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Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno is Dan Brown’s latest novel published in 2013, and is the source of inspiration for the movie with the same title, which is already being shown in cinemas across the UK. It is his fourth mystery thriller, featuring Robert Langdon as the protagonist. Tom Hanks plays this character in the upcoming film, just like he did for The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

The story starts in Florence where Robert Langdon, the Harvard University professor and expert in symbology, finds himself in a hospital with no recollection of what had happened in the last few days. Almost immediately afterwards he narrowly avoids being assassinated by an unknown woman and is forced to flee together with Sienna Brooks, a British nurse working in Italy. Soon these two main characters are on the run from an agency they believe is working for the US government and wants to arrest/kill Langdon for a reason yet to be discovered. In the meantime they try to uncover the hidden messages of a slightly altered version of Sandro Botticelli’s map of the nine circles of hell, according to The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri that was found in a cylinder within Langdon’s jacket pocket. During the course of their investigation they discover that a famous scientist named Bernard Zobrist, who feared that humanity was close to extinction because of overpopulation, had apparently created a new kind of plague just before he committed suicide. He intended to halve the human race through this virus. Langdon and Brooks are thus running against the clock in order to prevent a possible genocide. Their journey leads them from Florence to Venice and then to Istanbul where a dramatic turn of events occurs.

Inferno is a novel that can give satisfaction to both fervent Dan Brown fans and first-time readers. His writing style is the kind that can be considered to be the ultimate page-turner. When you reach the end of a chapter, you feel the urge to know what happens next, especially when there is a cliffhanger. If you have read Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (or least the Inferno section) you will like Brown’s book even more because it has so many references to that epic poem. So it would be wise to have read the original Inferno in order to understand its influences on Brown’s book, but at the same time it gives a good introduction to the life and work of one of the greatest Italian authors of all time.

People who enjoy travelling will like Inferno very much because of Brown’s vivid descriptions of certain buildings and places in Florence, Venice and Istanbul as a way to grab the attention of the reader. When you read them, you can’t tell whether the book is a thriller or a travel guide. The author certainly understands the importance of settings in a good story. This will probably inspire many readers of Inferno to visit the cities mentioned in the novel.

Overall, Inferno is definitely the type of novel that can be recommended even to those people who don’t usually read thrillers. Not just because of its cultural and intellectual stimuli, but also because it makes the reader reflect on the current condition of humankind and poses questions as to what the future holds for us all.

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