on 2 August 2015
Having now read three Robert Langdon books I am convinced that Dan Brown wants to be Wikipedia. I enjoyed 'Inferno' a lot more than 'The Lost Symbol' but Brown has fallen into his usual trap of filling the book with a plethora of superfluous information - he REALLY wants to show you just how much information he had gathered during his research.
"I'm typing this review on my keyboard to let you know what I thought of the book."
Now, let me 'Brownisize' that above sentence for you:
"He wrote his review on the QWERTY keyboard, so called because of the layout of its keys, harkening back to 1873, when it was created for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and sold to Remington. It had become the standard keyboard layout around most of the world, finding its footing during the digital revolution. He tried to write a coherent review to express how he felt about the book but his cognitive abilities were hindered due to a lack of caffeine that day. Studies by the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine had shown that the neurostimulant could reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s."
See what I did there?
Another annoyance is the amount of time that Langdon does a 'double take.' Seriously...I think he'll be wearing a neck brace in the next book.
Also, people have a habit of overreacting to rather bland pieces of information. In chapter 59 one man 'staggered back a step, steadying himself on one of the stanchions' after learning that Langdon had amnesia. Sure, it's a surprise (I haven't given away a spolier by the way) and I'd probably react with raised eyebrows, but staggering back? Really? When I read that description I fell off my seat in amazement, knocking over the coffee table with my outstretched arm and fracturing my ulna.
Ok, that last sentence was also Brownisized.
on 25 May 2013
I actually wasn't going to buy Inferno given how woeful I considered The Lost Symbol to be; however, I received a copy of the book as a gift and plunged in, consuming the book in a matter of a couple of days. Whilst my earlier review of The Lost Symbol was quite positive in terms of what Brown was trying to do, large parts of my criticism of that book also apply here. The novel opens with an amnesiac Langdon waking up in a hospital room after apparently being shot in the head - we're not in Cambridge anymore Toto. I actually consider the opening of the book quite fresh; taking away Langdon's memory proves a successful literary technique for Brown, allowing him to effectively retrace Langdon's footsteps (and his own work in previous novels).
What follows is more of the same types of shenanigans we read about in Brown's previous efforts. There's a biological weapon (Angels & Demons), an assassin tracking Langdon (The Da Vinci Code), a litany of literary/art references (The Da Vinci Code) and a professor who seems far too in control. Part of what I loved about the early Langdon books was that they always showed Langdon as being out of his depth, a humble academic sucked into a situation he doesn't fully understand. He survived and saved the day through using his intellect and his instincts, making him a sort of bookish Indiana Jones. In short, he was a very good hero for the series. You'll note I'm using past tense for this; it's because he now has transformed into caricature. Everyone knows Langdon; museum curators, security guards, the Director of the World Health Organisation; basically wherever Langdon goes, he is known, accommodated, and assisted in his exploits. He isn't a man alone anymore, he's a man with a massive following and this is where the novel descends into the ring of Hell reserved for tired writers who rehash plots (Dante has a place for Brown, several actually, Circles 5, 8, and 9). Moreover, there isn't a building Langdon doesn't know in the novel; he's certainly quite the traveller, so much so that one wonders when he actually has time to write the books he's so famed for...
On the point of symbols, there aren't many. There's no deduction, there's no reasoning, there's just explanation after explanation of art, messages written in text which Langdon also knows all about. Due to the fact Langdon knows it all, and this does get rather annoying after a while, the reader is left with the distinct impression that they've read this novel before. In fact, we have. Several times. Brown's decision to give Langdon amnesia is actually very clever (or manipulative and devious) because it could be argued that the 'been here before' feeling one gets when turning the page is caused by Langdon's feeling of having been here before. However, I actually just think that Brown didn't have anything new to offer us and so he's rehashed old ideas whilst dressing them up as the déjà vu of an amnesiac.
The truly ridiculous part of the novel, however, is the WHO (World Health Organisation). I'm willing to accept that government agencies, global enforcement bodies etc. etc. are willing to consult academics from relevant fields when trying to assess threat levels. I'm willing to accept that such academics are in a privileged position to know things that others do not, thereby allowing them to play a pivotal role in helping avert disaster. What I am not willing to accept however, is that an organisation such as the WHO, or any other organisation for that matter, would entrust the mission of locating a biological weapon of mass destruction to a man who spends his life analysing symbols and obsessing about a Mickey Mouse watch he wears in order to not take himself so seriously. My hopes soared when the timepiece was lost but then, the Director of the WHO found it for him and returned it to his wrist, ready to tell time another day. I eye rolled here.
For me, the moment Langdon utters the words, as he does twice I believe, "It's a matter of life and death!" in the novel, I found myself rolling my eyes again. Langdon is an academic, not a field agent and yet the WHO were concerned when he stopped 'checking in' with them whilst in the field. Why was he in the field? Why are they trusting this man with anything beyond his area of expertise? Why did Dan Brown think this would fly? Oh the questions. Yet again Langdon is the ONLY one who can help. The ONLY one who knows. The ONLY one who can overcome a severe brain injury within hours and spend the rest of the novel running (not recommended as running increases blood pressure and could cause bleeding in the brain - not so for Langdon). In short, Robert Langdon is amazing. Too amazing. The more amazing he becomes, the more ridiculous the books become and, for me, we're really at critical mass in terms of the amazingness of Robert Langdon.
In my review of The Lost Symbol I wrote that Dan Brown has kind of exploited Langdon enough and should consider stopping writing him and move on to pastures new. With this novel, in my view, Dan Brown has made it clear that he should absolutely stop writing the character and move on. There's nothing new Langdon can do without the book either being so ridiculous it is caricature or so boring it becomes unreadable.
A quick word on Dan Brown's writing ability. Critical reviews of the book have focussed on the fact that Dan Brown isn't a tremendous writer. Let's be clear, he's not, but that doesn't matter. Just as a Michael Bay summer blockbuster will never be Citizen Kane, so too will a Dan Brown blockbuster never be able to accomplish the dizzy heights of Dumas, Brontë, Shakespeare or Proust. I don't expect Dan Brown to be an amazing writer because if he was the book would be an effort to read and that isn't what you need or want from a blockbuster. So whilst critics focus on Brown's inability to write brilliantly, I choose to largely ignore that because the book isn't intended to be a literary work of art. The skill is in the story, not the execution; it's just a shame that the story has been told before.
The book isn't bad, hence my three star rating, it's just overdone. Readers would probably get more out of reading The Da Vinci Code than reading the new novel and could actually get away with substituting The Last Supper in The Da Vinci Code and anti-matter in Angels & Demons with Dante's Inferno and still have read the new book; after all, that's essentially what Dan Brown has done in order to write it.
Writing a review for a Dan Brown book is not an easy thing, he is one of the biggest selling authors out there. His Da'Vinci code achieved almost a cult following status, to even attempt any sort of critic would bring down the wrath of the Brown followers. (but what the heck)
For me personally the book has its good points as well as its bad points. There is a good plot buried within this book, but the book inst an over all great book.
I love thrillers filled with action and quirky unknown symbolism or archeology, and Robert Langdon should be able to deliver that. At times he does, at times I feel educated and feel the pace of the plot building. Then out of the blue Dan Brown decides to take on the role of Florentine, Venetian tour guide, or Dante Historian. Its not that I mind being educated, in fact I love learning this stuff, I really want to visit Florence now. BUT: the stories pace and power and writing style changes as the author introduces this stuff. All of a sudden I feel like I'm starting again, the brakes have been slammed on to the tension and it's lost, the pace is gone, and the purpose of the thriller writer is wasted, for the role of tour guide.
If you read a book by for example Andy McDermott, you will get explosive action, highs and lows and a continual build of tension through to a dramatic conclusion. This dramatic and heart pounding conclusion gets lost with Inferno because of all the tour guide info, and because of the style of its delivery. If the same info had been delivered as part of the narrative at a higher level and with the full content in authors notes at the end....? well this may have been a reading hit as much as it will sell just fr having Dan Browns name on the cover.
I have seen some criticism in reviews, of the science behind the book, on population expansion, and I don't agree with the criticism, I liked this part of the book, I also recommend reading this book when you have the flu and are a little spaced with a fever, because the global disease thing gets a freaky scary edge while you are struggling with the coughing and wheezing.. (a bit odd but there you go).
If I the lowly, unpublished novice could offer the multi million book selling writer any advice it would be to go back to basics, don't try so hard to educate and show your obvious intelligence to the reader. You're supposed to be writing a fast paced balls out conspiracy thriller, the reader wants a ride through their biggest fears, they want heart in the mouth action, you can be forgiven for almost implausible get away's, if the plot is fast. Save the education for the end, we readers do also read authors notes (and are happy to learn from them). But from a thriller we want action action action, plot plot plot, nothing wrong with salting some education along the way in a subtle fashion..but the tour guide while great, should be a separate book in the tour guide section.
I give this book 3/5 : like I said, I had fun and being sick helped. But this idea had 5/5 written all over it, it just needed better execution.
A side note: my son almost never reads, but he likes Dan Brown's books, so no matter what I think of the book, there are and will be many people out there who for them this is great. If Dan Brown can make people like my son pick up a book and read, well that's a great thing, and if it inspires others to write, who look at DB and think, WOW how much money? and they go out and write new, better, greater books, then DB has done something wonderfu
on 11 September 2016
I really enjoyed this book. It has been a while since I read the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons and had forgotten just what a good writer Dan Brown is.
I love the intelligent style of writing and love checking out the facts - I learn such a lot from these books.
There are some great twists and turns - nothing is predictable and I love the clear and well written descriptive passages which brings the story to life very quickly. Its is fast paced and I enjoyed reading it in large chunks - wondering what was going to happen next!
Dan Brown has created some really interesting characters and he has great insight into the human psyche.
The storyline certainly gives food for thought.
I am now looking forward to seeing the film hoping that it will be true to the book.
Would definitely recommend this as a good read.
on 21 June 2013
I started this book with an open mind, expecting a routine thriller with some twists. What I got was a plotline that was so contrived and unconvincing that the publishers either did not read it or just reckoned that it would float on previous sales by Dan Brown.
The characters are two-dimensional, poorly developed and completely implausable. For more mature readers think of the Dallas Bobbie Ewing "I am not dead, I was just having a shower for the last 26 episodes" and that will give you an idea of how absurd the plot lines are in the book.
I must admit that I did laugh out loud at some points, so I did get some enjoyment from the book. How when swerving to a stop sitting on a motor trike between two parked cars. His pursuers flash past from the direction facing him. They dont see him but as they roar past he not only sees a woman looking drugged between two men, but also can describe her and the jewellery that she is wearing!
Or that his mensa companion never works out anything before him.
The amount of padding in the book would be enough to keep you warm on a chilly night, with paragraph after paragraph of descriptions of the history of buildings, even those just "on the way" to another building.
It is a good job Dante is long gone otherwise he would be asking for royalties for the repetitive use of whole sections of his work.
I could go on but I don't want to give away more of the paperthin plotline for those of you who, as some form of
punishment, still feel you are obliged to read this drivel.
on 5 July 2013
Unfortunately found this to be a very frustrating read. Whilst the plot wasn't too bad, the constant need to give a little tidbit of information about this or that tourist trap led to the novel reading more like a guide book. Ultimately, if you were to take out the long, drawn out descriptions of this or that statue, the plot would likely only take up a quarter of the number of pages. I've seen filling before in a number of books, but this was really pushing the limits.
I've enjoyed Dan Browns earlier novels but felt it began to slip with The Lost Symbol and further still with Inferno. Often found myself thinking that Brown was hoping to recreate the tourism hype as was seen in the Da Vinci code. The plot itself wasn't awful but far from being above average. Robert Langdon is fast becoming the Indiana Jones of symbolism although with some of his escapades you feel he perhaps missed his calling as a super spy or general super hero.
Disappointing. Requires more focus on plot, less on tourism.
As no big fan of Dan Brown, nevertheless I read all his books. I heard about his new book to be released soon and because "Divine Comedy" whose one part is Inferno is one of my favorite literary masterpieces all back from high school. So I was very curious about new Brown's book and read it quickly after its release.
We are all aware that critics but even his fans admit his prose style is simple and easy to read, and after big hype and greater success of each following title all feel there is nothing special about his books and their plots. But for sure they entertain people providing good mix of mystery, action and history which lot of people find appealing.
"Inferno" has all the elements of a vintage Dan Brown novel. There is an unexpected event happening in the prologue and the rest of the book explains what the cause of it was. Main familiar character, Professor Robert Langdon wakes up in an unknown place without being aware how he got there. As always there is beautiful, strong heroine Sienna who helps him. The law enforcement authorities and some strange people chase him across cities and countries. The action moves across all-known European locations like Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. There are lot of references in art, architecture, sculpture and history. Some of the information is used for solving challenges that Langdon and Sienna stumble upon. And of course as always in Brown's book there is a surprise ending.
Starting with good points, the action is fast paced, book is well researched, there is a lot of information on symbolism and history behind art and architecture, and the book gives a lot of information about Dante's "The Divine Comedy". Readers who never picked Dante's book would learn a lot about it from Brown's book. Probably the best thing at all would be the book ending although in one moment near book end something like that crossed my mind. It tied up nicely all the loose ends and although strange for Brown it was perfect.
Minus points goes to the storytelling which in `Inferno' is not as sleek as in `The Da Vinci Code'. There is a lot of information in the book about art and architecture, which has no relevance to the story. It seems like author wants us to impress with his research. At some point the story meanders on and on and in these moments probably some of readers with lack of patience (or time) would be on verge to put it down.
Putting all together, although I'm little bit subjective because of Dante theme I would recommend the book for everyone, for casual reading especially in these days of summer when somehow suits to read a book which in any time we can put off and/or resume reading. It is an easy and entertaining read, enjoy it.
on 14 July 2013
As a tourist guide, Dan Brown's Inferno surpasses Fromers any day. Anything you ever wanted to know about Florence and Venice is described in brilliant detail, leaving nothing to the imagination. As a gripping yarn, however, Inferno is miles off course. It's riddled with repetition, leaving readers with the distinct impression that Mr. Brown was struggling to find content for the publisher. Without wishing to ruin the story for fans of Dan Brown, the plot follows Robert Langden's efforts to thwart a mad scientist hell bent on infesting the human race with an ingenious pandemic virus. The plot twists here, vaults there and re-writes itself more than once. Inferno is a far cry from Dan Brown's earlier efforts, making me wonder if his writing career has peaked early.
on 9 October 2013
The critics, especially here in Britain, have been hyper-dismissive of INFERNO. Echoing Dan Brown's previous Robert Langdon adventures, it's easy to read - and easy to forget.
The medieval poet Dante provides the book with its title and most of the 'symbology' which is Brown's hallmark. He injects lumbering quantities of guidebook history in Florence and Venice and the city (I won't spoil the surprise) where the story reaches its climax. What he doesn't inject is very much originality. The plot is as threadbare as an early episode of DR WHO.
The critics are right to lambaste the author.The writing is pitifully bland. 'There are probably endless possibilities,' Langdon says at one point: nobody in his editorial team (he thanks them all by name) spotted the tautology? If Brown thinks that repeated use of the word 'chthonic' (relating to the Underworld) gives his book a touch of class, he is mistaken. At the end our hero and heroine are 'locked in an embrace that neither seemed willing to end' - there's a line Barbara Cartland would be (and probably is) proud of!
The law of diminishing returns is applying to Dan Brown's books. For all the hoopla, THE DA VINCI CODE wasn't as original or as pacy as ANGELS & DEMONS, Langdon's first foray; this latest episode (and THE LOST SYMBOL) would not have made it past the publisher's slush pile from an author without his track record. But Mr Brown rightly feels free to ignore his critics: like Liberace, he's laughing all the way to the bank.
[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
on 12 August 2016
I like Dan Brown and i really enjoy the Robert Langdon books, but i didn't find the subject matter as compelling as i did with the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons before it.
It feels like the Robert Langdon series has now run its course and i hope that Dan Brown moves on to something new.