Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) by Dan Brown, published in 2013 by Bantam Press.
Source: public library.
‘Seek and ye shall find.’ With these words echoing in his head, eminent Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon awakes in a hospital bed with no recollection of where he is or how he got there. Nor can he explain the origin of the macabre object that is found hidden in his belongings.
A threat to his life will propel him and a young doctor, Sienna Brooks, into a breakneck chase across the city of Florence. Only Langdon’s knowledge of hidden passageways and ancient secrets that lie behind its historic facade can save them from the clutches of their unknown pursuers.
With only a few lines from Dante’s dark and epic masterpiece, The Inferno, to guide them, they must decipher a sequence of codes buried deep within some of the most celebrated artefacts of the Renaissance – sculptures, paintings, buildings – to find the answers to a puzzle which may, or may not, help them save the world from a terrifying threat… (Goodreads)
* * *
My rating: 3.5/5
I’ve been reading a lot of good, but not great books lately. This one … well, I liked it better than the last Langdon book, The Lost Symbol, as it was more scientific and less nebulous (I had some problems with … what was it … noetic science?). Inferno is a fast-paced thriller and I fell into it head-on. So if I was judging this simply from the point of readability (is that a word?), I’d give it a solid 5. But I’m a bit more demanding than that.
The first thing I have to mention is that this novel has a typical Langdon plotline. We have a crisis that can only be averted with the help of Robert Langdon, the famous Harvard professor of symbology. We have a bad guy trying to make bad things happen. We have a major plot twist toward the end that turns everything we’ve known upside down … and here is where my problem lies. In the previous instalments of this loose series, the twist left me with the feeling of: AHA! I knew there was something fishy about this guy! Here, however, I was left with the feeling that the rug was pulled out from under me – and not in a good way. Brown chose to give Langdon amnesia at the beginning of the story, so everything we know is what Langdon assumes to be true. And then, suddenly, we find out he was wrong … about pretty much everything. While I know this is a perfectly legitimate method of introducing conflict into a plot, I was left with a profound sense of betrayal here.
The other thing that bothered me was the moral message of this novel. I don’t mind morally ambiguous characters, I really don’t (I love thieves, assassins and courtesans and I’ve felt a connection to some truly nasty literary individuals), but I usually have the feeling that the author, at least, knows what side he’s on. I don’t want to fall into that cursed “author = novel” routine, but where will Langdon go on from here? Is Zobrist a great, misunderstood genius or a crazed terrorist? This book opens up a very serious question (the overpopulation of the planet and the exponential rate with which humanity is growing and gnawing through Earth’s resources), but I felt like the solution offered in the end was anything but satisfactory.
It was, however, nice to go on a world trip with Langdon again. I like the fact that Brown’s books always read a bit like travelogues, but this time was especially interesting, because I’ve been to all three cities that are featured in the novel: Florence, Venice and Instanbul. Since I live in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the first two aren’t that hard to reach (a leisurely 3-hour ride separates Ljubljana from Venice, which means I’ve visited the city of canals plenty of times), and I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled to Instanbul two years ago.
This is the Duomo in Florence, next to which is the Baptistry that Langdon and Sienna enter furtively on the first leg of their journey.
One of the many canals in Venice with gondolas. I find it’s best to visit Venice in springtime, when the streets are not flooded and it’s not very cold, but the heat of the summer hasn’t made the smells too pungent yet.
These are the original horse statues from inside St. Mark’s Church (the ones on the facade are replicas) – which are, according to the book, famous for having been decapitated for easier transport sometime in their history (they are very old indeed).
The magnificent Hagia Sophia, the church of Holy Wisdom. Built in the time of Constantinople’s wealth and power (which explains the crazy amount of gold mosaics), it was converted into a mosque after the Turks conquered Constantinople, which is why the four minarets look slightly out of place here.
I knew the story would bring us here! This is the old city cistern of Istanbul, where the city got its water, but now it’s a magnificent subterranean tourist attraction with eerie lighting. A perfect setting, for sure!
And the Spice Bazaar, which is at once a tourist attraction and a fabulous place to buy tea, spices, Turkish delight and all sorts of dried fruits and nuts. I could live here, I think. A. had to physically restrain me because I wanted to BUY ALL THE THINGS. Insanely fragrant pomegranate tea (made from dried thingies that look like this) was definitely the best buy of the trip.
* * *
Have you read Inferno? What are your thougts on the story?