In the opening chapter of Inferno, Robert Langdon wakes up in Italy, only to discover that he has amnesia. That was the precise moment that I began hating this book. I once loved Dan Brown books and I fancied myself quite the intellect in doing so. After trudging through Inferno, I realize the error of my ways: at the time, Robert Langdon was a novel character, and I was young and stupid.
Amnesia is never a good sign, and Brown’s decision to so quickly resort to it was disheartening. Nevertheless, I kept reading. As I drifted in and out of focus through over seventeen hours of Audible audio, I was able to gather the following information about our forgetful hero:
- He is not only proficient in the “symbology” of Italian art, but also Italian literature. His expertise knows no bounds.
- He is still wearing that clichéd tweed jacket. Not only that, but I am confident that given the opportunity, he would surrender himself to the enemy if it meant that no harm would come to his beloved Mickey Mouse watch.
- He agreed to fly to Florence in order to help with some sort of issue that only a symbologist can resolve. If I were Robert Langdon, I would no longer accept invitations of this nature (see Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, and The Lost Symbol).
- The apparently asexual Langdon is again teamed up with a beautiful, intelligent woman with whom he again shows no interest in pursuing.
- Scarred for life after being trapped in a well as a child, Robert Langdon may simply be another of Bruce Wayne’s alter-egos.
In spite of a steady stream of action and Dante-inspired puzzles, Inferno is an impressively boring novel. Brown cooks up a real crackpot of a villain; this guy is a bazillionaire who makes home movies of himself sporting a plague mask. Then, he throws in some awkward and creepy images a la The Ring. Paired with the ever-popular threat of mass-sterilization to prevent further population increases, this is a rollicking good time that the whole family can enjoy.
Mass sterilization. Dante. Plague masks. Amnesia. Tweed. Perhaps some sort of brilliant connection was revealed when I had dozed off. It’s been years since I’ve read The DaVinci Code, but I’m pretty sure that Brown connected the dots for a tidy resolution in that novel. Not anymore.
The idea of a renegade bad guy out to slow population growth is just plain weird. Maybe not as its own concept in a separate novel, but it certainly feels forced in a Robert Langdon story. This discord is directly responsible for my boredom. I tried to wrap my head around it, and then I took advantage of Audible’s speed controls and upped this sucker to 2.5. It didn’t help. Brown’s authorial voice was somehow even more pedantic when read aloud at more than twice the normal speed.
The time has come for Robert Langdon to hang up his tweed. At the very least, he should go back to stirring up religious controversy, where he belongs.