BOOK TITLE: Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)
AUTHOR: Dan Brown
While planning this year’s summer holiday I chose a very popular location from Europe, Florence (or Firenze, how the Italians call it). And then I started browsing what interesting books I could read before and during my trip there in order to get a little bit acquainted with the city and its places and afterwards go into some of those iconic places and take some pictures. That’s how I stumbled upon one of my own to-read books, that being Inferno. I was curious ever since this book first appeared but I kept postponing reading it until now, which actually couldn’t have been a better time.
This is not my first Dan Brown book, the first one was the famous The Da Vinci Code; the short version: despite being extremely mainstream (which is not necessarily a bad thing) I actually enjoyed that book and it felt well paced and full of action.
Now, let’s talk about Inferno (be warned, spoilers ahead!). The main character is of course our well-known professor Robert Langdon. The book starts rather slow and a little bit misleading, with Langdon waking up in a hospital in Florence, unable to remember how he got there or what has been happening in the last few days. A doctor working there, Sienna Brooks, informs him of this issue. Shortly afterwards an armed woman enters the room killing one of the other doctors, but Sienna manages to help Robert escape and they run away heading for her apartment. While there Sienna shows him what she discovered earlier in his jacket (in a secret pocket he doesn’t remember having): a tube with a biohazard mark on it from which he extracts a cylinder which has a projector attached. Thus, it displays a modified version of Botticelli’s Map of Hell and some other details which direct him towards a picture located in the Palazzo Vecchio.
The location of Robert and Sienna is meanwhile discovered and a bunch of soldiers together with the local police are trying to hunt them down, but after some cunning ideas they manage to avoid them and reach Palazzo Vecchio.
“The decisions of our past are the architects of our present.”
From now on more and more details begin to arise and you start to glimpse what the plot is actually about: a mad scientist named Bertrand Zobrist, believing that our great population number shall be our destruction, engineered a new virus in order to lessen the billions of people populating Earth. And so a race against the clock begins in which Robert Langdon is of excruciating importance because of his knowledge of Dante (which obviously, considering the name of the book, is the big inspiration of the plot). He cooperates together with the director of WHO in order to stop Zobrist’s creation, travelling through cities such as Florence, Venice and Istanbul.
In the end the story unfolds neatly and surprises you with some very smart plot-twists making you unable to put down the book until you find out what is actually happening.
My experience while reading the book was a very interesting one. I read almost half of it before travelling to Florence so I became acquainted with the places from there and also with the paintings. It was interesting to go there and actually think “hmm, so this is where Robert Langdon supposedly should have hidden”. So I have to say it is an unique experience to read about those places in such a vivid manner and afterwards to actually get a taste of it yourself. If you have the possibility I totally recommend doing this.
“The human mind has a primitive ego defense mechanism that negates all realities that produce too much stress for the brain to handle. It’s called Denial.”
The beginning was rather slow and confusing and that was the main reason for which I gave the rating of 4 stars. It seemed to me that it took longer than usually to actually get a grasp of what was really going on. The information comes from different characters and you pretty much have a puzzle in front of you and you have to make the pieces fit, so it is a bit frustrating if it takes a long time. Close to the middle of the book things began to be a little bit more clear and I liked the way Dan Brown started building it, making a continuous parallel with another disaster from humanity’s history – the Black Plague – this element added a lot of “flavor” to the book and actually made me imagine a nowadays world caught in such a horrible disease.
“Only one form of contagion travels faster than a virus. And that’s fear.”
The relationship between Robert and Sienna was a very interesting one, and kept me wanting to see more, but it never actually concretized which I think was for the best. Another interesting relationship is between Robert and the director of WHO, Elizabeth. He keeps having some weird visions of her and I felt those visions were one of the things that kept him going; giving the fact he has short term amnesia I think that she had quite an impression on him in order for him to actually remember her and mostly her throughout the haze.
“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their silence at times of crisis.”
Constant referring to Dante’s Inferno (which unfortunately I haven’t read yet but it’s definitely a must!) and structuring all this plague on the way Dante structured his Inferno was a fascinating move; I actually became more familiarized with the nine circles of the Inferno and the types of sinners and also with a little bit of Italian culture.
The villain from the story was also an interesting and complex one (can I choose him as my favorite character?). I liked the fact that in the end he turned out not to be so much of an villain, and more of a scientist who actually had the power to surpass his own human nature and stick to his plan and to his beliefs. I thought it was interesting how all the characters, after finding what Zobrist’s creation was really about, kind of accepted it. For me the ending was unexpected and better than I actually believed it was going to be. In the end it was quite a moralizing book, trying to make the reader understand that in this world our inaction in the face of danger or threat is actually a punishable sin.
Well, finally, I must say I enjoyed this book and it was quite a ride and an experience seeing the city of Florence while reading it. I recommend it to (obviously) Dan Brown enthusiasts and also to those of you who enjoy a fine mystery book. It’s an easy read and it will keep you asking yourself what’s going to happen next.