Oh, the time I spent reading those 462 pages of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel Inferno is time I will never get back.
When Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital room with no memory of how he got there, he doesn’t realise that memory loss is the least of his problems. Soon, he’s on the run from shady gun-toting people in Florence, trying to track down the answers to a puzzle which has the potential to change the world.
Inferno gives readers another chance to connect with the popular Langdon, who also featured in Brown’s Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol and, most famously, The Da Vinci Code. As always, Langdon is in a race against time to do something or other, and must use his famously large brain to get to the bottom of whatever it is he’s trying to solve.
But to me, Langdon is not a compelling character. My reading of him is that he thinks he’s far more clever than he is, that he constantly underestimates people because he thinks they’re not as clever as him, and that he misses things right in front of him because he thinks he’s being so clever looking for the more complicated things.
Brown has tried to create a likeable hero, an Indiana Jones of sorts, but Langdon just spent 80 per cent of Inferno annoying me, and it’s only not 100 per cent because I’m reading about other characters. Not that those other characters are brilliant. I personally feel Brown isn’t good at writing women. His two female protagonists in Inferno – Sienna and Sinskey – are stereotypical. Sinskey’s regret over never having children is brought up a number of times, and seems to be her defining feature, despite the fact that she’s a successful career woman, while SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT Sienna thinks being bald makes her hideous, which completely goes against everything else we know about her (child genius, brave etc) and dumbs her down.
As with The Da Vinci Code (the only other Langdon book I’ve read) Inferno is full of symbols and secret messages, and while this is clever at first, after a while it just gets overcomplicated. As do the constant “twists”. Brown litters the book with one twist after another turn, and it’s far from surprising. If a book wants to shock readers, it should keep the twists to a minimum, and make them really shocking. There are so many in Inferno that it deadens the impact of them all.
Much of the time I just felt like I was reading a tour guide to Florence and the various other settings in the novel. I can’t help but feel that if Langdon had spent less time gazing in wonder at buildings and more time doing stuff, he wouldn’t have been in half the trouble he was during the book.
In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I didn’t like Inferno. I thought it was overwritten, with badly rendered characters and a plot that tried to do too much. It may be a bestseller, but Inferno is not my kind of bestseller.
How I got this book: Gift from a friend