KokkieH Reviews Inferno by Dan Brown

Set, as with all the Langdon-novels, in very historic locations (which you can view on this excellent blog), large blocks of text are given up to descriptions of buildings and artworks.  I enjoyed this at first.  I’m a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and two of the games are set in the three cities featured in the novel, and it was fun reading of places I had already “visited” in a computer-animated environment and learning more about them (though, as Matthew Wright points out, Mr Brown’s research is not always to be trusted in these matters).  But the accumulation of Italian architectural terms became tedious after a while, as did the repetition as the same artworks were described multiple times from the POVs of different characters.

The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy - one of many magnificent locations featured in Inferno
The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy – one of many magnificent locations featured in Inferno

Speaking of Italian, there was way too much of it.  Sure, it’s the language of the country where most of the action takes place, but it’s an English novel, damn it.  On every second page there’s a sentence or two in Italian, immediately followed by the translation in English.  Wouldn’t it have been adequate to just establish people are speaking Italian for the first couple of times and from there skip straight to the translation in reported speech?  That would have cut a good two pages from the novel and quite a bit of frustration from this reader.

And then there’s the characters.  One blogger commented on my earlier post that Brown’s characters tend to be the same in each book, just with different names and I noticed it this time around.  Specifically, Langdon always teams up with a gorgeous brunette who just happens to be some kind of genius who is also exceptionally resourceful in life-threatening situations.  Langdon falls for her every time, but by the next novel she’s completely forgotten.  There’s Langdon’s claustrophobia which only seems to exist to add tension to otherwise dull scenes.  Something that puzzled me in this novel was that Langdon kept forgetting stuff (unrelated to his amnesia) that he was supposed to know, and that while he has an eidetic memory (though, in Mr Brown’s defence, many scientists dispute whether there even is such a thing).  And then there’s Langdon’s vintage Mickey Mouse wristwatch (like the claustrophobia, something which serves no purpose other than to make the character seem somewhat quirky) which he has to go without this time, causing him considerable distress.

But all of that, along with the clumsy sentences (can someone send Mr Brown a copy of Strunk and White, please?), careless errors and melodramatic writing for which Brown has become infamous in literary circles could have been excused if not for the final act of the novel.

Before you click on Page 4, be aware that some major spoilers are to follow.  I’ll be vague, but if you’re still interested in reading Inferno after all you’ve read so far, you might want to skip straight to the last paragraph.

9 thoughts on “KokkieH Reviews Inferno by Dan Brown

  1. Y’know, by the end of your 2nd page I was starting to like the sound of this novel. By the end…less so :P. I’ll probably still check out the Lost Symbol movie, though, if only because I liked the Angels & Demons adaption so much.

    1. The first two thirds really weren’t bad, and you wouldn’t notice the Brownisms if you’re not an expert on Dante and Florence. But he ruined it for me with the twists. The final act did not fit in with the first two, in my opinion (and I confess I don’t know that much). Next time round I’ll rather read the original Inferno 😉

  2. I could reconcile most of the ‘plot twists’… The fact that agent bruder was reporting back to WHO and not the Provost… I got lost there! Who was he calling if not the provost? There explicit references to him calling a male. Unless he’s been calling his HQ, and some random person, this twist goes down as a fail!

    1. Definitely. Especially when we consider that his boss was right there with him (and we’ll ignore the fact that Europe doesn’t have its own SWAT team to deal with epidemics and such…). What really irritated me is that he used Sinskey’s POV, in other words her thoughts, to show us she’s a captive while she was actually in charge. Laying red herrings is one thing, but that felt like Brown was trying to trick us.

  3. I’ve read enough Dan Brown to not want to read any more. The two I read – ‘The Of Vinci Code’ and ‘Angels and Demons’ reveal a mastery of structure and of a topic highly likely to seize interest – but that’s about it. The science and history he reveals in these books is riddled with idiotic errors, and I was left with the disturbing impression that he hadn’t actually visited Paris for the former novel. More crucially, for me anyway, his writing has a choking ineptitude about it that to my mind should have been fixed by his publishers; both in terms of his characters – who are cardboard – and the technical writing style itself. I can’t fault the guy for selling 80 million copies or more of his books, but the ones i read could have been so much better written.

    1. In this case I feel he failed in terms of structure as well. The last part of the book almost seemed disconnected from the first with all the about-turns regarding the character roles and motivations. It’s as if the story got away from him at some point and he just pushed ahead regardless.

    1. The ending quite ruined what would otherwise have been a reasonably entertaining, though still not great, novel. I think there are many better ones you can read instead.

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