After finishing Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, I was in the mood for something less… engaging, that didn’t require me to “pay as much attention”.
My choice was Inferno by Dan Brown, a mystery thriller novel published in 2013 revolving around Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. The 480 pages long novel begins with the main character, American Harvard professor Robert Langdon, finding himself stranded in a hospital in Florence with a bullet wound to the head. Being struck by amnesia, he does not remember how he ended up on the other side of the Atlantic nor why he is here. He is troubled by disturbing flashbacks of a silver-haired woman urging him to act quickly, because “time grows short”.
Langdon is soon joined by his beautiful young female sidekick (of course), doctor Sienna Brooks, who is revealed to be quite the over powered pain, because she is unusually intelligent, talented and skilled: Multilingual, master of martial arts and quick-witted. She seems to be perfect.
… which turns out to be bullshit! Because it is soon revealed that multiple organisations are after Langdon and his desirable sidekick. The web of lies and betrayals is untangled, and this beautiful creature with an intellect that exceeds what is humanly acceptable is unmasked, which is a very intentional word I’m using, because there are mysterious masks involved. Such symbolism! Very intriguing!
It truly is a fast paced mystery thriller, because each chapter is seldom longer than six-seven pages, which, for a lazy bum like me, hits right on the spot. In addition, the author alternates between points of view. You, as reader, is not just a fly on the wall. You can move through room and be in two places at the same time, experiencing the same situation through two different people and live through their emotions, the hero as well as the villain. Even minor characters get their own chapter.
Dan Brown’s novels are fiction, but they have roots in reality, which is why I like his thrillers. Inferno combines Dante Alighieri’s work, a very heavy epic poem depicting Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, with modern issues.
Inferno is packed with mysterious (and shady!) characters and lots of heavy symbolism equally intense as the car (and boat) chases. Keywords are flailing legs, bioaerosols, Black Death, wigs, masks, and a madman. You are thrown into the action, and you can’t help but feel empathy, not just for the hero, but for the villain as well.
I’m not very fond of thrillers, movies and books alike. I find them somewhat tedious and mindless. But every rule has an exception, and Dan Brown is no doubt one of them. Since reading The Da Vinci Code by the same author four years ago, I have grown fond of his books with Robert Langdon as the main character.
I thought Inferno was going to be another easy read, most likely soon forgotten, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was never anticlimactic, and the use of several, to me unknown, words like soliloquy, ubiquitous and fecundity, forced me to continually look up words.
I paid attention, from prologue to epilogue, and in all the 104 chapters in between. I finished with a sense of being accompanied along the way to enlightenment, as if someone had made it their mission to guide me, like shining stars.