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Inferno – The Novel


I watched the movie trailer of “Inferno” and remember I didn’t write a book review about it after I finished reading the novel back in 2013. So maybe it’s time to do it. “Inferno” is the fifth novel from Dan Brown. After his last disappointing novel, “The Lost Symbol”, I really hope that he can get back in shape and come up with a book like “Angels and Daemons” or “De Vinci Code”. However, the outcome is even more disappointing.

“Inferno” did have an interesting start: Harvard professor Robert Langdon woke up in the hospital and lost his memory of the past few days. An assassin came and tried to kill him, with the help of a female doctor, Robert escaped. He found a hi-tech projector in his jacket that displayed a modified version of Botticelli’s Map of Hell, which was based on Dante’s Inferno. From the hints in the image, Robert retraced his steps in the past few days and regained his memory. He found that he had stolen Dante’s death mask in Palazzo Vecchio museum that linked to a geneticist, Bertrand Zobrist. Zobrist developed a biological plague that would kill a large portion of people to solve the overpopulation issue. The plague was hidden somewhere and would be released at a certain time. The problem was Zobrist was committed suicide the week before. So it’s a time game again for Robert to prevent the plague to be released.

“Inferno” has the similar storytelling pattern as Dan Brown’s previous novels – a time critical mission with a killer chasing in the background and a number of historical artifacts and buildings were involved in the process. No matter how unbelievable the previous missions were, they were achieved successfully at the end. But the mission in “Inferno” was a failure from the beginning, I think this leads to most of the disappointment to the book. The movie script may need to have a minor update to the story; otherwise the audiences will feel the same disappointment.

As always, Dan tried to create a number of twists – enemies are not enemies, friends are not friends, villain is not a villain, but it seems that he overdid it this time. For example, there was a person who developed a plague symptom – a large bruise on his chest. He was actually an actor who disguised as a doctor in an earlier hospital scene. His chest bruise was caused by the misfire of squib that used to simulate him being shot by the assassin. In another case, the assassin pointed the gun to Robert only wanted to show him that the gun was faked. Dan, you can do better than this, right?

The overall flow of the story is slow; a quarter of the contents can be trimmed off to make a faster pace. I am impatient and feel frustrated each time when Robert paused in the middle of a life-or-death circumstance to admire the building around him and describe its historical details. If you read all other Dan Brown’s novels, you will get nothing new from “Inferno”. “Inferno” probably has the least myths, secrets and symbols for Robert Langdon to resolve. Dan surely did his research on Florence, but the story should come first before the tour details, and the novel has the other way round.


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