Dan Brown’s Inferno: Spoiler alert, there are symbols


Dan Brown really wants you to know that Sienna Brooks has a ponytail. I know this because Brown—famous author and mediocre contributor to the Tom Hanks ouvre—uses the word ponytail at least 20 times in Inferno, the fourth novel in America’s favorite dashing-symbologist series.

Here’s my thing with Dan Brown. I know that his books are considered, let’s say, “accessible” to the average American, like the third of the population who can’t name the vice president. And I understand that for some people, who prefer to exercise their brain waves on books and other materials of a more intellectual caliber, this may be a deal-breaker. I get it. I too dislike Brown’s over-attention to certain descriptors, his propensity for using big words when they aren’t needed, and his seeming inability to create female characters who aren’t ponytailed intellectuals with a wardrobe of only cream sweaters. He’s got his faults.

But as soon as I settle into a Dan Brown original (with the sole exception of The Lost Symbol, which was tedious) I find myself not caring so much whether the author used a scalpel or a hatchet when culling his sentences, or if his female protagonist of the moment has ever owned a shirt in red. Indeed, Brown appears to consistently forego traditional tropes of novel-writing in the interest of one thing: telling a good story. And not necessarily the story of the present—the bulk of the action in a DB novel consists of visiting museums, escaping museums, staring at symbols, and watching Robert Langdon have intellectual epiphanies—but a story in history, of an object or topic or person.

Inferno’s focal point is Dante, and it should come as no surprise that Langdon’s traditional adventure/decode-athon begins with a map of Dante’s inferno, as described in the Divine Comedy. From there, we are taken into a whirlwind tour of Italy and beyond, all in an attempt to stop a madman’s plan for global destruction. There are museum visits, and escaping, and a fair amount of staring at symbols. There’s also the blonde, ponytailed Sienna Brooks, resident genius and Langdon co-conspirator. Basically, all the elements are in place.

Inferno moves quickly, and while I’m sure that the fourth Langdon novel contains as many factual errors as its predecessors, I was still impressed by the amount of real information included: references to architecture and art and history that you probably wouldn’t find in your typical James Patterson book. Whether or not it propels him to some special caliber of Literary Fiction, Brown has created something compelling, and fun, and as intellectually accurate as you can honestly expect of any mass-market novelist.

In my ongoing stance of “Hey, reading is reading” (note to self: get this knitted on a pillow) I’m a big fan of Dan Brown’s style. Suck them in with a traditional thriller—handsome man, mysterious woman, mystery, intrigue—and then throw out a few things people might actually learn. Florence is in Italy! Dante was a poet! The Divine Comedy was not very funny! It’s a clever strategy that a few more iterations of pop culture could stand to employ.

It’s been too many years since I’ve read anything else by Brown for me to stack Inferno up against The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons, let alone Digital Fortress or Deception Point. But it feels like a strong contender for Brown’s best, hinged as it is on the extremely relevant topic of overpopulation. It’s the book to read between The Woman Upstairs and The Silver Star, or after a Dickens, on a really long flight. It’s one you can bring to the beach, and leave behind in your hotel room when you head home. It’s Dan Brown at his finest: highbrow, but not really.


TITLE: Inferno
AUTHOR: Dan Brown
PAGES: Kindled
ALSO WROTE: The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons
SORTA LIKE: The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons
FIRST LINE: “I am the shade.

14 thoughts on “Dan Brown’s Inferno: Spoiler alert, there are symbols”

  1. I was at at store the other day, looking for an easy and light read. I picked up Inferno and a ladies only book, “I’ve Got Your Number.” I figured I would read inferno afterwards since my mind needed a break from the nonstop academic books and journals that I have been reading all year. I’m glad your post popped up like it was not coincidence! I will not be rushing to the bookstore for it anytime soon. I’m pleased to say I’ll be looking forward to more posts. For now, would you recommend any other light-read books that I could leave behind at the beach or passing it on to a friend without expected return! Thanks in advance. Also, please check out my blog, http://www.RenewedGratitude.com I have just started up and am completely new at this. I would love to hear any pointers if you have any 🙂

    1. Beach read favorites of mine would be: Gone Girl, anything Stephen King, and if you’re down for young adult stuff – Divergent/Insurgent and the Gone series are good options.

  2. I totally agree with this review. I read it on an eighteen hours flight(s), I was entertained, only slightly annoyed by the repetitiveness, and now I really want to go to Florence!

  3. That was a pretty entertaining and informative review. Dan Brown is a decent author, but I think he received way too much attention for The Da Vinci Code (controversy is the most sincere form of flattery these days). I actually enjoyed his work before Robert Langdon became his staple character, not to discredit Angels and Demons, but the stories are becoming too redundant. I actually bought a hardcover copy of The Lost Symbol at my library for two bucks a few years after it came out and thanks to your review (and much like Robert Langdon’s next adventure) I’m probably going to do the same thing.

  4. Meh. I’d give it a 2 out if 4. There was entirely too much random, completely irrelevant fact-sneaking-in. Like, if you are driving by a building that has nothing to do with the plot, I don’t need a paragraph of it’s history. And at this point these books are probably written Mad-Lib-style anyway. Just fill in the female companion, the relic/artwork the entire story is based around, some secret organization, a few museums, and a demented evil person and you’ve pretty much sold a couple million books.

  5. For me Dan Brown’s best is Angels and Demons. The plot of Inferno is quite relevant in the present day but the book failed to deliver what I expected from the author of Angels and Demons.

  6. Regarding Dan Brown Serie A timetable knowledge. Nobody realice than fiorentina is playing against Juventus at maybe 7 am on amonday?

  7. found your blog from a search for some of the real life places and things in the novel, your review is pretty spot on! I have a soft spot for Brown, he is certainly entertaining and keeps me interested more so than any other “mainstream” author. Also, growing up playing DOOM I have a special place in my heart for Dante’s Inferno.

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