“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
Dan Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code, is back with yet another blockbuster thriller. Stakes are higher than ever in the fourth installment of the Robert Langdon series: drawn into the heart of Italian Renaissance, the Harvard professor is called to unravel a bone-chilling mystery and thwart the threatening schemes of a deranged and highly sophisticated mind. Meticulously researched and well documented, Inferno paints a suggestive portrait of some of the most enchanting European locations and their history (Florence, Venice, Istanbul). Sumptuous descriptions and an elaborate game plan inspired by the rich symbolism of Dante Alighieri’s monumental masterpiece (La Divina Commedia) are the pillars of Brown’s conspiracy thriller, but what sets it apart from his previous books is a stronger sci-fi spin.
The highly acclaimed suspense author leaves the beaten path of esoteric doctrines to take on a more secular and alarmingly current subject, a subject that resonates with a strong socio-political underscore. More than ever before, Brown’s signature mind-boggling theories provide a springboard for social commentary: the villain of the story, a genetic engineer of exceptional skill and vision, has been trying in vain to bring the risks of overpopulation to the attention of world organizations. Unhinged and ostracized by the scientific community, he believes that extinction is impending and that the catastrophic circumstances of our species require an ‘uncomfortable’ solution. Is his trans-humanist approach an act of genetic terrorism or a way to fix the fatal flaws in our evolution? Is it unethical to use technologies that advance and help the human kind to survive in a changing world? Should we consider genetic engineering as just another step in our evolution (like the invention of fire and the wheel) rather than an unnatural deviation? After all, scientists step undetected into the gray areas of science every day and government agencies are among the first ones to weaponize ground-breaking technologies: “…expect the worst from people who hold power.” For once, the evil genius may have a point.
Dan Brown doesn’t shine for the pristine quality of his prose: his narrative style is far from flawless and, in more than one occasion, those historical facts and cultural references that normally represent the best asset of his writing were simply too extensive to absorb. I admire his ambition to incorporate history, art, and science in a work of fiction, but when an author veers off course with minute descriptions that would better serve as footnotes, or disrupts the action with frequent and lengthy digressions, then the result is anticlimactic…now and again I lost track of Robert Langdon and I had to rewind in order to locate his whereabouts. Obviously, Brown’s appeal lays elsewhere.