Inferno by Dan Brown, the fourth volume of the Robert Langdon series, opens with an amnesic Robert who needs to flee the hospital to avoid getting killed by a hired gun. Helped by Dr Sienna Brooks, he barely escapes only to find himself in the midst of a crisis: a plague that will annihilate one third of the population of the world is to be released in 24h and the only way to stop it is to solve the puzzle left by a madman. Will Robert’s knowledge of Dante’s Inferno serve him well enough to prevent this disaster?
I’ve always liked the Robert Langdon series; they remind me of the Indiana Jones movies. However I must admit that so far, the format had been pretty repetitive and linear. That didn’t bother me, but it made the books slightly predictable. In Inferno, however, Brown took a completely different approach by throwing us right into the action. Just as Langdon, we have no way of knowing what happened and have no option but to go forward.
I really enjoyed the fact that all the action happened within 24h. It made for a great pace. Of course, as usual, many passages contain explanations of the Dante symbology, which slow down the action. However, it would be difficult to remove them because the reader would have no way of understanding Langdon’s deductions. I love learning while reading so I personally enjoy this. Plus, I feel this is Brown’s signature. To add to this, because of the structure of the story, there is a lot of exposition through flashbacks. This weighs down the narrative a bit but it didn’t really bother me. I guess Dan Brown makes it works. I’m not sure a new writer without a reputation could pull it off, though. Chances are an editor wouldn’t want to take the chance to publish something that heavy.
As always, Robert was a lovable character. I definitely saw Tom Hanks in my mind and let’s be honest, who doesn’t think Hanks looks like a nice guy? As for Sienna, she was a great pairing for the professor; her superior intellect got them out of situations Robert couldn’t have. What I really enjoyed was how, aside from Robert, the motivations and intents of the other characters were never what they seemed to me. Brown tricks the reader into believing one thing, then another, making us as confused as his main character.
The ending really surprised me and pleased me very much. It was unexpected and very different from the endings of the previous book. I recommend the book without hesitation.