Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: "Inferno" By Dan Brown

I finished Dan Brown's Inferno last night.  Yes, I enjoyed it.  Somebody asked me this morning if it was good . . . well, that's a totally different question!

Depends on your definition.  If you like Dan Brown, you'll enjoy Inferno.  But I'd have to say that these books are getting a little thread-bare as far as plots go.  It's always been obvious that Dan Brown is a formula writer.  My favorite of his novels was Angels & Demons which was about the time he established that formula that has worked so well for him.  But every one of his books follows this same predictable formula.

You know the drill.  Robert Langdon gets dragged into some kind of murder mystery or political intrigue, and uses his knowledge of symbolism to find clues in art and architecture to solve the mystery.  And he runs from the beginning of the novel to the end, and he escapes repeatedly from impossible situations (he's obviously in great shape for a Harvard academic in a tweed jacket).  And of course, there's always that stunning twist when you find out a foe is actually a friend or a friend is actually a foe. 

But my opinion is that the plots are getting a little thin and even more incredulous with every novel.  There's an element of believability that I think is necessary in fiction, and sometimes I just have to stop and ask myself--really?  I'm supposed to believe that?  Seriously, how many master criminals leave clues to their identity in a 600 year old painting, which leads to a 300 year old chapel, that leads to an 800 year old fountain.  Not many I'd imagine.  But it keeps happening in Robert Langdon's world.  And another thing.  If I've been shot and want to leave a clue about who killed me, it won't be a verse from some obscure text written by monks in the third century--I'll just leave a note that says "Billy did it!"

On the upside, these novels are fun to read, and I thought Dan Brown's writing in this one is better than in any of his previous novels.  I thought his last novel The Lost Symbol was poorly written (and Freemasons won't like me saying that).  Pages and pages of unnecessary dialogue and descriptions that I found difficult to trudge through that didn't really advance the story.  It's almost as if Dan Brown wants his readers to know just how much research he did on his story, and wastes not a scrap of it, whether the story needs it or not.   This novel, while part of that same trademarked formula, was much easier to read. He's finally learned the art of "less is more."

But the "Dan Brown formula" is becoming very predictable.  He might want to mix it up a little next time.  Having experienced his books before, I was able to figure out a lot of the twists and turns before they were revealed in the story--because he'd done it before.  I was looking for them, and expected them, and they weren't hard to find.  In fact, I thought I'd had one of my predictions wrong, because it was "too easy."  Nope.  I had it right.  I'd guessed it correctly.

So in the end, would I recommend it?  If you like Dan Brown's previous novels, absolutely.  You'll enjoy it.  I certainly enjoyed it, because it's exactly what I thought it would be, and it was more of what I'd enjoyed in his novels before.  It kept me up late a few nights--stopping every so often to look up a picture on the internet of some historical landmark that Brown piqued my curiosity about.  It's just the kind of escapist fiction that makes for the perfect summer read.  I'm sure it will sell millions of copies to his adoring fans. 

And yes, I'll most likely buy his next one, too.


Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014.

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