The Lost Symbol as much, but this one has surpassed all expectations. I rate this book as his best – better than The Da Vinci Code, and as good as Angels and Demons. Overall, in my assessment this book rates 4.5 stars out of 5. I have taken half a star away as I had deduced one aspect of the plot early-on – but that did nothing to lessen my enjoyment…