Inferno - Dan Brown Dan Brown is outside my usual genre, but I've read all his books and found a few of them to be highly entertaining in the past, especially Angels & Demons and of course The Da Vinci Code. Still, I almost gave this new Robert Langdon book a pass. I was just way too disappointed in the train wreck that was The Lost Symbol, and to be honest, I probably wouldn't have picked up Inferno if not for the connection to Dante and his Divine Comedy.

Those who are no strangers to Dan Brown would not be surprised that this book starts off the same way as all his other books. Somebody dies in the first chapter, setting off a chain of events which would lead to global catastrophe unless Robert Langdon can solve the mystery and neutralize the threat by plundering his vast knowledge of "symbology" and art history.

But there is an extra bit of intrigue this time, as we appear to be thrust into the middle of an action plot that's already begun, with Langdon waking up a hospital room in Florence with a bullet wound to the head, a biohazard cylinder stitched into a secret compartment of his jacket, and no memory of anything he's done for the past couple of days.

Anyway, I didn't have much trouble rating this book, because even though I thought it was much much MUCH better than The Lost Symbol, I still didn't like it as much as Angels & Demons or The Da Vinci Code. First, there didn't seem to be as many of those puzzles and riddles that made the first two books so fun to read, and what was there felt half-hearted with answers so obvious that I couldn't help but think, is he even trying anymore? Second, there were moments where I had to check that I was actually reading the right book. You know, 'cause I thought I'd signed on for the new Dan Brown novel, not a guidebook for Italy.

Don't get me wrong, I like it when I learn interesting tidbits of trivia-type information even when I'm reading fiction, which I think was what made The Da Vinci Code such an enjoyable experience for so many people, including myself. I felt that those details about the art, the symbols, and the history in that book were worked in very naturally and more importantly in a way that kept the novel a page-turner. It was able to provide you with the information you needed without disrupting the flow of the story.

That wasn't so much the case in Inferno. Sections of the book's plot generally conform to the following basic pattern: 1) Langdon and whoever is helping him hurry off on a desperate quest to solve the latest puzzle, and 2) on the way, Langdon's or some other character's mind drifts off into a flashback sequence or some history lesson about Dante, architecture or art. This part usually goes on and on and on for quite some time before 3) something snaps them back to the present matter at hand, and Langdon or whoever repeats a clue for the umpteenth time to remind themselves (and presumably the reader) that they're supposed to be solving a damn mystery to, you know, maybe save the friggin' world here?

Some parts were way too drawn out because of this, and after a while it's like ENOUGH with the lengthy expositions and the info dumps already, you're totally killing my reading groove! I think Robert Langdon would be the world's most irritating conversationalist ever, because every casual exchange with him seems to end up with a tedious analogy or tangent about some art history factoid.

Still, I don't want to sound too harsh because other than that, the story was actually quite entertaining, in the usual Dan Brown kind of way. Admittedly it doesn't really get rolling until about after the halfway point since there's so much build up and explaining of things before that, but you can go in hoping for the thrills and the suspenseful plot twists you wanted and come out without being too disappointed. I don't expect much in terms of writing or character development when it comes to books like Inferno, but it definitely satisfied what it was supposed to by being a very fun read.