Contradictions. All the way. I really love the character of Robert Langdon - he is the personification of all things romantic about growing up to be a hot professor dealing in history, mythology and all things mysterious with a touch of science (a bit of an Indiana Jones minus the brashness). I love Brown's plots concerning Renaissance-era artists and their quirks. I love the settings. I love the puzzles and their conspiracy-theory explanations. I love the pace too. But. When I put all of these together, why am I underwhelmed? The stories have all the ingredients of being a blockbuster of a book, and somehow they fail. The charm of The Da Vinci Code seems like a one-time hit, and a re-hash of the concept seems like a wasted attempt.
Maybe that's what it is. A blockbuster, I mean. At a time when, as a friend put it, apocalyptic doomsday seems to be the flavour of the season, mixing centuries old references with the present ominous environment seems like deja vu. History repeats itself. So expect the worst. Why can't Dan Brown's stories have just to do with the truth behind a painting, or the latent currents behind the motive of a sculpture ? Why do people have to zigzag across the world's most illustrious cities, chased/hunted/hunting/hiding? And then they die in the most macabre fashion, more often than not, right in the middle of the cultural hub of a museum. Old wine in a new bottle, someone?
This is not to say that as a script these stories - like Inferno, which I just read (till chapter 99, I couldn't bring myself to finish it), are excellent scripts. Hence, as a blockbuster movie, it was a treat to watch. I might as well give my opinion on the movie than on the book - the former was pretty interesting, the latter not so much.
Inferno really doesn't have much to do with the illustrious work of the great Dante Alighieri. Its a reference point, a clue to a mindless, twisted puzzle, drawing misplaced inspiration from the poet and his work. But that certainly takes readers through the beautiful cities of Florence, Venice and Istanbul and the nuggets of information one gets to glean off the pages is quite difficult to find without some amount of research. I'm not saying its a goldmine for history buffs, but it comes close. The characters and their allegiances, as always, are suspect. There is a constant doubt as to the intentions of each. For the seasoned readers, this is just like all of Brown's previous works. For the uninitiated, the twists and turns can be quite captivating. There's no mystery of the premise of the story - Dr. Langdon is out there to protect the world.
Sadly no character, besides the perennially gentlemanly Langdon, caught my attention. Dr. Sinskey was better portrayed in the movie (played by the immensely talented Sidse Knudsen of the Borgen fame) than in the book and stood out as a weak second. While a couple of other characters featured strongly too, not much time was spent in building them up. They were mostly adjuncts, placed like puzzle pieces to make things complete.
And the last flaw. Too long. Too, too long. I'm not sure how much of that can be attributed to my having already seen the movie (quite a bit, I'm guessing), but end just wouldn't come. Things were complicated enough, and a last minute intensified attempt at muddling things further was just too much. Whatever happened to a clean, neat conclusion ?
If one had as much time to read Inferno, I would suggest they watch the movie twice over.