Dante’s poem, Langdon was now reminded, was not so much
about the misery of hell as it was about the power of the human spirit to endure any challenge, no matter how daunting.
Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)
Dan Brown | 2013 | 461 Pages
Robert Langdon is in the thick of it yet again! Can the Harvard Art History professor ever catch a break? Will Assasins ever leave him alone? Will secret societies ever learn to chill out? The answer to all three is obviously a resounding “no” as Dan Brown’s fourth Langdon adventure plunges us into a world filled with Dante, Botticelli and shady plans that threaten to change the world
As with Brown’s earlier Langdon novels, the story is filled with references to art, literature, and history that inform while integrating with the otherwise outlandish plot. As a Dante fan myself, the educational asides where fun refreshers. The references were like a non-stop ride trough my collegiate Art History studies, and it was fun to both learn new things and be reminded of old ones.
Furthermore, the vivid descriptions of the cities and landmarks really made me want to hop on a plane and jet set over to the Duomo and St. Marks. (In fact, I spent a lazy afternoon planning a hypothetical trip around Italy thanks to this book and some Rick Steves blog posts…)
You don’t need to be familiar with the earlier books in the series to read this one either. While picking up Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, or The Lost Symbol would give you more background on Langdon and his long history with secret cabals, prior knowledge isn’t a must for this read. The plot moves quickly, and despite its 400+ page length, it’s an incredibly fast read that entertained me just enough to urge my reading onward. Also, and this will be a plus or minus depending on your own viewpoint, it was easy enough to follow that I could listen to it as an audiobook on my long weekend runs. Gotta get as much reading done as possible, why let marathon training eat into that time? I can only listen to certain kinds of books while running, and this fell firmly into that category. Which reminds me that I should at the very least make a Goodreads shelf for novels of that ilk.
If you’ve read one Langdon book, you’ve read them all. Change up the setting, tweak the evil goal, shift around what art or literature is featured, and change the name of the attractive and brilliant young woman who inevitably shows up- congratulations! You have another Robert Langdon adventure!
The plot, while fast paced and mostly engaging, was incredibly predictable, especially for any reader who has even basic knowledge of the settings and works depicted. Brown centers his “big twists” around some pretty obvious clues, dropping breadcrumbs so early and making them so large that by the time the actual “surprise” happens, it’s not shocking one bit.
Should You Read This?
Are you looking for an easy adventure read and don’t mind the repetition from the previous novels in the series? Do you really like Florence? Have you not read any of Brown’s earlier novels, making the Langdon formula brand new? Are you just a huge Tom Hanks fan seeking to read this novel before the movie hits theaters next month? Go for it. Just be prepared to Google lots of artwork, especially if you are unfamiliar with the featured works.
If you are short on reading time and don’t really care to deal with another cookie cutter escapade from the most unlucky professor ever? You aren’t missing much. There are better historically-integrated adventures out there.