Towards the end of Dan Brown’s latest novel, INFERNO, Professor Robert Langdon quotes an ancient saying often attributed to Dante himself: “Remember tonight…for it is the beginning of forever.”
Upon finishing the book, I reflected on this quote and recognized that even in its simplicity, it represents the crux of this daring new novel. Quite simply, Dan Brown has done for historical fiction what Stephen King once did for the horror genre. He reinvigorated the genre and, in doing so, spawned a slew of writers who have added to it. Specific to the historical fiction genre, there have been great authors riding the momentous wave Brown created with his earlier works --- writers like Steve Berry, James Rollins, Brad Meltzer and Matthew Pearl (who coincidentally penned THE DANTE CLUB).
The release of INFERNO marks one of the most anticipated publishing events of 2013. I cannot remember a more eagerly awaited sequel since Thomas Harris’s HANNIBAL or Brown’s own THE LOST SYMBOL. The global popularity of ANGELS & DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE has made him a household name, and his books are gobbled up with delight by all lovers of good, intelligent fiction. INFERNO takes things to the next level and eclipses the accomplishments of the aforementioned novels.
"INFERNO finishes with a flurry of action and delves into scientific research that rivals the work of the late Michael Crichton. Dan Brown has deftly crafted a novel that will hit home with every reader... Brown’s speculative work not only faces a clear moral dilemma head-on but also leaves the reader with something that is much needed today --- hope."
The book opens with Langdon waking up in a daze to find himself in a hospital bed connected to an IV and various medical equipment. His last memory is giving a lecture in Massachusetts on a Saturday evening. When he looks out the nearest window to his hospital bed, he recognizes that the landscape indicates he is in Florence, Italy. When he speaks to the first person he sees, he learns that it is Monday and he is not only dealing with a head injury but also suffering from a form of mild amnesia.
This is a brilliant tactic by Brown as the reader is instantly put in the same predicament as the protagonist --- no short-term memory or knowledge of what just transpired prior to the start of the novel. A young doctor, Sienna Brooks, is treating Langdon. It is not long before a would-be assassin bursts into the hospital room, shooting the first doctor who was treating Langdon, who is forced to flee the hospital in the company of Sienna.
Sienna Brooks is similar to the typical female protagonist of Brown’s other novels --- beautiful, knowledgeable and mysterious. Langdon learns that his new partner also boasts an I.Q. of 208 and was not only a medical prodigy but also a child actor. As Langdon’s memory begins to filter back, he pieces together why he was in Florence. It has to do with his constant pursuit of symbols --- specifically, those found in ancient paintings and sculptures. Florence is rife with those, and Langdon realizes that the puzzle he was attempting to unravel had Dante’s Inferno as its centerpiece.
While Langdon engages in the constant run and chase that has become expected in his novels, another storyline emerges within the pages. Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey, the head of the global World Health Organization, is engaged in her own pursuit. Her mission is to decipher the last act of a brilliant but suicidal man named Bertrand Zobrist. Before he jumped to his death from a bridge in Florence, Zobrist went to any global organization that would listen to proclaim his fears of global annihilation. Quite frankly, his research had proven that the population growth on the planet will not be able to sustain the natural resources necessary for all life to subsist on and man will wipe themselves out in 100 years unless action is taken now.
Zobrist’s plan, which becomes the chilling impetus for the entire novel and gives another meaning to the term “Inferno,” is to follow the words of Dante and engage in an act of global extermination that will solve the issue of population growth and maintain our species on this planet. When Dr. Sinskey and Professor Langdon eventually meet up, they recognize they are on the same path in a race against time to save all of humanity from the acts of the disciple of Transhumanism, Zobrist --- if they can.
INFERNO finishes with a flurry of action and delves into scientific research that rivals the work of the late Michael Crichton. Dan Brown has deftly crafted a novel that will hit home with every reader; the threat is not merely some clandestine religious sects or ancient puzzles but a global event that threatens everyone. I saw a bumper sticker recently that read: “Your planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of you.” This quote could have been taken directly from the writings of Bertrand Zobrist and validates how the plot of a novel can resonate within the world around us. Brown’s speculative work not only faces a clear moral dilemma head-on but also leaves the reader with something that is much needed today --- hope.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 17, 2013