My feelings about Dan Brown could be optimistically described as "mixed".
I'll admit, with a slightly chagrinned tone, that I've read all of the Robert Langdon books -- and every single time I've finished them, I am annoyed that I just wasted X number of hours putting it into my brain.
They are (and here I'm being restrained in my word choice) formulaic.
There's the beautiful sidekick, the harrowing adventure through cities of historical value, the major work of art, the good Professor's pivotal role in a case of international and apocalyptical significance (okay, really, how many times does a semiologist find himself looking down the barrel of gun during his line of work? I'd buy once, *maybe* twice. But four times? No way.) we are all taught a lesson and the world is better off for having Robert Langdon to watch over it.
So, if it's not for the vaguely pedantic tone, prosaic repetitive writing or even the irritating sensation that Robert Langdon is a thinly veiled author surrogate, why read these books? What's the appeal?
My guess is the escapism. Suspend disbelief (Langdon is dashing about Florence sporting a serious head wound and conveniently amnestic) and chow down on the brain candy. The city is well researched and there's enough of a mystery that the reader is left wondering how it's going to be tied together, even if it's lite in terms of prose.
As a positive note, I will add that Langdon's character seems to be evolving. He is more somber this time around and prone to moments of existentialism. I'll also have to give kudos to Mr. Brown for choosing to address the issue of overpopulation. It is a difficult question that often meanders into a moral grey zone -- and the ending of Inferno is darkly surprising.
Overall, it's more than I expected, but not that much more.
I have just finished Dan Brown's newest book, Inferno, and can't tell you it was worth the time I spent slogging through it. The best I can say is that Paul Michael does a good job narrating this sad, formulaic, trip down the same road traveled in Brown's prior books. This time Robert Langdon wakes up in hospital with amnesia, meets a beautiful woman-with-whom-he-does-not-get-involved, immediately witnesses a murder, and goes on the run with her to escape from people trying to kill him while he pursues the symbolism in Dante's Inferno to save the world from a deadly virus created by a madman. The reader is treated to the same "lectures about things the world has not understood" -- this time about Dante, Florence, vector viruses, and overpopulation of the world. Brown's writing style is sloppy, and (remarkably) Robert Langdon remains under-developed and again appears as a "I have no life or personality" character who is marginally affected by the remarkable situations and events in the plot. I recommend you skip this one...
Reader. Wannabe writer. That's a picture of me standing in line to see Stephen King!
…or “Jurassic Park,” or “Brave New World”…
I’m sure there are plenty of readers who give this book 5 stars because the ideas in the story energized them, and plenty who give it 1 star because they were horrified. I’m giving it 3 stars because I was neither energized nor horrified. The writing was just “meh,” also known as classic Dan Brown – his characters spend a lot of time “recalling when…” or “remembering the first time…” You can almost hear the dream sequence music cue in, and then we’re in for a long, explanatory bit of prose that acts like speed bumps to the plot. He awkwardly hides exposition within dialog and too often follows with a sometimes interesting history lesson on art, on Florence, on Dante Alighieri… but this is supposed to be a race to stop a madman from releasing a deadly plague! Right? I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say our characters have the time for a lesson or two. His show vs. tell skills could do with more exercise. That is, we know his Hero finds the female protagonist attractive because he says she’s “quite attractive.” We know she’s supposed to be very smart because our Hero finds information saying she’s very smart, though, throughout the story, Brown doesn’t have her behave like a very smart person -- she’s clever but not always intelligent. All in all, this is a tepid tale with some awkward contrivances, a strange twist and a flaccid ending, but if you’re interested in the transhumanist movement, Italian Renaissance and art, or Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy, then there is plenty in Inferno for you to enjoy.
Without giving too much away, here’s one point Brown doesn’t make in his arguments: Brown’s “mad doctor” character argues that after the black plague Europe enjoyed a renaissance reflected in the art, music and literature of the time, and makes the leap that the one-to-one correlation is related to the decrease in the population. Professor Langdon, our Hero, as an Art History professor, should have made the counter argument that the Renaissance didn’t simply come about because of a decrease in the population, but as a direct result of and an antidote to the suffering during the plague times. In other words, humanity doesn’t need to be mollycoddled by some guy who thinks he knows better than everyone else. Population wise, we’ve made our bed, so to speak, and there may be great suffering in the future, but think of the art and leaps of science we’ll make on the other side of it. Humans are at their best when given a challenge. Brown’s “mad doctor” wants to take that away without even considering that his Brave New World could usher in a malaise of thought and imagination, and accomplish the opposite of his goal by halting our evolution.
Unless - like our cerebral hero Langdon at the opening of Inferno - we find ourselves suffering from retrograde amnesia, it's impossible to not be reminded of the previous Langdon installments when reading this latest clue-seeking romp through the art treasures of Florence and Venice; or for that matter, comparing the previous 3 novels with Brown's latest. Dan Brown has his formula, as do most authors, and there is no sign here that he is trying to fix what was almost broke with his last Langdon adventure (The Lost Symbol). Both Brown and Langdon are in fine form here: Brown sends us on an almost scenic, fact-based excursion through the cathedrals, museums, and art hot spots, and Langdon dodges bullets, the Italian Polizia, untangling a sinister plot (with the prerequisite political statements ala Brown). Brown is nothing if not consistent; so you get what you know you are getting; better than Lost Symbol, not as good as Da Vinci Code; a solid middle grounder. If the formula has lost its luster to you, enjoy the new scenery and history, like I did (easily worth a star).
More so than Brown's previous novels, I thought this was a bit padded (maybe that is because it seemed written for the silver screen, even to the point of describing the minutiae of the on-lookers, the horse-toothed girl getting her picture drawn near the Academe, etc.). As a do-over, and if it was offered, I would do the *gasp* abridged version. I also noticed Langdon has become a little snarky, taking pot shots at the turistas, poking fun at those guide-book toting Americanos, while he should have been paying attention to where he next placed his Italian loafered-foot on the cat-walk (oopsie! look out below).
You want another Dan Brown/Langdon--you got it. A good pizza-read, and who doesn't love pizza? Paul Michael does a great job as narrator and tour-guide.
I happen to like Dan Brown. I feel like I learn something about art and history and symbolism with every book. This book is mostly set in Italy and will give you a glimpse into Dante's Inferno.
If you liked The Lost Symbol and the Da Vinci Code, then you'll like this one.
I have a theory about Dan Brown: He lives in New Hampshire and as a former Granite State resident I can attest to the fact that winter is cold and usually lasts six months. If I had Da Vinci Code money, I too would spend at least six month of each year hanging out drinking espresso in the most beautiful and interesting places in the world…then to justify the expense I too might cobble together a pot boiler on the scale of Inferno and palm it off on my fans. Note, Mr. Browns books aren’t typically set in Manchester or Cleveland…I think I see a pattern here.
Don’t get me wrong, Inferno isn’t horrible…I mean I finished it, and some of the characters are quite interesting….but it’s a bit of a mess. I was interested to read that Mr. Brown was raised Episcopalian and has a love or organ music from an early age, so his intense affection for mediaeval architecture and symbolism is quite understandable…I share a similar affection, you just can’t beat visiting cathedrals as a way to spend a few days in Florence or Venice. However page after page of what is essentially Trip Advisor meets James Bond can get just a tiny bit much.
My biggest problem with the book is the plot; why would a super villain (think evil Steve Jobs) go to the trouble of leaving an elaborate set of symbolic clues to allow possible thwarters of his evil plans to track down that evil pan and thwart it? It makes no sense at any level. Any plot, which starts off with amnesia, is suspect from day one in my book. The plot even throws in an old fashioned switcheroo in the middle so that all the good guys are now bad and vice versa…after I recovered from the whiplash I could hardly stop laughing.
Overall it’s a lumbering bloated (albeit lavish and well read) story packed full of plot turns, which go from the breathless to the down right silly. If you are already a fan and happen to have a spare credit and 17 hours go ahead and dive in. It lacks the pacing of Da Vinci Code but is a better read than the fairly awful lost symbol. Ultimately the story deflates at the end…which is a shame. A confection as large and sugary as this shouldn’t leave you regretting all those empty calories.
You'd think I'd learn. "DaVinci Code" was great. Everything else Dan Brown writes is just a poor copy of that formula.
I did enjoy the first 2/3 of this book and I think Dan Brown enjoyed writing the first 2/3 as well. From that point, though, realizing he had written himself into a corner, he looked over to bookshelf with the last 6 books and sighed "well, I can always do THAT again."
Paul Michael does a very good job again. His reliability matches Dan Brown. In Paul Michael's case, this reliability is a good thing. In Dan Brown's case, reliability breeds contempt.
Don't do what I did...learn from your mistakes and pass on this one.
I would recommend this to a friend who is planning a trip to Venice,
Istanbul and Florence. They will not need a guidebook.
This book is a movie script, so I would not need to go to the movie.
Should also be on travel channel.
This movie script is akin to Mission Impossible meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The premise is ridiculous, the author took his FODOR's and spliced in totally
irrelevant travel and historical facts. It is a Mile Wide and an Inch deep.
If you like to travel, read this book. Otherwise, never mind!
The narration is spectacular !
No I wouldn't. . It seemed really drawn out and long and the action was not there to me like it was with the first 3 books.. at times I was seriously lost about what was going on.
It had a nice mystery and plot to it.
With a 4 1/2 hour commute to work, it's not hard for me to find time to listen to a good audiobook.
I want to be careful and not go too deep on the story as even the smallest glimpse of plot elements may spoil the gripping narration of a story that literally entered my dreams last night. Seriously, last night I dreamt about the images described in Robert Langdon’s dream.
This is my second Dan Brown book and I worried that I needed to read the earlier books in the Robert Langdon series to fully grasp and enjoy Inferno. Fortunately, that was not the case. Inferno can be listened to as a standalone audiobook and is not fully dependent on the earlier books in the series. The story was compelling and entertaining balancing suspense and dramatic content.
While I listened to most of the book during my ‘lively’ commute on the train, I really think it would have been best enjoyed in a quieter setting where you can truly feel the solemn reverberation of Paul Michael’s voice pierce through your headphones. To say that Michael did a masterful job in narrating Inferno is a supreme understatement. Varying his role between the protagonist and antagonist, male and female characters, American and French accents, and playing the role of omnipotent guide through the fourth wall, Michael helped bring the story to vivid life.
I was a little hesitant to use a credit to pre-order Inferno without having listened to all of the other books in the series, but I have no regrets. Inferno was extremely entertaining and well worth the credit. But I believe it would be best enjoyed in a more serene environment where you can let the suspense hit you without distraction.