This will be a review of Dan Brown’s most recent book, Inferno – but first, a word from our author – as usual.
I am always leery of “Best Sellers.” That just means that marketing has appealed to the lowest common denominator, including people who write things that I rant about and make fun of in my usage blogs. Take out the prurient porn, and Fifty Shades of Grey is really just a shit piece of prose.
So, when The DaVinci Code burst on the scene, I waited till I got a few actual readers and professional reviewers who said it was worth the read, before I dived in. Lots of action and suspense, it all took place in one, 24-hour period (cute gimmick, that). I caught many of the background references, but felt there must be more.
A book-reading co-worker lent me his copy of The DaVinci Code Decoded, an explanatory companion volume. Sure enough, page by page, hundreds of little details turned a rock concert poster into the Bayeux Tapestry. For example, if you spoke Italian, you would know that Bishop Aringarosa’s last name translated into “red herring.”
I went back, and read his Digital Fortress, and Deception Point. Not as frenetic as The Code, these were still good solid books. Later, Angels and Demons had that “many things happening” feeling, while The Lost Symbol was less so, but very enjoyable.
The Book – Inferno
The Author – Dan Brown
This is another Carnival ride novel, beginning with that reliable old cliché, amnesia. It all occurs in a couple of days, until returning memory flashes and characters’ comments show the hero (and us) how we got here over the previous three days.
As with The DaVinci Code, I felt that I could use a lot of explanation. The bad guy is six foot–five, with vivid green eyes. I thought Brown might be referring to Osama bin Laden, but he was long dead before this book was written, and he personally did not possess bio-engineering abilities.
The plot turns on overpopulation, and how society must collapse if we don’t control it. It took until 1820, for the world population to reach one billion. In a hundred years, by 1920, the numbers had doubled, to two billion. In only fifty years, by 1970, the numbers doubled again. Not merely “added another billion”, but doubled, to four billion, and it appears that, after only another fifty years, 2020, we’ll be hip deep in eight billion of our “loving neighbors.”
Being restrained and “civilized” is all very nice but, if we don’t have a good war or two soon, we’re going to have a bad plague. As I finished this book, the news spoke of 20,000 dead to Ebola. You may not get to read this review.
Although Professor Langdon doesn’t remember it, he traveled without a passport from Boston to Florence, Italy. He goes by train to Venice, and is flown to Istanbul for the grand finale. The world-travelling author provides great descriptions of many beautiful buildings and locations.
Brown always keeps our mind spun around. The hero’s amnesia – isn’t. The “good guys” aren’t always good. The “bad guys” aren’t really bad. The perils are only imagined, and the quiet, safe periods often have an avalanche bearing down on them.
Concurrent with this book, I was simultaneously reading Lee Child’s, One Shot, and remarked upon the difference of construction. While far from plodding, Child’s books move in one direction till that plot point is achieved. Chapters end on one page, and a new one begins on the next page. They can be 30, 40, 50 pages long, taxing my attention span.
Dan Brown flits and flutters from thought to thought to thought – the hero, the villains, the damsel, the cavalry, the Blue Mosque, and then back around again, perfect for my Adult ADD. Chapters end where they end – and the next one begins two lines below. They are often only a few pages in length. One chapter began on line 40 of the left-hand page, and ended on line 20 of the right-hand page, an entire chapter, less than a complete page long.
The plot-line centers around Dante’s Inferno trilogy poem, and a couple of well-known paintings which illustrate it. The action and suspense are well built. While nothing in the book is really what it seems, it still feels believable. As many good books do, it describes a social problem, and causes the reader to think about both large-scale, and personal solutions to it.
If you haven’t read it already – and this literary Smoothie hasn’t ruined it for you – I suggest you give this book a try.
I’ve read four of Dan Brown’s books and enjoyed them all. some people seem to think a thrilling page turner and a work of literary fiction can’t be one and the same; they have to be mutually exclusive. (Not suggesting that’s what you think.)
But I don’t see why a ‘page turner’ can’t be literary fiction too. Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ and Ackroyd’s ‘Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem’ are two examples of page turners written well. It is possible and I think more authors should strive to achieve that.
I’ve read many of Don Pendelton’s ‘Executioner’ series. While not on a par with Brown or Child, they’re still both educational and enjoyable.
Spurred by the oncoming movie, the only Eco book I’ve read was The Name of the Rose. 😯
Good reviews. 🙂
As always, mixing the serious with the flighty, hopefully entertaining. 🙂
You might just be the perfect future audience for a couple of books I’ve written, Archon.
That’s what I said a few weeks ago. I’d gladly accept a set of galley proofs, but would proudly display an autographed copy beside HEEllis’s autographed Reapers With Issues.
I sent her a short, serious review, though I’ve never seen it used. I could be talked into producing an Archonian version for you if you’d like. I confidently expect highly competent things from you.
BTW, did my choice of 1911 photo illustration in my Gun Safety post, at all resemble your/granddad’s, or is yours even a bit more experienced looking? 🙂
Looks exactly like my model, yes.
Thanks, G.O.D. I was just about to go onto Amazon and order my next supply of paperbacks. Since you and I seem to think the same about many things, I’ll check out Inferno. I’ve liked some of Dan Brown’s books, but not others, but I believe I can rely on your opinion.
Try it. I think you’ll like it, although book choices can be very idiosyncratic. A high school girlfriend of two years bought me a book as a Christmas present. I don’t know whether she was trying to ‘improve’ me, or really thought I’d enjoy it. I tried, really I did, but gave it away to my sister, unfinished. 😦
I hated it and will never, and I mean NEVER read a Dan Brown novel again! I don’t know why I put myself through the torture…Exciting start and end and nothing in the middle….a baloney sandwich hold the baloney
As I said to Cordelia’s Mom, above, everyone’s taste is different, and no matter how well we know another, we just can’t guess. I’d have thought that you’d like Brown’s stuff, but I understand what you mean about this one – filling….but not thrilling. 😦
Cute ‘Down East’ baloney saying. 🙂