Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A review of Dan Brown's Inferno, with few apologies to the author*

*but copious thanks to renowned critic and journalist Michael Deacon, whose article inspired me to write a parody review, not that it isn't like shooting fish in a barrel.


Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CHAPTER 1

Obscure reviewer Jane Steen sat in her modest study in cozy suburban Illinois and stared with horror at the object she held in her hands. Measuring nine-and-a-half by six-and-a-quarter by one-and-a-half inches, the object was encased in a shiny substance the overweight reviewer knew to be plastic.

A book of some kind.

To the little known reader’s brilliant mind and eidetic memory, identifying the book was a simple task. The labels affixed to the spine proclaimed its origin: the library. It was adorned with the terrifying profile of a red-cheeked man in a red cap and red cloak, surmounted by a series of concentric circles.

Red . . . The color of blood. And those circle things look like a target.

The reviewer’s hands trembled as her fingers traced the bold lettering on the book’s cover. “DAN BROWN . . . INFERNO.”

I have to review this?!

The reviewer knew that Dan Brown (born June 22, 1964) is an American author of thriller fiction who is best known for the 2003 bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code. Brown's novels are treasure hunts set in a 24-hour period, and feature the recurring themes of cryptography, keys, symbols, codes, and conspiracy theories. His books have been translated into 52 languages, and as of 2012, sold over 200 million copies. Two of them, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, have been adapted into films.

I copied that straight out of Wikipedia.

CHAPTER 2

I am holding Inferno by Dan Brown and I have to review it, the plump, somewhat scruffily dressed, middle-aged woman recapped. Terror made her nauseous, but she bravely looked at her Goodreads updates to refresh her memory, reading the scathing comments she had left only days ago on the popular readers’ Web site.

Dan Brown is going to kill me!

The female reviewer recalled that Dan Brown is currently the twentieth highest selling author of all time and with only six books, he has achieved these sales writing fewer books than anyone above him on the list. The Robert Langdon series is currently the seventh highest selling series of all time.

Like Dan Brown, I do most of my research on the Web. Not the Internet. Dan Brown likes to talk about the Web. It sounds more . . . spidery.

The married reviewer felt an instant spark of attraction toward the sandy-haired author, who always seems to be wearing a tweed jacket in his photo shoots.

Could he be Robert Langdon in disguise?

CHAPTER 3

Overreacting wildly, the obscure critic overreacted for a few minutes, then got a grip on herself and scanned her updates. She noted that renowned author Dan Brown tends to get his tenses confused, loves to put identifiers in front of his characters’ names, and is inordinately fond of ellipses and loud punctuation such as exclamation points, question marks and interrobangs.

Why is that?!

Oh yes, and he loves italics, which pop up all over the place, not always readily identifiable with one particular character.

CHAPTER 4

The practically unknown reviewer picked up her copy of Inferno by Dan Brown, scanning its mysterious cover with the picture of the sage she now knew to be internationally famous poet Dante (c. 1265–1321), who was a major Italian poet of the Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called La Comedia and later called Divina by Boccaccio, is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.

Gad, I love Wikipedia.

She remembered that bestselling author Dan Brown frequently recaps the previous action near the beginning of a chapter, and that his bestselling prose is scattered with information dumps so densely constituted that they resemble the excreta of the famed Friesian horse, a creature mentioned in the bestselling novel Inferno.

The reviewer’s eidetic memory roamed over the plot. She recalled that Robert Langdon, granite-jawed Harvard professor of symbology and art historian specializing in iconography, wakes up in Florence to find that he remembers nothing, people are apparently trying to kill him, and he is carrying a suggestively shaped container that contains a mysterious object. He is helped by pretty blonde ponytailed genius-IQd Sienna Brooks, who has the hots for him. And his confused memories recall a mysterious silver-haired attractive older woman who wants him to seek and find, and who undoubtedly will have the hots for him too.

Meanwhile, on the mysterious ship The Mendacium, facilitator Knowlton has just watched a video that is more terrifying than the most terrifying thing you can possibly imagine.

Dan Brown is fond of making his characters react with terror in the hope that the reader will also be terrified?

What is this book?!


CHAPTER 5

“Ah yes!” the clinically obese woman derided, not knowing that “deride” must have an object. She recalled that most of the plot of Inferno consisted of Langdon and Sienna running around famous tourist spots finding clues, while being chased by a leather-clad woman who turns out to be superfluous to the plot, a bleeding strangely dressed man who also, honestly, didn’t have much of a role except to increase dramatic tension, and some black-clad soldiers who weren’t really necessary either, except that they get to do all the dirty work like good little minions. As they pass various monuments, Langdon recalls large indigestible lumps of architectural and historical detail.

As the story lumbers to its end it picks up speed, with one quite nice bit of misdirection but otherwise the usual thriller fare of all the important stuff being packed into the last few pages so that the reader feels like a lot went on.

And then there was the ending . . .

CHAPTER 6

“I was outraged,” the reviewer recalled, outraged. How could everyone suddenly decide that the Evil Plan may, in fact, be a Jolly Good Thing? Why was the Evil Villain’s Number One not banged up in jail but instead allowed to work for the good guys?

And didn’t Dan Brown think through what he was proposing as Quite A Good Thing, Really?!

The reviewer ran her hands over the shiny cover of the bestselling novel Inferno by Dan Brown. She recalled that Langdon rides off smugly into the sunset of a brand new world without any thought for the social, economic, and religious consequences of what just happened. Not to mention the fact that a small bunch of white people take it upon themselves to re-engineer the fate of mankind without consulting the rest of the world.

And that’s supposed to be OK because they’re white, rich, and brilliant.

CHAPTER 7

The overweight woman gnashed her teeth dramatically and then, like renowned professor of symbology Robert Langdon, decided to settle down with a good book. Sensing it was time to wrap up her interminable review, there was one thought that still haunted her.

Dan Brown knows exactly what he’s doing.

The frequent recaps so the reader doesn’t lose his way . . . the italics that also serve as simplified reminders of what’s going on . . . the way the action takes place in tourist spots that are easily visited and quite easy to research . . . the very short chapters . . . the dropping of brand names . . .

He’s manipulating the Baby Boomers!?!

The reviewer realized that for an audience accustomed to a diet of CSI and the Discovery Channel, Dan Brown’s storytelling style is accessible and informative. Used to being given the potted version of history by talking heads as the camera zooms around in a dizzying series of filler shots, the average reader of Brown’s books will sink into a TV-induced-like stupor and, instead of thinking about the plot or the writing, will simply enjoy the experience and come back for more.

And that, thought the reviewer, is why Dan Brown is the novelist of the future.

Sensing it was time, really, to revert to a state of denial before that last thought took hold in her brain, the reviewer took one last look at the cover of the bestselling novel Inferno and sighed.

I can return it to the library and forget this ever happened . . .

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