I’ve really enjoyed the Robert Langdon series. And when I say “enjoyed,” I mean “devoured.” I read The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons in three days apiece. (Not to brag, or anything.) I loved The Lost Symbol while others hated it. I was really excited about Inferno, especially since I loved reading Dante’s Inferno.
I read a review on goodreads.com that says every book by Dan Brown has the same plot line. (You can read that review here.) I actually agree with that assessment, but still love the series.
That said, I have mixed feelings about this book. It was very entertaining and gripping, but also disappointing.
But I get ahead of myself.
Most of the book takes place in Florence, which, in my opinion, is described just enough. The details give you a feel for the city without sounding like a travelogue (unlike novels by Victor Hugo). Details about the life and works of Dante were also just right. It was accessible to someone who’s never read Dante without talking down to readers who have. There was also a lot of detail about other random things, like famous paintings and architecture, that weren’t essential to the storyline, but still very interesting.
Religion, Christianity in particular, is also cast in a more favorable light than the other books in the series have. I got that feeling that Langdon wanted to believe in God, but couldn’t quite make that leap of faith.
Inferno starts right in with the action, which makes the reader feel about as disoriented as Robert Langdon, who is suffering from amnesia after being shot in the head. It certainly makes for an exciting beginning.
Originally I’d wanted to write a review without spoilers, but I can’t say everything else that I want to say without including them. Therefore:
The looming catastrophe in this book is a virus created by genius madman geneticist Bertrand Zobrist. The plague will be released on the world’s population unless Robert and his attractive female companion decipher the clues Zobrist left (why he’s leaving clues is rather a mystery, even at the end) to find the virus and contain it.
The whole reason Zobrist decided to create this virus was to stop overpopulation humanity, which he believed would lead to the extinction of the human race unless something drastic happened to reduce our numbers. This belief is an outgrowth of his transhumanist philosophy, which is, apparently, a real thing. Anyway, I found all Zobrist’s arguments quite unsatisfactory. They got repeated so many times as gospel truth that it became really annoying.
It might have helped if it wasn’t all based on Malthusian theory, which was the same basis as Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb. You know, the one that predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die from famines in the 1970s because of overpopulation. Now it’s 2013 and that still hasn’t happened.
It also might have helped if the characters didn’t repeatedly insult the intelligence of anyone who doesn’t buy Zobrist’s conclusions.
What also really bugged me was how Sienna (the aforementioned attractive female companion) tried to make Zobrist out as some kind of martyr. According to her, he was trying to have an open and honest discussion with the scientific world to find solutions, but they mocked and ostracized him. Actually, he acted like a world-class jerk and deliberately alienated people by repeatedly calling them idiots then started talking about genocide as a really good thing.
The disappointment began when I found out that the people trying to kill Langdon weren’t really trying to kill him. They were trying to find him so they could talk to him. Wow. The excitement of almost the entire book was trying to escape from people who were trying to kill him. That was what made the book exciting. Now you’re telling me they weren’t actually trying to kill him? They just wanted to chat?
And get this – he wasn’t even shot. A different organization had kidnapped him, gave him a drug that wiped his short-term memory, and made him think he was shot with actors pretending to be his doctors. The murder he witnesses was actually faked.
Talk about anticlimactic.
I feel cheated. The purpose of a “thriller” is to “thrill,” and Dan Brown just removed the reason for the thrill.
On top of it all, they don’t even succeed. By the time Langdon and Sienna find the virus, it had already been released for a whole week and infected the entire world. (Well, at least it only caused sterility, instead of a horrible, gruesome death.)
Seriously? Robert Langdon might as well have stayed at home, for all the good he did.
Was there even a point to this book?