Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: INFERNO by Dan Brown


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

Comments

  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.

    --> http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/06/06/scientists-uncover-evidence-of-impending-tipping-point-for-earth/

    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 change.org 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:
    http://www.change.org/de/Petitionen/weltweite-geburtenregelungen-verbindlich-einf%C3%BChren-introduce-obligatory-worldwide-birth-controls

    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

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Analysis: Survival in the Age of Information Warfare

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistani troops recently rescued a US - Canadian family that had been captured in Afghanistan in 2012 and held hostage for 5 years. International media headlines however were not all laudatory; they editorialized, and dabbled in innuendos undermining a successful mission and the men who risked their lives to bring the captives home. This is not the first time the West glossed over an ally’s achievements. And it will not be the last, since negative spin is invaluable for propping up pre-prepared narratives, advancing agendas; shaping perceptions, reinforcing stereotypes, driving ratings and controlling the message.

Because dictatorships do not have monopoly over information warfare – everyone has a dog in the race and the fake news juggernaut appears unstoppable in the age of social media and instant messaging. And while traditional methods remain relevant in the game of deception, the advent of social media has only expanded their reac…

Analysis: Pakistan’s Contributions for the Uplift of Afghan People

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistan and Afghanistan have history. And it is not all good. They have a shared border – though its legality has been contested. They also managed to forge a united front against the Soviets and achieved the impossible. It is a rare moment of solidarity and teamwork.

The final round of the Cold War fought in the badlands of Afghanistan altered the timeline since then and as the Afghan state veered off course – the impact was felt on neighboring nations. It led to an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the emergence of Taliban, the fracturing of the Afghan socio-political structure and opened a breach in the global security.

All this is in the past.

Pakistan and Afghanistan may have been brothers in arms with shared borders and traditions and historical ties, but despite their time spent in the trenches, Pakistan’s economic value as a trade portal for a landlocked region or its place as host to millions of refugees and the biggest s…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

Analysis: Afghanistan – An Actual Safe Haven – Part I

Published Global Affairs / Dec 2017?

The longest war is going according to plan; but whose plan exactly?
Not Washington - bogged down in a never-ending nightmare. Or Kabul - besieged and battered, barely holding its head above water. Not Pakistan, a frontline state suffering blowback and living under the weight of America’s expectations - and uncalled for accusations. The dramatic shifts in the geostrategic dynamics are not reflected in Washington’s stance towards Islamabad nor are they inclined towards the multiplayer great game unfolding in the backdrop with Russians, Iranians, Taliban, Indians, Chinese, ISIS and its Coalition forces.

Mission Rebuild Afghanistan

In the backdrop are nations used as pawns to keep Cold War allies or emergent threats in check. On the side are non-state actors wielded as weapons to thwart ambitions and counter bigger threats like ISIS. And at the centre is a strategy that offers a patchwork quilt of something old, something new, something borrowed to s…

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…