Nothing is more creative... nor destructive... than a brilliant mind with a purpose.
I still remember the thrill I got when I read my first Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code. His book was already gracing so many bestseller lists that it was hard to back down and say no. Besides, I was very curious about this dude and whatever it was that he had written. I read. I enjoyed. I favorited. Then, I read all the articles of how he didn't really get all his history right and how he bungled some of them for maximum impact. Literary license, they said. That fogged my impression of Dan Brown tremendously, but not before I devoured two more of his books - Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress. Later, I also read The Lost Symbol, and was excited by the fact that it was set in a place I had actually visited multiple times (D.C.).
Still, none of the books, barring Angels and Demons really reached the caliber and awesomeness level of The Da Vinci Code, Inferno included. By now, everyone can write a template of a Dan Brown book in their sleep and they just need Brown to fill in the blanks with some essentials such as location and lead female character's name. They all involve his protagonist, Robert Langdon, racing across a huge landscape within a humanly impossible timeframe. He also seems to have a knack for knowing exactly what mystery to solve to get the next piece of a puzzle, plus, he seems to have a different lady companion each time (whatever happened to Vittoria Vetra (Angels and Demons), Sophie Neveu (The Da Vinci Code) and Katherine Solomon (The Lost Symbol)? For a supposedly unadventurous professor, he sure seems to go through women too fast.
Inferno has pretty much everything you would expect from a Dan Brown novel - there's a puzzle, there's a race against time, there's a woman (ha!), there's a life-and-death matter, and there's a bad guy. The puzzle is constructed almost with the intention that someone should solve it and stop the Bad Deed. Surprisingly, Inferno does deviate from the regular path considerably. For once, there is not much Symbology in here - there's just enough to warrant Langdon's presence. The prime art theme in Inferno is Dante and his Divine Comedy. Halfway through the book, Dante plays second fiddle to the Malthusian theory, which is actually the main crux of the book.
Dan Brown spends a good chunk of the book exploring the population problem in the world as of today. The various characters give different perspectives on dealing with the problem. While it made me better appreciate the enormity of the problem we really have, I didn't quite enjoy Brown's repeated attempts to dance the issue in front of my eyes - the preaches honestly got tiring. Besides, a lot of elements came showing up repeatedly once in a while, almost as if Brown forgot that he had already mentioned them. A pretty good aspect of the book is the introduction into Transhumanism. I can't say that I've ever come across that term and the idea of it frightens and repulses me but it was fascinating to know that something like that exists.
Besides the few new elements, everything else about Inferno is standard Dan Brown fare. It wouldn't be a Dan Brown book if Robert Langdon could get shot in the head and not wake up from it without any repercussions. Plus spend the next 5-6 hours racing across the world and solving a mystery that would in reality take days, or at least more than a day. But this is Robert Langdon, why am I being so hard on the superman?
I borrowed this book from the good old library.