Imagine waking up in a foreign hospital in Italy with no memory of how you got there. Now imagine that you have to solve a mystery before time runs out or an engineered plague will be released that will permanently alter humanity. Can you feel the pressure? Congratulations – that’s the position Professor Robert Langon finds himself in the book Inferno. This is the latest book in the Langon series which includes The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, and Angels & Demons.
As such, I already knew what to expect when I opened this book. Dan Brown has a very well known formula – some would even say he’s the Michael Bay of novels. Which depending on what you’re looking for is both good and bad. On the one hand the man writes thrillers that certainly live up to their name, but on the other hand, the books can sometimes blur together from a lack of new content. I am happy to say that Inferno takes a needed step away from Brown’s formula without losing what makes them so addictive.
And they are addictive – from the moment I began the book I found it hard to put it back down. I mean I have enough of a science background to groan and wearily shake my head with the best of them – but the issues I had were immeasurably smaller than the fun of creeping through world famous landmarks or investigating curios like death masks. That said, there were times when I just wanted Brown and Langon to settle down for a minute. In fact, there were some spots where it felt like trying to watch a movie on fast-forward. Part of this comes from having very short chapters with rather blatant cliffhangers. Another part, however, would have to do with how thin the characters felt at times.
And if this story falls through anywhere it’s with the characters. Langon is more akin to a muppet than a full-fleshed character of his own. If anyone were to ask me what he’s like or to describe him I’d be at a serious disadvantage. I know he has “thick” hair so amazing that everyone has to comment on it. I know he loves Harris tweed because he’s just that “adorkable” (I’m paraphrasing here). I know that his partner in this is female – and that’s about that. Names parade across the page, but there is nothing that makes them stand out or memorable and the book is much less for that.
That said, I would still give this book at least a four. Because moving forward (if the Lagon series continues) the setting has irreversibly changed. Things have not returned to the status quo and Lagon is going to have to accept his part in that for good or ill. And that is something powerful because people do not like consequences in their fantasies. This is especially true in a genre like “thriller” where the point is to titillate not to make anyone think. So kudos Dan Brown.