Dan Brown's latest installment of protagonist Robert Langdon's action-packed life, Inferno, follows pretty much the same formula, making it redundant for Brown fans, says Anam Sufi.
As any Dan Brown fan out there would know, Inferno is the latest addition to a series of outrageously fantastic events that happen to the ever-so-unlucky art historian turned bad-ass saviour of the world, Robert Langdon. As the title suggests, the plot is heavily in conversation with Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem, Inferno.
Robert Langdon awakens to find himself in a hospital room in Florence, and he has no memory of how it happened. When his doctor, Sienna Brooks, informs him that he was shot in the head the night before by an unknown assailant, he is suddenly informed that he has a visitor. The doctors shoot furtive stares at one another, but before they are able to call security, a woman with short, blonde spiky hair, wearing a leather jacket is seen running down the corridor, gun in hand, ready to finish her job from the night before. I have to add, it seems that Dan Brown had the image of a Hell’s Angel’s motorcyclist in mind when constructing this character. Oh the cliché…
Anyway, one of the doctors is shot dead on the spot, but Sienna Brooks (who as luck would have it turns out to be a child genius with an abnormally smart capacity to retain information) is quick to act and helps Langdon escape. Thus the pace of the story is set as they spend the rest of the novel running away from various organisations and people in order to save their lives. Oh, and the world too. Obviously.
In standard Dan Brown fashion, Langdon discovers that he is in possession of something that determines the fate of the world. In this case, it is a small canister administered by a psychotic Swiss multimillionaire who believes it is his moral duty to wipe out half of the world’s population so to secure the continuation of the human species in the long run. The multimillionaire also happens to be a mastermind when it comes to cryptic messages and trails that all circumscribe Dante’s Inferno, a poem that vividly depicts the various levels of hell.
Now, I’m not quite sure how to critique this particular book. I think the best way to describe any Dan Brown book is by calling it “interesting and informative.” When reading any of his books, the reader will not be disappointed by the series of historic facts that Brown offers. I thoroughly enjoy the information on art and history, however, as far as literature goes… Dan Brown is more of an historian, not a writer. And having read The Davinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Digital Fortress, I have to say that things are starting to get a bit redundant.
It’s almost as if Brown has a checklist when writing his novels:
1. Robert Langdon discovers mysterious artifact.
2. He meets a female character who always has a twisted past or some kind of self-esteem issue.
3. He discovers that the fate of the world rests on his shoulders.
4. He learns that not only do the forces of evil have psychotic urges related to religion, but they have a penchant for playing games, a favourite being: hide and seek.
5. Langdon and the said female are on a race against time.
Will they save the day?
OH THE MYSTERY!
I like my books raw, layered, and smart. The only thing smart about Inferno is the encyclopedic quality it harbours in terms of shitting out piles and piles of factual information. For first time Dan Brown readers, I reckon it makes for a fun and suspenseful read. But for veterans, don’t expect anything novel (pun absolutely intended). I feel Brown is trying to establish Robert Langdon as a new-age Sherlock Holmes… but my own verdict is that the character lacks the flare to hold that rank. There are too many coincidences, and the events that unfold around Robert Langdon trigger the arched eye-brow cynicism that expresses that dreaded reader response: “AS IF!”