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.