I've been a slight fan of Dan Brown since the whole Da Vinci Code nonsense back in the day. Loved Angels & Demons, Digital Fortress & Deception Point. I loved that his novels all took place in a 24 hour period (as unbelievable as that was at some points) because it created a sense of immediacy to the story. There was no time for getting things wrong or falling in love (both invariably happening) because there was a mystery to solve and the world to save!
I wasn't overly thrilled with his last book,The Lost Symbol. (Plus, those of you who read it, that part near the end? That wasn't even creative storytelling! PLEASE!) But when Inferno came out I thought, "Well, I didn't really care about the Masons or the Illuminati, but Dante is a little bit more in my area of interest. It can't be too bad, right?"
Okay, it wasn't THAT bad…but it also wasn't great. Remember that sense of immediacy? Yeah, totally missing. I cared for a little bit and then things got confusing. Don't think I can't handle a complicated plot. I am reading Game of Thrones. I read Lord of the Rings. (AND I can keep the movie information separate from the book information!) I can do complicated.
Maybe this story wasn't complicated; maybe the storytelling was just lazy. A couple of characters were double and triple crossing loyalty lines and again, Dan Brown, that wasn't a "plot twist" or a slight surprise. That part felt like lazy story telling.
Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Italy with absolutely no memory of how he got there. Sienna Brooks, a doctor at the hospital, tries to help him make sense of what has happened to him. A woman storms into the hospital and shoots the other doctor who was assisting with Langdon's care. Sienna tries to carry a half sedated Langdon out of the hospital to safety. And honestly for the rest of the book, you feel half sedated.
The initial plot is interesting: one man thinks that the world will soon be overpopulated and will drain the world of all natural resources. In order to prevent that from happening, he takes a page out of the history books for the best way to fix overpopulation: plague. I mean what other way can you appropriately cull a portion of the world?
(By the way, even Brown's solution to overpopulation feels like a cheat. I am running out of different ways of expressing how disappointing this book was.)
At this point in his life, Langdon (world class symbolist from Harvard) just sounds like a pretentious prat. "Well, I DID write the definitive work on Christian symbols in the Islamic world." Nice. Through this book, it's more like, "In my lecture series that was sold out, I spoke about ALL the things we need to know to solve this mystery! Let me flash back to that series to remember that information..." And I'm not even kidding about the flash backs. I mean, come on.
I hesitate to finish this post because I realize that there is no way I could write a 400 page novel laced with historical references and visual descriptions of iconic vistas with any kind of ease. That isn't my skill. So I do pause before I seriously rip into someone who seems to have a gift. Or, at very least, has gotten a publisher to get the manuscript past the slush pile. But I was not thrilled with this book. Like I said, I liked some of his older stuff but the new stuff…I don't know. He's missing something. Maybe he is trying to weave too many things into one plot. Maybe he feels locked into the 24 hour things and is finding it more and more difficult to execute the idea properly. I don't know. I can say with almost 100% certainty that this will be my last NEW Dan Brown book. Sorry buddy. Two duds in a row and I'm out.
(That is, of course, until he comes out with some kind of thriller about Shakespeare. I'll be all over that one.)