Skip to main content


First Published in Daily Times / (Pakistan) / 1 June 2013

Reproduced in The Kashmir Moniter

Fans who have kept up with Robert Langdon, our favorite symbologist/iconologist on quests that take him to the Vatican, Paris or Washington, will willingly join the professor jogging through the picturesque streets of Florence. Even when he claims to have a sad case of amnesia, no way of telling the time (his signature time piece lost), and a wily assassin on his tail, he is a force of nature.

It is a part he was born to play. And in Dan Brown’s murky universe, it is one he reprises at the first sign of an anagram.

The author uses the sorry state of mankind as a launch pad to project his ominous design, decrypt a Renaissance painting and set a controversial debate in motion. His novel provides delicious historical context as it plumbs the depths of Dante’s tortured soul and his savage interpretation of hell, helpfully illustrated by Botticelli (and available for viewing on iPad’s Dante app). The diabolical scientist who has a flair for theatrics arrives on cue with his clever take on Dante’s Inferno and proceeds to map out his scary view of tomorrow. Brown then proceeds to enter a grey area by using a bland theme of over-population as a cover. For that he brings in his least insane looking, most dangerous villain yet. The centrepiece though controversial, is both relevant and timely. And bold. As earth reaches its tipping point, the fast changing landscape is a source of fear for earthlings, and opportunity for mischief making evil geniuses roaming the planet.

Brown is the bestselling author of Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol. His plot generally hinges upon a towering structure of mythology, theology, science or a mix of all three , the ‘customizable template’ complete with a famed ‘Fact’ (sinister reveals to infuse the tale with added mystique) that adorns the opening page is a gift that keeps giving. Inferno is an elaborate nightmare that assigns contemporary attributes to an ancient vision of after-life and then sets off for a head on confrontation with the future. It swaps its usual array of earth shattering revelations that will shake the very core of Christianity for some grim statistics that will shake the foundation of humanity instead. A perfect recipe for a disaster (movie).

Readers transcend nine rings of hell to get a sense on Dante’s stark reality as talk of drones, iPhones and E-books echo overhead. Langdon and his companion, she with the ‘off the Charts IQ’, grapple with an obstacle course that snakes through three cities in the course of one day. Their job is to evade capture, be clever, and stare at death (masks) in the face without pausing for espresso or scrambling for a tourist guide, which is impressive. The show stopping spectacle serves to accentuate the city’s scenic skyline and honour its most celebrated exile from yore.

While Brown’s treatment of history always invites controversy, his depiction of Islamic era art/architecture passes muster. He navigates the great (religious) divide without bias seemingly oblivious to the growing fissures. The well-researched narrative promises high octane adventure with red herrings aplenty, sprinklings of humour and twisted plot twists, lying somewhere in a maze of repetitive language.

The tables will be turned, as they are in Brown novels, albeit a little clumsily. Interest tends to flag somewhere towards the finale; the end, however when it comes, gives one pause. The author is known for taking readers on a journey through time, checking off historic artifacts and breathtaking countryside, and given that Florence offers actual codes yet to be deciphered (Vasari’s cryptic message discovered in 1970s), it could have gone in a million different directions. Population explosion may not be an obvious choice for a Langdon thriller but bringing a platter of doomsday scenarios, and disconcerting imagery with a side of medieval horrors livens up the dry landscape.

Despite the whirlwind pace and ‘Smart’ technology at our baddies’ (there is more than one) beck and call, Inferno struggles to reach the perfect configuration, maybe because its chilling backdrop interferes with the joy of being part of intricate scavenger hunts. So while the happy reunion promises a heady ride but it will not be an energising one.

Inferno, which is the fourth book in the franchise, finds a creative way to juxtapose Dante’s fiery view of hereafter with Brown’s fiery view of ‘right here, right now’. Both are equally jarring. One is in stores now.

Cover courtesy of: Link1

Dantes Image link


  1. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Scientists warn of a rapid collapse of the Earth's ecosystem.
    The ecological balance is under threat: climate change, population growth and environmental degradation could lead even in this century an irreversible collapse of the global ecosystem.


    The cardinal reason is the sudden development of human population that threatens to devour all our resources.

    Since 21 August there is therefore a petition at for the introduction of global birth-controls, also in HINDI!

    If you want to support this or publish it on your website, here is the link:

    Please continue to spread the link or the petition as possible to all interested people, organisations etc.

    Thank you and best regards
    Achim Wolf, Germany


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

FILM REVIEW: West Bank Story a live-action short film (2007)

Published in The POST May 17, 2007

Directed by:Ari Sandel
Written by: Kim Ray and Ari Sandel
Duration: 21 Minutes
(An official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival)

The Middle East is better known for staging violent uprisings, certainly not for inspiring comedic masterpieces.

Since 1967, the West bank has spawned a surge in Arab hostility, frequent visits to the Middle East by Condoleezza Rice and lately, a small little inspirational musical comedy about competing falafel stands, directed, co-written and produced by Ari Sandel (part Israeli, part American Californian native). Since there is no easy way to represent both sides fairly, the very notion of West Bank Story is greeted with a justifiable mix of scepticism, wariness and resentment at first. No doubt, it is a precarious balancing act that mandates such a film to be witty without being offensive, show compassion without discrimination and entertain without losing substance. So does West Bank Story deliver?

West Bank Story

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Sunset — The Rise & Fall of the Lahore Durbar Author: Amarinder Singh

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times under the heading: Lahore Durbar in free fall

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

After the Mughals exited, but before the British arrived, the Lahore Durbar was presided over by Maharaja Ranjit Singh Bahadur, affectionately known as the ‘Lion of Lahore’, who makes a brief appearance in Amarinder Singh’s narrative, but leaves a lasting impression on his history.

Ranjit Singh, who has been described in the book as a great man and an outstanding military commander, was a mass of contradictions. For instance, he was against the death penalty but not averse to robbing widows, believed treaties were meant to be broken but treated the vanquished with kindness, and thought nothing of inviting guests only to divest them of their most prized possession — like the Kohinoor diamond. He may have spent the better part of the day leading military campaigns, yet he did not always harbour territorial designs and is said to have waged a war on hi…

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)

Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

OP-ED: Fashion Week – More Than A Pretty Footnote

First Published in Economic Affairs June 2013 Issue

‘Artists are the gatekeeper of truth. We are civilizations radical voice’. Paul Robeson

There was a conference on counter-terrorism underway in Hyderabad as fashion week was winding down in Lahore. One of the presenters, a Dutch with a Phd and a thesis on the effects of fear on social behavior had indicated resilience as part of the counter-terrorism strategy. ‘We had a fashion show, does that count?’ I later asked Dr. Mark Dechesne who was in town recently. If he was startled, he did not show it.

Two things have been trending on twitter since April 2013. Fashion week finds itself in the same time slot as politics and as politicians perfect their strut on the political ramp, the fashionistas have taken to the red carpet and designer-wear floods the catwalk. Though fear overshadows both events, people refuse to let the claustrophobic environment dictate their social calendar.

The famed fashion week which started from Karachi and co…

OP-ED: Stargazing at the Awards

Published in Daily Times / 11 Apr 2014

So which one of them is Pakistani?
Some of us were having a hard time putting a name to the music.
All of them,’ said the person sitting next to us, a little reproachfully.
The musical performances? oh that, none of them, he said cheerfully.
He did not seem shocked.

We had gathered that day to witness the 2nd Servis HUM Awards, celebrate the showbiz industry with its requisite fashion parades and indulge in some star gazing at the EXPO Centre, Karachi.

The show had been designed to honour the best of Pakistani music, fashion, film, and of course television. Guests glided across the hall in awe of the décor (flawless) and set pieces (stunning) while keeping an eagle eye on the red carpet for a Fawad Khan or Hamza Ali Abbasi sighting (rare).

Timely adverts running on OSN ensured that a regional audience awaited the telecast with bated breath along-side the rest of HUM fans. The ceremony was not LIVE but Twitter would be abuzz with activity e…

STYLE: A ‘Haute’ Ticket Item

Published in Daily Times Pakistan (Entertainment Section) / 26 Oct 2013

Your talent will get you far, but your passion will get you further” – Tabassaum

Bath island - turns out, not really an island; it is a place where one can find, among other things Tabassum Mughal’s outlet and her shiny new salon. Her signature piece was featured in Bridal Couture 2013 (BCW) earlier this year. Her collection was later seen on London’s runway. And a bewitched crowd now circles her new line for Eid, drawn by a certainty that behind the closed doors lay the proverbial ‘one’.

They are not wrong. As she unveils a new vision of silk & satin to the world, there will be a constant embedded in that impeccable fashion statement. She has achieved a wonderful hybrid harvested from the rich heritage and decadent flavors that define our poorly misunderstood region.

The person in-charge of these creative coups can be seen flitting in and out of the situation room – otherwise known as the exhibit…