Many of my more literary or academic reading friends gasp every time I give a Dan Brown novel a serious review, but I think the man writes great entertainment, and when I pick up a thriller, that is what I want.
Robert Langdon is back, this time using art works based on Dante’s Inferno, trying to solve a puzzle of sorts in order to prevent the disbursal of a dangerous contagion, about to be let loose by a zealot (have to have one of those in every Brown novel) who believes that to be nature’s way of curbing out of control population growth.
The majority of the novel takes place in Florence, Italy, which has to be one of my favorite cities. Playing heavily into the plot are Dante’s Inferno (one of the most intriguing of all classical works) and various works of art that have been based upon that text. In addition, a plethora of other great slices of art, sculpture, and history are worked into the story. Therein lies the problem for many readers whose reviews I have read, because at times the tidbits of knowledge that are dropped into the story become a bit heavy-handed and the pace of the novel slows in their wake. Personally, I will quite happily take a scintillating factoid about any of the subjects covered in this novel and absorb it along with the plot twists, because I love art, Inferno, history, and Florence. As a result, this Dan Brown novel, which many call their least favorite, is the one I enjoyed the most.
As is common in Brown’s novels, there is plenty here to offend those who take some of his issues to heart. His treatment of the Catholic Church is once again quite harsh, and his core issue of global population is sure to push some people’s buttons. I took things on a purely entertainment plane and greatly enjoyed seeing where he led his readers through his stellar ability to infuse his plot and theme with just enough realism and feasibility to keep you thinking that it was all actually possible. His ending didn’t disappoint, taking an abrupt turn from where you thought he was headed, but leaving you satisfied and thinking that much deeper over the question he left unanswered.
I did this one on audio, and while it wasn’t my favorite performance ever, it was a solid performance and provided great entertainment while my hands were busy with other things. Thrillers make great audios to work along with. I recommend this for all audiences looking for a fun summer read that will convey more than a few tasty morsels of food for your brain and get you thinking about an issue that most of us give very little of our attention.