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.
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.