Wednesday, July 10, 2013

*Inferno, by Dan Brown

Doubleday, 2013
463 pp

(read end of June)

Okay, now you can really scoff at my summer reading choices!   To be really honest, I have no idea why I decided to buy this book (I even preordered it a long time back), because since The DaVinci Code (which was okay because the concept was so new at the time), every time Dan Brown puts out a new book I buy it for escape material,  read it, and come away feeling like I've read the same book over again,  reset in a new location.  Inferno continues that trend, this time in Florence.

The main thrust of this newest installment in the Robert Langdon series is the following: Langdon wakes up one day in the hospital with no memory of how he got there. When he finds out he's in Florence, Italy, he's even more shocked and confused. When he discovers he doesn't have his vintage antique Mickey Mouse watch, he's horrified.  Before he manages to get his wits together, he discovers that someone in the hospital has come in with a gun and is shooting the place up.  His doctor, Sienna Brooks, helps him to escape, but he's not safe even then -- in fact, he walks right into the middle of a mad scientist/evil genius plot but he doesn't know that yet. All he knows is that people are chasing him and Sienna, and that there seem to be two different groups looking for him.  He also has found a strange device sewn into a piece of clothing, with no knowledge of where he got it.  Meanwhile, a group known as the Consortium has been taking care of the above-mentioned mad scientist/evil genius client whose wish was to disappear while he worked on some research. The Consortium makes a great deal of money by clandestinely seeing to the wishes of their clients; this particular client, even though dead, left one last task for the Consortium to undertake.  They are to release a video to the media, one that has the client in a plague mask giving a bizarre speech and showing the world a hidden location where a plaque notes that "In this place, on this date, the world was changed forever." The date: tomorrow.  What he's left behind is obviously not a very good thing, and obviously the plot comes down to Langdon having to decipher a gamut of clues, this time all having to do with Dante Alighieri as well as  Florence and its history, in order to find whatever it is will change the world forever before it's too late.

Plague Doctor, from Alchemipedia
 --sigh-- It really wasn't long before I realized I was in trouble here when on page 18 a Lisbeth Salander type "dressed entirely in black leather...toned and strong with dark, spiked hair," breaks into the hospital and shoots Langdon's doctor.  Honestly, sometimes you can just tell that pop culture icon lookalikes at the beginning of a novel are the beginning of a downward spiral, and all of this before chapter 3. In an escape read sort of way, I  could deal with that, I could deal with the whole sameness of the plot except for being in Florence and using things relative to Dante, and I could deal with the whole twisty, turn the plot on its head direction the novel takes.  I could even deal with the dialogue.  What I had a real problem with was the revelation of what the mad scientist/evil genius character was working on and what he had hidden -- even for a summer novel and an escape read, that was just too much to take. If the book hadn't weighed so much, I probably would have flung it across the room -- after all I'd just been through, the whole reveal was just the proverbial icing on the cake, in a negative sort of way.

Nevertheless, I had pulled my back very badly doing my laundry (don't ask)  so was flat and needed some distraction, and Inferno definitely provided that for me. I can't help it if the plot was too silly for words so as to take the escape fun away from my reading time.  I have to say though, that Dan Brown is definitely someone who's  done his research, and the man certainly can put together some crazy puzzles.  And he's got millions and millions of fans who on Amazon and on Goodreads have awarded Inferno 5-star ratings and who have vehemently defended this book against people who didn't like the book, such as myself.  I'm really sorry, but I did not like this book. A) it's a rehash of plot elements from the other three novels he's written, and B) the horrible thing that is supposed to happen is just plain silly and not even in the conceivable reality zone.  The only really good thing about this book is that it was way better than his Lost Symbol, which currently serves as a doorstop for my guestroom.

Now, don't go accusing me of book snobbery as one reader did on Goodreads, because that's simply not the case. I just wasn't crazy about this novel -- and that's the bottom line. As I said, people are lauding it all over America.  And I bet Doubleday and Dan Brown are dancing for joy with the millions of copies they've probably sold.  If this kind of book is your thing, then you'll probably love it. What else can I say?

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