Inferno, or, “How Renowned Symbologist Robert Langdon Dutifully Rushes Through Another Improbable Plot” is the fourth of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels, and the third one to be turned into a massive blockbuster. Years ago, I read the first two in the series (The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, the later of which is still my favorite) as well as the stand alone novel Digital Fortress in quick succession, which completely turned me off of Dan Brown. After reading three of his books, I could not help but conclude that he is a one trick pony. Every book was basically the same paint by numbers story, with only the colors changed.
So I wasn’t completely shocked to find that Inferno was cut from the same cloth: Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory of how he got there. Then, there’s someone after him and he has spend a day running and solving clues hidden in artwork (Dante! Boticelli!) and picturesque historic locations (Florence! Venice! Istanbul!). All this accompanied by a pretty, smart young girl.
I think that this time around, I found what irked me about Dan Brown’s books.
It’s not the fact that he isn’t the greatest writer around. His style is clunky, his sentences are needlessly detailed and overwrought, his characters are as flat as the paper they don’t develop on, the plots with their twists and turns and role reversals and all the other tropes thrown in for good measure are pretty dumb — but — he knows how to keep you entertained. Short chapters, cliffhanger upon cliffhanger, one-liners and quippy comebacks that would make CSI Maimi’s Horatio Cane blush — “Sienna went pale. ‘Don’t tell me we’re in the wrong museum.’ ‘Sienna,’ Langdon whispered, feeling ill. ‘We’re in the wrong country.’” YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHH.* — rapid pacing: he knows ho to write a book that’s crying out to be a movie.
Inferno fits this mold: it’s dumb, it’s bad, but in a harmlessly fun way.
No, it’s probably that I now fully realized that Dan Brown is a writer of badly written Dan Brown fanfiction.
Robert Langdon is the man Dan Brown wishes he could be: a handsomely charming famous renowned professor, well-versed in art history, symbology and the conspiracy theories, author of well-received books, traveling the world and seeing the sights alongside pretty young females. The go-to-guy when a mad scientists will doom (doom! I say!) half of humankind and the only clue is hidden with obscure art references, and that guy from National Treasure turns out to be Nicholas Cage. Which is good and fine when you write it in the comfort of your own home and don’t bother the rest of the world with it. But when your bad fanfiction goes on to sell millions of copies for real world money, well…
But fuck it. Taken in light doses every few years or so, it’s awesomely craptacular entertainment.
- Book read
- Dan Brown — Inferno
- First line
- I am the Shade.
* Hat-tip to this excellent review for helping me find the right words in this one.