Inferno by Dan Brown © 2013 Doubleday
Everyone was buying this one, hundreds of thousands of folks plopping down $30 for Brown’s latest blockbuster in hardcover. So it had to be good. I had to read it. But $25, even at Wal-Mart? El Cheapo was destined to wait for paperback and be a full year or more behind the curve until he chanced upon a used copy in a quaint little bookstore in the Rocky Mountains, ½ off cover price, plus ½ off that because it happened to be a Wednesday afternoon sale. The hardcover blockbuster, pristine condition, $6.50! The mountain gods smiled upon El Cheapo.
Brown’s popular protagonist, Robert Langdon, plumbs the depths of Hell, via Dante Alighieri and an evil genius scientist bent on destroying the world—a genius who leaves behind Dante-esque clues and even a video about his plot which Langdon can use to thwart him. So basically, a stupid evil scientist leads Langdon on a scavenger hunt to take Average Joe Reader to fascinating European buildings and pieces of art which Average Joe Reader would never see in real life, and on the way, Langdon reveals interesting underlying facts about everything seen.
As a story, Infermo was pretty lame. Brown gives Langdon amnesia to conceal facts and create an air of supernatural mystery. He gives Langdon a female sidekick/love interest who is so brilliant/talented she feels lonely, and that makes all her hair fall out. Somehow, I couldn’t connect with that. And in the end, after Langdon gallivants across Europe, facing more crises in twenty four hours than Jack Bauer could ever dream of, he fails to end the evil plot so neatly laid out for him. All that carping aside, it was fun to gallivant about Europe and learn interesting underlying facts about buildings and art El Cheapo will never see in real life.
Now hear this! If you stick it out to the end, Inferno contains a very thoughtful, philosophical notion on world overpopulation related to the evil/stupid genius’s plot. It really made me think, and also mourn what a better book Inferno could have been had the philosophical element been more important than the art and architecture tour. Overall, it was a pleasant $6.50 diversion worthy of the shelf. Had I paid $30, I might have felt differently, but would have a hard time chucking three Hamilton’s into the recycling bin.