Thriller pivots from absorbing to boring

INFERNO by Dan Brown. Reviewed by Michael Kimberley

WHEN a book is really good, the pages seemingly turn themselves. And while Dan Brown’s latest offering is definitely a page-turner, it is also a clunky mess.

In fact, it is an enigma to the “page-turning” definition – it is both absorbing and boring. The book pivots between the two from start to finish.

But it is a strange feeling to read a book so quickly only to realise at the end how staggeringly clumsy it was.

Then again, that’s Brown for you. He is no literary genius but still manages to create something that is pure escapism.

You can’t dispute his ability. He knows how to spin a good yarn even if it is full of knots.

Once again the author has stuck to his tried and tested formula – a cat-and-mouse chase involving villains worthy of a James Bond film.

His latest novel lacks the build-up found in The Da Vinci Code and fails to pull the carpet right from under you.

The 2003 mystery-detective novel was a literary phenomenon, selling 81 million copies in 51 languages. It spiraled Brown to mega-blockbuster stature after generating criticism and controversy around the world.

Like The Da Vinci Code, Inferno is a fusion of history, art, codes, and symbols.

It is based on one of history’s most mysterious literary masterpieces, Dante’s Inferno.

The book’s arcing message is overpopulation. Brown links a piece of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem to the catastrophe of overpopulation overwhelming the planet.

It kicks off with symbology expert Robert Langdon waking up in a Florence hospital bed with no memory of the last few days. A gun is fired and the race to the end begins.

Langdon just manages to escape the hospital with the help of Sienna Brooks, one of the doctors tending to him.

The first puzzle piece – sewn into his bloody tweed jacket – soon comes into play.

Inside is a hi-tech projector that displays a modified version of Botticelli’s Map of Hell.

Unlocking it, Langdon finds a medieval bone cylinder but before he can catch his breath, he is off again, with soldiers and an assassin on his tail.

What follows in formulaic style is a scavenger hunt across the heart of Europe to save the human race from a genius scientist.

The scientist is intent on solving the world’s population problem by releasing a virus. And it seems only Langdon can stop him.

You can expect lots of twists and turns, bad prose and mixed metaphors which is all a hallmark of any Brown book. But a first time reader of Brown will find Inferno pleasing while fans of the thriller writer will find themselves disappointed.

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