Dan Brown’s last book Inferno has two medieval stalwarts, Dante and Botticelli, as its central point of reference. The story of the book again follows the path of mystery and manifestation, secrets and revelation, riddles and artistic conundrum as it has been a pattern in all Brownesque publications. This time the ace iconographer Robert Langdon is fighting against an evil genius who has invented a bio-chemical time bomb which can make 33% male population impotent! This is perhaps the least possible and conceivable way to control global population. The story then is unfolded in the typical prototype of a chase thriller in which the protagonist makes a desperate attempt to save the world from utter insanity. The readers follow the Pundit from USA to the continent right up to Istanbul, the heart land of old medieval culture. But whether the odyssey turns out to be a successful one, the novelist has kept the answer open-ended.
Enthusiasts like us who have very little knowledge of medieval/Renaissance art and even lesser opportunity to acquire that in a serious manner, Brown’s books may be read as good resource material. And as the style and genre are reminiscent of a good Hollywood potboiler, one can easily absorb it without much difficulty. The historical elements, presented in the book, are quite in keeping with the theme of the thriller mode besides its impeccable academic predisposition. History has always served as the springboard for Brown’s works and we are introduced to a plethora of artifacts we certainly do not know about the great masters. Here in the book, Brown has tried to find an answer, though unconvincingly, to the burning issues like population explosion and its associated side effects. However, the matter is presented in all seriousness and can goad the readers to give the damn a second thought.
The immaculate story telling capability of the writer would force a reader to finish it off in a single session. But the volume of the book might drag the issue beyond it. The book is written, like the previous ones, as a travelogue in which the protagonist is forced to travel around half of the world to postpone the impending doom. The dull and prolix matters of history are presented with beautiful rendition. Detailed study and meticulous research of medieval artifacts and incidents have made the book a real treasure trove for the travelers as well. The events like ‘Black Death’ and ‘Renaissance’ in Europe have given the story a strong frame through and through and that ultimately becomes the clue to the escape route which our hero is searching for to save us. But how’s that? One can only answer this after reading it.
Though I am a Dan Brown addict, I personally feel the writer has gone little overboard while tampering with some scientific facts and figures. Brown may be an avid observer of Renaissance arts, but he is a shadow of himself when it comes to dealing with scientific tools and theories. The overall story material is O.K but it lacks intensity. The fighting scenes are not at all convincing and it shows that Brown is preoccupied with the idea of its film adaptation. Thus the story sometimes loses its grip and the drives the readers crazy. The detail description of exotic locales and historic apartments with secret passages are very good. But here again there is a problem of excess. The question whether the places are introduced to induce the readers to visit those places or it was an artistic necessity would haunt the readers always. There are purple patches especially when Robert Langdon is giving a speech on ‘Divina Commedia’ or information is exchanged regarding Dante, Botticelli or other past masters and here Brown has stamped his authority as a master of historical thrillers beyond doubt.
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