Book review: Dan Brown's Inferno - to hell with it

Published: June 9, 2013
If you like Dan Brown, you will love Inferno even though it’s formulaic and over-the-top.

If you like Dan Brown, you will love Inferno even though it’s formulaic and over-the-top.

Inferno is 461 pages of predictable, formulaic, unbelievable, breathless action that starts with Robert Langdon, our invincible Harris Tweed-clad academic, who sprints injured from a hospital bed in what he discovers is not New England but Florence, Italy. Only, this time he also has amnesia!

This book’s plot is overly ambitious even by Brown’s standards. Yet, more than 200 million copies of his books have already been sold. Indeed, the writer continues to command a fan-base for whom he is a demagogue. Hence, what critics think may be one of his worst works is already a chart-topper.

Brown’s readership is already acquainted with Langdon, art historian cum symbologist cum iconographer cum world-saviour, all in one. He lands in the most unthinkable situations with the world’s most gorgeous, brainy and spirited women (in Bond 007 fashion), and together they solve hidden mysteries, connecting the dots of symbology, just in the nick of time to ward off an apocalypse plotted by crazed men. With the blonde doctor, Sienna Brooks, the lucky-in-love Langdon finds himself racing through Florence, Venice and Istanbul. Istanbul clearly steals the show from Italy here.

Brown’s books are inspired by some of the most influential individuals, cults or books of the past. This time, as the name suggests, it is part one: “Inferno” of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem Divine Comedy.

In a standard Dan Brown 24-hour time limit, Langdon with his beautiful side-kick races to find a weapon of mass destruction created by a mad scientist as a solution to over-population in the world that is threatening the human species with extinction. This weapon is created to cut down a major chunk of the human population. Here, we see dark and twisted reflections of the neo-Malthusian theory at work.

Despite all the predictability, Brown’s art reigns over boredom. He manages to keep the reader glued.

His earlier books brought to life the Illuminati and the Holy Grail. This time round, global interest in Dante’s Inferno has re-surfaced. Dante has risen yet again, which more than the book itself, might be an off-shoot contribution from Brown. In a world that is quickly losing touch with epic poetry, the return of classics to the sphere inhabited by the mainstream reader is a good thing. It has certainly helped revive tourism in Florence, as Dante fever grips the city beside river Arno.

In Inferno, we see Brown struggling with his malapropistic tendencies, having fallen into the rut of predictability. But as long as Brown has a die-hard readership that enjoys the conspiracy theory formula, he is still in the running, and some of the flack he gets is a bit unfair, as his novels are fun reads.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheiri

Divided into three Canticas (hymns), The Divine Comedy is a poem about Dante’s journey through the three domains of the afterlife; Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise). The first Cantica, Inferno sees Dante descend into the depths of Hell. Guided by Virgil’s ghost, he goes through nine circles of Hell. The poem is a literal and allegorical attempt to find God and seek redemption.

The Psalter by Galen Watson

An ancient manuscript, the Psalter, is discovered by Michael Romano, a sceptical custodian of the Vatican library. An ancient manuscript expert, he is known to be inquisitive and meddlesome, traits the Church Inquisitors do not appreciate and for good reason. The manuscript leads Father Romano down a path of secrets and betrayals. It also brings to light medieval secrets that have long been buried.

The prophetess by Barbara Wood

Set in the Sinai Desert at the onset of the millennium,
The prophetess, narrates the story of archaeologist Catherine Alexander who has just discovered six ancient scrolls. These scrolls contain secrets that governments desperately want to know. There is however a missing seventh scroll concealing an even more important secret. Catherine battles super powers and intelligence agencies to get her hands on this scroll before they do.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 9th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Jun 9, 2013 - 11:59PM

    With Inferno Dan Brown lives upto his reputation and readers expectation for thrill, surprise, history, symbology, a major world issue , exploration of unknown organization and travel to fascinating places.

    The character of Robert Langdon has been strongly developed starting from Angels & Demons,
    The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol and Inferno.


  • wrong popular
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:34PM

    Can not imagine this guy would be that short of any creative idea…was thinking he will bring something new away from his typical formula , but he did it again O God..why? you should prefer buying Khaled Hussaini “and the mountains echoed” way better


  • Yamna Hassan
    Jun 11, 2013 - 10:08AM

    I dont quite agree with the sarcastic tone you’ve used to narrate this review. Just because you dont like the book, doesnt mean the book is bad itself. Yes, there are a few disappointments like monotony and a similar plot, but still the core idea is completely different and its a great piece of writing and research nevertheless.


  • Shariq
    Jun 14, 2013 - 2:07PM

    well thank you for ruining a perfectly good for me.
    where should i send the reciete to get my money back..oh, i know, to YOU


  • Ivan Colman
    Jun 23, 2013 - 1:21PM

    This is by miles head the worst book I ever start reading. Didn’t make it to the end…and I don’t care I don’t know how it finishes. The predictability of the unbelievable and extreme thin story line makes me feel taken for a fool by the author. The “plot” (what plot ?) changes are so hilarious idiot that I lost my interest in the “story” far before the middle of the book. I read a lot further just because the decorum of Firenze, Venice and Istambul, combined with Google-searches gives me an impression of a kind of traveling. When that decorum stopped, I stopped reading. Certainly a beek that is very close to a zero (on a scale of ten) evanluation. I never read any more Dan Brown written words !


  • Vivek
    Jun 28, 2013 - 8:43PM

    IT is a very engaging book. I don’t care what this reviewer is writing. Inferno is supposed to be a thriller sort of book and it is successful in achieving that element! I think the review is very overly critical.


  • Steve
    Jul 2, 2013 - 7:15PM

    I have read all of Dan Brown’s books and Inferno is by far the worst of the collection.

    It’s nothing more than a tourist guide to Florence. Please Dan, don’t try to repeat this with a sequel……..I’m more than 2/3 into the book and can’t wait to finish it :(


  • Mark
    Jul 7, 2013 - 3:09AM

    One thing about the book, I think it was written for people to open their eyes. There is a lot of truth to the over population problem in the future.
    I have been thinking about this problem of over population for years. I have been says for years the down fall for man will be due to over population.


  • Yasir Hasan
    Jul 8, 2013 - 8:06PM

    Well, Dan Brown has lost it in this novel… Enough of the template.. Here is a Dan Brown template for you:
    “A hot yet damn intelligent chick accompanying him on the adventures which require symbolism knowledge and a lot of good luck… and not to forget the forces of nature and world are against him and stakes are so damn high”…
    Furthermore, first he get his characters in practically “Point of No Return” kind of situation, that’s okay, but the way he takes them out of the scenario, that is where he looses it all…
    I don’t like his work as far as the story of the novel is concerned..However, the research and conspiracy theories are his strong area and that is what forces me to buy and read his books…
    So my review overall, too monotonous, he needs to get rid of his Academia James Bond (Langdon) and should write with new characters….


  • Tomas
    Jul 11, 2013 - 5:05PM

    I really enjoy the knowledge and factual nature of Browns work. The research alone deserves everyones respect. Brown is promoting 14th century literature which may inspire other writers. He has opened many peoples eyes to the serious problem of over population. He is forgiven for the predictable nature of the book due to my love of history.


  • Erika
    Jul 12, 2013 - 10:06AM

    I just finished reading Inferno and I want my $19.00 back.


  • Dr Joel Freeman
    Jul 18, 2013 - 7:30AM

    Half thru and truly disappointed and BORED. I appreciate


  • Anchal
    Jul 21, 2013 - 7:34PM

    This is indeed one of the best works of DAN BROWN there’s nothing wrong with it. Only a bit of it is boring where he goes in-deep to tell about the monument & all.
    Rest everything is fine.


  • cormin
    Jul 28, 2013 - 10:08PM

    Inferno ( 2013)- mystery thriller novel
    by renowned American author Dan
    Brown and the fourth book in his
    Robert Langdon series, following
    Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code
    and The Lost Symbol.


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