Saturday, November 9, 2013

What I'm reading: Inferno by Dan Brown

Below is the review blurb from Publisher's Weekly:


"The threat of world overpopulation is the latest assignment for Brown's art historian and accidental sleuth Robert Langdon. Awakening in a Florence hospital with no memory of the preceding 36 hours, Langdon and an attractive attending physician with an oversized intellect are immediately pursued by an ominous underground organization and the Italian police. Detailed tours of Florence, Venice, and Istanbul mean to establish setting, but instead bog down the story and border on showoffmanship. Relying on a deceased villain's trail of clues threaded through the text of Dante's The Divine Comedy, the duo attempt to unravel the events leading up to Langdon's amnesia and thwart a global genocide scheme. Suspension of disbelief is required as miraculous coincidences pile upon pure luck. Near the three-quarters point everything established gets upended and Brown, hoping to draw us in deeper, nearly drives us out. Though the prose is fast-paced and sharp, the burdensome dialogue only serves plot and back story, and is interspersed with unfortunate attempts at folksy humor. It's hard not to appreciate a present day mega-selling thriller that attempts a refresher course in Italian literature and European history. But the real mystery is in the book's denouement and how Brown can possibly bring his hero back for more."

I'm a little more than halfway through the book, and so far it is comprised of little more than one chase scene after another, interspersed with the sort of historical detail that would be better suited to a Fodor's travel guide.

I've frankly never understood the Dan Brown phenomenon. I've read his previous books, and found them to be weakly plotted, and filled with paper-thin characters. (I'm reading Inferno because someone gave me the hardcover edition, and the premise, at least, seemed interesting.) 

For outlandish, everyone-in-the-world-might-die adventure, though, Clive Cussler is usually a far better read.

I should note, by the way, that I don't have a reflexive dislike of popular fiction. I've devoured John Grisham and Stephen King novels in a single day. But King and Grisham--when they're at their best--are much better than Dan Brown.

I plan to finish Inferno, because there is a masochistic side of me that seldom allows me to abandon a book once I've started it. But I'll likely pass on the next installment of Dr. Robert Langdon's adventures in Italian art and architecture.

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