Like many people (according to one infographic I’ve found on Facebook, around 57 million) I had never heard of Dan Brown until The Da Vinci Code propelled him into fame. I did not pay the whole phenomenon much attention – I was earning minimum wage at the time and was definitely not going to spend the little cash I had on a novel by someone I had never heard of.
I did some house-sitting in those days to supplement my income. I spotted the novel on the shelf in one of the homes I was watching and decided I might as well give it a read (and before you get into me for reading other people’s books without permission – I can read a 1000-page paperback novel without cracking the spine).
Can’t say I was crazy about it. Sure, it was interesting, but every time the story started gaining momentum he would let everything grind to a halt by having one of the characters give a long-winded explanation on one of the aspects of his elaborate conspiracy theory. At the time I was like, can we please get on with the story? I thought we were running for our lives here. (I would later learn this is referred to as pacing.) Sadly, the movie adaptation failed to improve on this particular issue. And the ending…
But then we all know the novel didn’t propel Dan Brown into fame because it was such an excellent novel. It’s the controversy raised by the novel that had everyone abuzz. Reading the novel I could fully understand why it had upset some people. However, I am also of the opinion that those people should learn the difference between a work of fiction and a history book. Enough about that one.
My interest piqued, the next time I saw Angels & Demons in a second-hand shop (I wasn’t convinced it was worthwhile to buy a new book) I picked it up. I often wonder how many people know that Angels & Demons was not only written before The Da Vinci Code, but also comes first in terms of the Robert Langdon chronology. The fact that the second movie’s storyline was changed a bit to turn it into a sequel of the first doesn’t really help.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed Angels & Demons. The conspiracy theories were still there, but their explanations were shorter, most of the novel being given over to mad dashes across Rome and desperate battles against a skilled assassin. This one was a page-turner which I’d actually consider reading a second time. It did stretch credulity at one point (that would be when Langdon jumps out of a helicopter with, basically, a beach towel and plunges into the Tiber with no injuries – even Hollywood considered that too far-fetched when they made the movie), but overall it had me turning the pages. In my opinion it was much better than its sequel.
I’m slightly obsessive-compulsive, so having read two of his novels I had the uncontrollable urge to read the other two he had written at that point. Deception Point was good (though I can’t really remember what happens in it any more), Digital Fortress not so much. Maybe it was simply that I was unable to invest emotionally in all of the US government’s secrets being stolen by hackers.
Then The Lost Symbol came out. I was moderately excited about it, and would probably have bought it once the paperback edition came out. Luckily a friend who had bought the hardcover lent me hers and saved me from wasting my money.
My theory is that Dan Brown was simply trying to milk the controversy cow with this one. With The Da Vinci Code he saw how profitable it can be to mess around with people’s beliefs so he tried to do it again. I don’t have a problem with this per se – if it works, use it – but for me he overdid it with this one. The Lost Symbol stretched my belief to breaking point and at times it even irritated me as it felt as if he was trying to make things fit while hoping readers won’t notice. I finished it, not with relief that Langdon had once again saved the day, but wondering what the day had actually been saved from. (Let’s hope the movie is better.)
So, when Inferno was released earlier this year it was quite easy to suppress my OCD. I read the blurb when I saw it in a bookstore, and it seemed like it could be an interesting read, but I decided I was quite fine with waiting until I happened across it in a second-hand shop.
That was until this week when I received this in the mail:
I receive a number of electronic newsletters every month which I don’t read aside from entering the competitions they invariably contain. Apparently I had also entered a competition for which Inferno was the prize. I’m not complaining – free books are always welcome. And it’s a first edition hardcover. There will be an auction on ebay once I’ve read it 😉
Considering the special circumstances in which this book has entered my life, it has been moved up to the next spot on my reading list. I’m eager to see how that claustrophobic introvert professor in Symbology will manage to avoid imminent death and save the world this time around, especially seeing as he doesn’t even have a bullwhip.
There will probably be a review once I’m done, so watch this space.
13 thoughts on “On Dan Brown…and why I didn’t buy Inferno”
I share all the feelings of the author with regards to the series. I like Angels and Demons the most and I have the sneaky suspicion it is because I read it first (+ life-long fascination with Rome). The plots of Brown’s books are just WAY too similar. Also I’ve caught myself being annoyed at passages in Inferno that give dumb tour guide descriptions of places that I’ve already visited. I liked Angels & Demons because It took me to new places (CERN and some small churches in Rome) while I’ve already visited both Venice & Istanbul and I didn’t read one thing about those cities that I didn’t know before. Not to mention that I was able to figure out one riddle 50 pages before the main character.
I must say I rather enjoyed his descriptions, even if they tend to be long and lecturing, but I haven’t been to any of these places yet, so that probably makes the difference. Thanks for stopping by.
Loved Angels and Demons; loved the movie even more. On the other hand, I found The Da Vinci Code to be quite dull and I didn’t even manage to finish The Lost Symbol. I honestly think that had the Catholic Church just kept its mouth shut, Brown would not have been nearly as successful.
Looking forward to seeing what you make of Inferno; was it better or worse that Brown’s previous books?
It started out better but ended much, much worse. The last 100 pages I was basically wishing it would end now. The last 50 I merely skimmed.
I fully agree with your assessment. He became famous thanks to controversy, not good writing. Of course, now that he is famous he doesn’t have to try that hard anymore (man! that was mean!)
Very nice article, I want to invite you to my blog about the places of Inferno by Dan Brown in the next link: Places in Inferno. The blog is in spanish, but you have the tool in the left to translate it to english. Enjoy it!
THANKS!!! I’m a big fan of Assassin’s Creed and I’ve seen most of the places in computer animation while playing the game, but these photos are so much better. Not to get ahead of the review that should be posted later this week, but the best thing I’ve gotten from reading this novel is that it has convinced me I just have to visit Florence if I ever get to go to Europe again. The architecture, artwork and history is simply amazing. I’ll also include your link with my review, if you don’t mind.
I read The Da Vinci Code and liked it then I read Deception Point and realised it was all the same characters but with different names and that offended me. If you can only write one character then why give him two names and pretend they’re different people? Don’t assume you’re readers are too stupid to spot this fact! I haven’t read any of his others because of this and because I can only take so much conspiracy theory before I get fed up.
I’m about two-thirds through Inferno and am actually enjoying it, but what you say is true. I specifically noticed that Langdon’s female companions are always some kind of specialist/genius with exactly the requisite skill set to help him solve the current puzzle to whom he just happens to feel attracted. But more on that when I write the review…
Hmm it did sound good and there is a copy sitting in my kitchen… My housemate seems to have given up on it which is possibly a warning sign but I may well pick it up if it stays there too long.
Yes to the companion thing, I noticed that as well! I hate being able to spot a pattern in a series.
I liked Angels and Demons better than The Da Vinci Code as well. I did try watching DVC twice but couldn’t get further than the scene in the truck. However, I gave up on the series after reading about half of The Lost Symbol.
You made a wise decision to put it down. Unfortunately, my OCD prevents me from quitting a book once I pass a certain point. An author has to disappoint me within the first two or three chapters, or I’m doomed to finish the novel.
I thought Inferno was better than The Lost Symbol, but it suffers from the same pacing issues you mention with The Da Vinci Code. Hopefully you’ll get some entertainment out of it.
Oh dear. Well, at least I’ll learn some history in the process 😉
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