Monday, September 01, 2014

Book Review: Inferno, by Dan Brown

I listened to the audiobook of Dan Brown's Inferno. He follows his usual formula of phrenetic chases with Robert Langdon and a beautiful, intelligent compatriot, ala James Bond. Langdon is his geeky protagonist who always finds himself in a mess and must save the world using his wits and vast knowledge of some ancient text, this time it's Dante's saga poem The Inferno.

Hewing to the formula, Brown puts Langdon in remarkable places, this time it's Florence, Venice and Istanbul, perusing works of art and architectural wonders, and of course, running through the streets away from the bad guys. Langdon uses his insights on history to uncover the mystery of the story and save the world. This episode involves an evil genius who was developed a vector virus designed to reduce human fertility and thus save the planet from being overrun by our species in a Malthusian catastrophe of overpopulation.

While not garnering the positive reviews of his past books, Inferno was a commercial success and spurred popular interest in Dante as well as increased travel to Italy and Turkey. It does stimulate desire to see the cathedrals and museums described in the book.

One complaint I have is the length of the book. Sure, Brown is extremely readable and the plot moves fast, but hours of chase scenes (on the audiobook) is too much. No editor was available? Another issue is the absence of explanation as to how this vector virus renders humans infertile. What is the mechanism? How do they know it will only affect 30% of the population? The third quibble is the presence of not only one, but TWO evil geniuses. Come on.

Putting the small problems aside, Inferno does what it is supposed to do: keep the reader interested while getting educated about architecture, ancient literature and art. Mission accomplished. Brown's forte is not molecular biology and reproductive medicine. Fine.

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