Monday, May 27, 2013

Dan Brown
"Inferno" travels through the secret hideaways of museums, cathedrals and monuments in Florence, Venice and Istanbul, with the usual dazzling array of art

Dan Brown is back with Robert Langdon: the standard fare of a man on the run, a deadline to meet, and a gorgeous female character as his partner and locales set in Paradiso. If you haven’t been done to death already with the tour guide thriller genre that gives you first-hand tourist information of Venice, Florence and Istanbul (almost from a Fodor’s Guide), you will not be able to put the book down. If you are sure that Robert Langdon and his paraphernalia belong in another world, you will still not be able to put the book down. Ladles of history, art and architecture snake their way near proudly as Robert races against time following the great epic The Divine Comedy through the art-ridden streets of Florence and Venice. 

Widely expected to be one of the best sellers of 2013
Dante Alighieri’s epic comes to life in a stand-offish manner-you will have to decide whether it is to your liking or not early on. From the moment a frenzied and anaemic Langdon wakes up in hospital with a beautiful doctor hovering above him and a bio-hazard device sewn into his pocket, a mad chase begins where you must read on not only to discover what lies ahead, but also to discover what the back story is. A mad man with a plan, a world that is vulnerable to bits, an agency with questionable scruples, and Malthusian theories come up to cook the best and perhaps most understandable question in all of Dan’s work. The population explosion which is burgeoning at an ever increasing rate. Amidst wild speculations, there is the truth of the Black death, the renaissance, and a problem that mankind has faced very recently. As you read on, you understand the theme of using Dante’s epic: if unchecked, population will turn this world into a living hell, a living inferno. 

The book is good serving of entertainment, but is unmistakably common. With Langdon, Dan Brown created a newer genre-within-genre, but innovations in this novel are restricted to seen-from-a-distance plot turns. The master of word artistry and cliff-hangers can definitely pull from his hat many other rabbits, not just one named Langdon On A Run. 

For all its old world charm, this is essentially a modern book with a modern message. It takes on modern thinking, modern technology and a modern solution. With each chapter, you will be hooked on to this novel and at the end there will be a slight emptiness, though not almost an anti-climax. The book does not seem to be complete, but then it does end in a very changed world. This is perhaps a great way to spend a weekend, a laid back afternoon or sleepless night. Dan Brown succeeds in adding an old feather to his cap, though an exceedingly beautiful one.

-- Contributed by Rikhav Shah
(St. Xaviers – Mumbai)