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Posts Tagged ‘Thrillers’

I normally don’t get a book on the day it is released. I occasionally make an exception to this. I did that for the Harry Potter series – parts five to seven. I did that for Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’. Now, I did that for the new Dan Brown book – ‘Inferno’. Across the years some writers who wrote popular fiction have become superstars. Three of them were J.K.Rowling, Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown. When a new book by any of these writers came out, no one knew what the stories were about, advance review copies were not available, the warehouses where copies of the book were kept were zealously guarded, the book got released internationally on the same date and the first editions got sold out. For some reason, while Rowling’s Harry Potter series is still regarded with affection and respect by its original readers and new ones, Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown seemed to have slipped down that ladder. Critics (and sometimes even the original readers and fans) say that Meyer’s and Brown’s prose styles are simple and workmanlike and after the initial success and euphoria readers and critics feel that there is nothing special about their books and their plots. It cannot be denied though that the popularity of Meyer’s Twilight series spawned off the whole vampire genre in YA literature, a genre which now includes werewolves and zombies and other characters of the night. Dan Brown’s books also spawned off a lot of imitations and inspirations – suddenly there was an upsurge of books which were based on paintings and artwork and the mysteries behind them. But readers of serious fiction who read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and enjoyed it, talked about it with contempt. ‘I haven’t read ‘The Da Vinci Code’. I don’t read books like that’ became a fashion statement among some of these readers. I have been puzzled by this – on why readers of serious fiction regarded the Harry Potter series with affection while they treated the Twilight series and Dan Brown’s novels with contempt, albeit after enjoying them. Because for me, though they were all different in some ways, what they were trying to do was the same – entertain the reader. And they did that well. So, I was looking forward to finding out whether ‘Inferno’ did that too – entertain me well.

 Inferno By Dan Brown

‘Inferno’ has all the elements of a vintage Dan Brown novel. There is an unexpected event which happens in the prologue. The rest of the book explains why that happened. In the first chapter we find Robert Langdon waking up in an unknown place without being aware how he got there. There is a beautiful, strong heroine who helps him. The law enforcement authorities and some unknown people chase him across cities and countries. The action moves across exotic locales – Florence, Venice, Istanbul. There is discussion of art, architecture, sculpture and history. Some of the information is used for unravelling the clues that Langdon and his friend Sienna stumble upon. And finally there is a surprise ending.

 

There is good news and bad news about ‘Inferno’. First the good news. The action is fast paced, the book is well researched, there is a lot of information on art, architecture, sculpture, the symbolism behind them and the history behind them, and the book gives a lot of information about Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’. Readers who would never pick Dante’s book would learn a little bit about it from Brown’s book. And my favourite part was when Brown says that the best translation of ‘The Divine Comedy’ in English is by Allen Mandelbaum. (I have read parts of Mandelbaum’s translation of ‘The Odyssey’ and have loved it. I hope to read his translation of ‘The Aeneid’ some day.)  It is not often that a translator of a classical literary work is glorified in a thriller novel. The last time I remember a translator being glorified in a thriller was in ‘The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey in which Harvey talks glowingly about Richmond Lattimore’s translations of the Greek classics. Now the bad news. The storytelling in ‘Inferno’ is not as sleek as ‘The Da Vinci Code’. There is a lot of information in the book about art and architecture, which has no relevance to the story. (In ‘The Da Vinci Code’ every factoid led to unravelling a clue. That was one of the things I loved about that book.) At some point the story meanders on and on and I will be lying if I didn’t say that I wanted to put it down at some point. Fortunately, I persisted and crossed the line in the end.

 

I forgot to tell you one other good news about the book though. The ending was surprising and not what one would have expected. It tied up beautifully all the loose ends and it was perfect. I would have never said that when I was halfway through the book, but when I reached the end, I realized that the ending was perfect. It was surprising – what management consultants would have described with the much clichéd term ‘out-of-the-box’. It made one think. I am not going to tell you more. I love the fact that I can write spoiler-free reviews now – I read the above paragraphs and I see that I haven’t said anything about the plot 🙂

 

If you are a Dan Brown / Robert Langdon fan, you might like ‘Inferno’. It is not as good as ‘The Da Vinci Code’ or ‘Angels and Demons’, but it is good in parts and has some redeeming qualities.

 

Have you read ‘Inferno’? What do you think about it?

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