Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Decoding Dan Brown's Inferno

By: Hamza Shafique

Who doesn’t like an engaging mystery thriller and what Robert Langdon series bring to the table is an added element of history and conspiracy. Dan Brown’s fictional world of Robert Langdon is my favorite work in this genre.
I remember when I first got my hands on “The Da Vinci Code” in 2003. I got the book from my uncle as a gift to pass time on my flight from Jeddah to Pakistan. It was love at first sight, I got hooked from the first chapter instantly and for next 3 days I was living this imaginary world of Mr. Langdon. Dan Brown’s writing had such a magic that my curiosity to know what happens next didn’t let me sleep properly. After I finished “The Da Vinci Code” I made it a mission to find all his work and go through it. Dan Brown now have 6 books on his credit out of which his recent four books are part of Robert Langdon series. Inferno is the most recent installment in the series.

Robert Langdon’s world usually dwell upon stories created using the similar elements but mixed in different proportions as given below:
·         Book always start with a murder
·         There is always an assassin who usually is just a puppet with strings being pulled by a more complicated antagonist
·         Robert Langdon a Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology is always the center of plot with a female sidekick who usually by the end becomes more than just a sidekick
·         There is always some law enforcing authority that initially chases Robert but later gets on his side.
·         There is always a secret society/cult or government organization involved
·         Storyline always makes the protagonist being chased around the cities while exploring landmarks/artifacts to decode clues.
·         Villains are always mysterious with not very clear motives till very end and are master of creating maps filled with clues and riddles.
·         Considerable portion of the book simply narrates controversial historical facts, myths and tales connected to the plot.

Inferno is also on the similar pattern. We again have Robert Langdon, this time on the streets of Florence along with a child prodigy Sienna being chased by World Health Organization army/guards. Who thought World Health Organization could be this equipped with artillery. This time the central element of the storyline is Dante’s Inferno which antagonist has used to create a trail across artwork/landmarks. The central idea that book deals with is the population and threat mankind has from the rate of population increase.

The book is engaging and has interesting plot. Its fast paced and has bunch of twists as expected from this genre. Dan Brown has yet again created an exciting chase that will keep you connected to the book. The historical references and explanations throughout the book are very balanced as well and never over power the actual narrative. So is this another “The Da Vinci Code”? I am afraid no. What is missing from the book, is a strong antagonist. The character of the assassin is also underwritten and seems irrelevant to the plot. I also couldn’t digest some of the plot explanation which for me decreased the believability of the narrative.

I was discussing this point with my friend and he made very good remark that Dan Brown is M. Night Shyamalan of book world. His writing style that clicked with “Angels and Demons” and later got huge success with “The Da Vinci Code” is now base for all his work, which sometimes work and sometime doesn’t.

“Inferno” is a very fine one time read and is better than its Hollywood adaptation but doesn’t stand up to the level created by “The Da Vinci Code”. We truly hope his expected 2017 release “Origin” can take his work back up to the same level.

If you haven’t read any of Dan Brown’s books, then I will suggest you to go as per following list, where 1 being his finest work.

1-      The Da Vinci Code
2-      Angels and Demons
3-      Digital Fortress
4-      Deception Point
5-      Inferno
6-      The Lost Symbol

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