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"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown


Robert Langdon -- a world renowned Harvard professor of Symbology -- wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of ever leaving Cambridge, Massachusetts. What's more, the doctors are telling him that he came into the ER with a gunshot wound to his head: the cause of his retrograde amnesia. When an assassin tries to finish the job, Dr. Sienna Brooks helps Robert escape, revealing the troubling item that she'd found in his coat pocket: a container traditionally used to transport biohazardous materials. Robert's search for answers must be conducted under the watchful eye of an organization out to silence him.

First, Dan Brown couldn't have picked scarier subject content if he tried...There's more to this mystery than secret cults and ancient artifacts. The villain of this story is a mad scientist with some pretty radical ideas and he's using Dante's Inferno as a guide to "save" the world. He's worried that humanity is racing toward extinction by overpopulation and believes the only way to save the world is through large scale bioterrorism. It's scary because it's true: in today's modern society people are reproducing faster than they're dying and an engineered virus would spread like a wildfire before doctors could identify it, never mind combat it...

The drawback to being on my fourth story in a mystery series, is I'm getting too used to the formula. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of all these puzzles encoded in art. Half the appeal of these books, is that I get to learn something new, in a fictional way. But I am slightly put off by a new woman every book, Robert Langdon re-informing us that he's a bachelor, they are both mysteriously attracted to each other, but they never act on it, never experience a truly romantic moment... I don't object to the lack of romance. If it doesn't help the plot, it doesn't need to be in there. But on the other hand, if they aren't ever going to hook up, why do they need to be attracted to each other? Can't they be content with friendship? And why is it always a woman? He's an art professor, not James Bond. Nothing kills a story like predictability.

And I should take a moment to add: this story isn't as predictable as I thought it would be. Sure there's a smart chick, a suspicious acting male ally, secret organizations, and secret messages hidden inside masterpieces...in the beginning. But to my surprise, this time around, I got my wish--Sort of. As this story progresses, it is slowly revealed that no one is who they say they are and everyone is manipulating Robert Langdon for their own purposes. The story feels predictable which makes the giant plot twists way more exciting.

Rating: 4/5

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