Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

200px-Inferno-coverInferno by Dan Brown
Final Verdict: 3.0 out of 4.0
YTD: 38

Robert Langdon is back again.  After Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, and The Lost Symbol, it might be hard to imagine how Langdon could get himself mixed-up in another deadly web of powerful nemeses, megalomaniacs, and centuries’-old tales filled with puzzles, lies, and misdirection.  When will he learn!?  As it turns out, in this installment, we meet Langdon after he has already gotten himself very involved in a plot to save(?) the world, but he doesn’t know it.  He has amnesia, and if he cannot get his memories back – soon- all of humankind could be at risk.  Along the way, he partners with a brilliant woman who is a master of disguise and they will balance between two powerful, opposing forces, both of whom are bent on getting their hands on a secret weapon before Langdon does. But, as always, not all is at it appears and not everyone is who they pretend to be.  Can Langdon navigate his way through the clues and disguises before it’s too late?

In the past, I have been a great fan of Brown’s Robert Langdon books. They have always been fast-paced, interesting, and cleverly infused with mystery, history, and dangerous liaisons, if not the “greatest” or “best” books of all time, in terms of depth, craft, etc.  Still, they are entertaining and thought-provoking on some level, so they serve their two primary purposes quite well and I am perfectly happy claiming them as guilty little pleasures.  Inferno, however, was not as thrilling or satisfying as its predecessors.  Perhaps my tastes are changing, or perhaps Brown just didn’t manage to create the kind of attention-holding plot and prose that he has done in the past; whatever the case, it wasn’t until about half-way through the book that I finally managed to settle in and enjoy the story. 

Some of the characters, like Bertrand Zobrist – the story’s primary antagonist, a brilliant scientist and madman who, though the “bad guy” of the story isn’t actually present in it- are quite interesting.  The same can be said for other outliers, such as Elizabeth Sinskey, head of the World Health Organization, and her direct opponent in the quest to “the weapon,” the Consortium Provost.  Although minor characters, they were interesting and their motives and personalities seemed the most complex.  The main characters, Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks, were interesting enough but, somehow, fell a bit flat.  This could be because their outcomes were expected and also because Langdon, now appearing in his fourth story, is not very surprising (even though the story of his trying to get his memory back did add a few layers, at least).   While there were some surprises throughout the story, the main twists were, for the most part, fairly exposed.

Brown does depart slightly from the more overtly religious themes and takes us into the realm of literary history and humanism.  Although much of this tale has to do with science, technology, and issues of “the greater sacrifice,” it does not completely separate itself from religion.  The journey that Robert Langdon is on is initiated and advanced by clues found within Dante’s Inferno and various works of art which interpret that text.  Considering that the text (and the subsequent paintings) is a depiction of hell, the most famous depiction of all time, themes of morality, sin, and sacrifice/redemption of course come into play.  As always, some of the most interesting elements about this book are its interpretations of history, artwork, historical figures, movements, and, yes, the puzzles.  While there is a great deal of factual information, there is also much speculation and pure invention/fantasy, which can be said of all of Dan Brown’s books.  Understanding the difference is important (as witnessed by the masses of folks who were swept away by what they believed to be the “truth” in Brown’s DaVinci Code).  That being said, his sometimes far-fetched theories are fun to wonder about and, who knows, might just hold certain truths.

Ultimately, for most of the book, I felt myself wishing that I were re-reading The DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons, rather than finishing the book in hand. 

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: 13+
Interest: Mystery, Puzzles/Codes, Action/Adventure, Science, Technology, History.

13 Comments on “Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

  1. Sounds like he’s having trouble sustaining the style and pace he that made his earlier books so valued by the public. It’s not always easy to keep up the pace. I wonder how much time he had to write and deliver the book.


    • I think he worked on it for a few years and, as with his previous titles in the series, did a lot of traveling and research. I’m sure it’s exhausting. It was a change of focus, which could have had an effect, and it’s also possible that I’m just not responding to this type of book anymore.


  2. I have been curious about this one. I enjoyed Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, but his other three books fell flat for me. I was glad to see you reviewed it.


    • I really enjoyed both of those (and The Lost Symbol), too, but now I’m wondering if I’d have the same experience upon a re-read. I haven’t read his others – I own Deception Point and Digital Fortress but haven’t ever been in the mood to read them. It’s really quite possible that I just don’t repsond to his style anymore. Also, I did enjoy the second half of the book, and I marked a few passages that were interesting, but, overall, it just wasn’t the thrill that the first two, especially, were.


  3. I like you review, it is very well written.

    I did not have high hopes for this one, but because Brown chose my two passions (Dante & the Black Death) I just had to read it. Surprisingly the beginning of Brown’s novel parallels the Inferno. Unfortunately, Brown quickly goes back to being Brown-overly descriptive and low on plot. I commend you for finishing it. Once the story within the story was revealed I lost all interest.


  4. I enjoyed Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code, even though they weren’t brilliantly written. Like you said, they were interesting and the plot twists weren’t always expected. I didn’t enjoy The Lost Symbol nearly as much. The ending fell flat in my opinion (I kinda thought it would’ve been cool if Robert really died instead of faked us out, because that would have been completely unexpected). I don’t think I’m going to be re-entering this world. Great review 🙂


  5. “Ultimately, for most of the book, I felt myself wishing that I were re-reading The DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons, rather than finishing the book in hand.”

    My thoughts exactly.


  6. I liked that Inferno had more universal implications (not that rocking the foundations of one of the major religions wouldn’t have global repercussions, this just took a more direct route to get there, tackling a topic that everyone can connect with regardless of their feelings toward religion) and that he mixed up the format a bit with the whole amnesia thing. Still, even with those changes, Dan Brown just doesn’t seem to have many surprises left. But I thought this was a better follow-up than The Lost Symbol; that one fell really flat for me.

    Nice review.


  7. A fine review, Adam. I read DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, Digital Fortress and enjoyed all. I’ve been looking to buy Inferno over here but I guess it’s not yet available. Incidentally, it was only yest4erday that I watched the film DaVinci Code. I must say I preferred the book 🙂


    • I definitely preferred the books to the films, too, although Angels & Demons was a pretty good movie.


  8. You know, there are specific reasons why I pick up a Dan Brown novel (I have read them all)–I want that Dan Brown thriller! And, unfortunately, Inferno was not this. While I can understand his desire to maybe change up his formula, I found the whole “What did Langdon get himself involved in?” angle to really slow the pace of the “fast-paced thriller” I wanted Inferno to be. Though I liked the ending, the change of style and pace in this novel fell very short with me. And it made me very sad =(


  9. I liked this better than the previous books of his I’ve read, but I think that’s really because I know Florence well and enjoyed returning to the city. I’ve never been that much of a Brown fan–I haven’t found his books incredibly unputdownable–but sometimes it’s nice to have a light diversion. And a return to Italy, always!


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