Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Posted on: May 25, 2013

Hi all,

I just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest novel, Inferno. I should mention first, I LOVE reading ebook using iBooks on iPad – I know know… a novel is not just a bundle of paperback today, it’s going high tech! I must admit, I never heard of Dante’s Inferno before except from the video game that my hubby played long time ago. Thus, I googled Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to give me a rough background about the novel – which I found quite interesting!

*Note: this is not a promotional of some sort. I don’t get paid to sweet mouth Apple product. This is totally my opinion.*
So back with iBooks… I can easily define a word while reading the book just by a simple highlight and a click – English is my 2nd language anyway….. Or if I want to know what the piece of art that the novel mentions, I can highlight the words and do internet search on it and voila… with the help of Wikipedia, I can easily follow the story – I am a visual person 🙂 I once use Kindle to read a novel and aside from its light weight, I prefer iPad to comfortably read a book.

As you all know, Brown’s infamous novel is The Da Vinci Code which was adapted into a Hollywood movie. I read the novel before watching the movie and I was quite satisfied with the movie – as we know, that kind movie usually lacks of details and the story may seems a bit shorter than the novel. Here, Robert Langdon, the main character, tries to uncover the meaning behind Da Vinci’s famous painting, The Last Supper, that leads to the discovery of the ‘Holy Grail’. This movie also includes other Da Vinci’s famous works of art, such as The Monalisa & Virtuvian Man, as well as many historic sites such as the Lourve museum & Saint Sulpice in Paris, Westminster Abbey in London, and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. I enjoyed reading the book very much since I love bit of pieces of history. Plus, it has a lots of tricks and symbolism that intrique you. However, the controversial theory sparks lots of protests among Christians and Catholics. I don’t want to spoil too much, so have a read yourself and remember, it IS a work of FICTION.

This was actually not Brown’s first novel. In fact, he wrote Angels and Demons before the controversial Da Vinci Code exploded. I too read the novel before going to the theatre to watch the novel adapted movie and again, the movie was okay. This novels focuses on Illuminati group that tries to sabotage Vatican’s conclave for choosing the next pope and the group threatens to blow the Vatican with antimater. It’s basically a film about science vs. faith. The exciting part about this is that you are travelling through iconic places around the Rome & Vatican and learning the history and the symbols. The coolest thing about the plots is the ambigram, the word is read the same whether you flip it upside down and backwards.

The third book by Dan Brown featuring Robert Langdon as its main character is The Lost Symbol. The rumor is that they are in the process of shooting this novel adapted movie in 2013. Maybe I should re-read the book to refresh my memory by then 🙂 Unlike his previous novel, this Langdon’s adventure is mainly around America, especially in Washington, D.C., such as Washington Monument, US Capitol building, and House of Temple. I admit, I might forget the bits and pieces about this novel – yeah, I’m more a visual person – I remember better once I see the movie. Anyhow, I enjoyed reading this novel since it has secrets behind the symbol and the one thing I remember the most is the top of pyramid as seen in the US dollar bill.

So now, into the Inferno review. I was so excited to read this novel and had high expectations about the symbols and hidden meanings as in the 3 previous Brown’s novels. However, after I finish reading Inferno, I felt myself super exhausted. Why? Because it seems like Langdon is always running from someone’s chase in the first 80 or 90 chapters – and the novel has 107 chapters in total! The first day I got the novel, I sprinted and read 40 first chapters. Yet, by the second day, I was hesitant to continue reading it. Just because it lacks of symbolism that I hoped as in the 3 novels before. As the title literary mentions, this novel focuses on Dante’s Inferno poem which was adapted into a detailed painting of  The Abyss of Hell by Botticelli. Thus, no wonder that the important message throughout the novel was adapted around the poem but yet sophisticatedly points to specific sites that Langdon must visit in order to accomplish his goal.

Inferno (the journey through hell) is actually the first part of Dante’s poem the Divine Comedy following Purgatorio (how human redeem him/herself from sin) and Paradiso (how one soul rises to heaven). With this novel, you are too travelling around iconic sites around Florence (Boboli Garden, Palazzo Vecchio, Vasari Corridor, and Duomo), Venice (St. Mark Basilica), and Istanbul (Hagia Sophia). As usual, Brown always incorporates a ‘fictional’ high level secretive organization in the novel who conflicts and/or accommodates Langdon. Another common denominator in Brown’s novel is the conflict of science, in this case it is science vs. humanity. The antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist, is a genetic engineering genius that has an extreme idea on how to safe the earth. He believes that the idea of advance medical technologies has crossed the line of human playing God which causes overpopulation in the world. He is afraid that overpopulation will drives human into having low morale which will be punished as depicted in Dante’s Inferno. Therefore, he created ‘something’ to overcome this problem that makes him playing God – see the irony here…. Then as usual, the twists… The good guy becomes the bad and another twist which makes he/she becomes a good guy again. As I said, I really enjoyed the last 10-20 chapters in the books after the story began to reveal while Langdon’s running around seems to fade behind all the ‘mysteries.’

I’m sure this novel will be adapted into another Hollywood movie in next couple years. Although this novel lacks of cryptic messages and ancient artifacts, I love travelling through the European sites that seem always have hidden passages and surprisingly, Langdon – a Harvard historian professor- always knows where to hide or slip through one during the chase. I’ve never been to Europe before and this novel enriches my knowledge about how sophisticated European cultures are. From the Dante’s poem, Botticelli’s paintings, architectures, sculptures, and ancient city structures, they excite my interest about history and art – well… the ‘hidden’ messages behind ancient art. I may not be an expert in poem, painting, and architecture but I love love love travelling, mysteries, and unseen message behind plain sight. I’m hoping Dan Brown’s next novel will have more mysteries and symbols to engage the reader. For this Inferno novel, I suggest you read it if you’re really a fan of Dan Brown (or Robert Langdon) or if you are a travel lover – or if you have spare time to kill 🙂


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