Dan Brown’s Inferno was my first and only experience of an audiobook. Whereas the time spent reading a book is hardly ever noticed, the 15+ hour ordeal of an audiobook has oddly always been an intimidating investment of time and focus. But thanks to a recent LASEK surgery, rendering most visual distractions unusable for four days, I was able to churn through the audio reading rather quickly.
As with the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, Dan Brown’s Inferno is most enjoyable for what I imagine is his unique cachet of bringing history to life through vivid and (presumably) accurate storytelling about an incredible breadth of art, literature and architecture. He turns the equivalent of a historical lecture into an action movie; tricks you to learn stuff. “I see what you did there…” and well, it works! On many occasions I would pause the novel so that I could look up the location or the art piece being referenced. And so in this way, he makes things more accessible and certainly more interesting.
Objectively, Brown’s characters are rather flat and boring. We keep hearing about Sienna’s amazing IQ (Langdon’s sidekick) yet it felt like we are told about her intelligence more than shown. And overall, it is as if the characters take turns narrating the story. Thankfully, the audio book version has a great voice actor and his accents and expressions brought the characters more to life.
All that said, I’m still generous towards smart characters. Langdon, Sienna, and the Villian are all big-brains. So perhaps out
of some jealousy for their over-sized processing and recall abilities, I continue to enjoy reading about them.
Finally, I appreciated the real and plausible question about overpopulation and the ability of our planet to sustain this healthily
going forward. The villain argues that incremental improvements are insufficient and what is required is a drastic and step-change event – whether through natural causes as in plagues of the past, or as the result of man-made genius. This book shines as a historical-thriller (are there others?), poses an interesting question about our human future, and closes with some unexpected twists.
Rating: 3.75/5 (somewhere in between a solid recommendation and a worthwhile read)