Another book by Dan Brown and another roller-coaster ride of facts mixed with fiction, history with technology, visits to historical sites to solve current issues of the world. It has become his signature style that is predictable but still enjoyable. “Inferno” is once again featuring Robert Langdon who has already featured in many of his earlier books including “The Davinci Code”. This time our hero is trying to save the world from genetic catastrophe.
The story this time unfolds in Florence with Robert waking up in hospital with no memory of last few days and being chased by a murderer. He is saved from murder by one of the Doctors tending to him and together they start running across Florence and then other countries trying to solve the mystery of biohazard cylinder found in his pocket with symbols of Dante’s Inferno. The story keeps on getting more and more complicated with each chapter with multiple layers of deception and drama till we figure out in the end that the world has been changed forever by a crazy scientist.
Of course there is interesting stuff that you learn about Florence, Istanbul and Venice where the story takes place. You learn about the advancements in genetic science that leaves you in awe and fear at the same time. You also learn about the shady world of power politics that creates deception and propaganda to suit their hidden agenda.
It is definitely difficult to put down the book once you start reading it. At the same time, it is difficult to fully appreciate the book. It is like addiction that forces you to read it through so that you find out what happens in the end but not necessarily completely enjoying the journey and that is where Dan Brown does not live up to the expectations of good literature.
We have all heard and probably said it sometimes “I just could not put down that book, once I started reading it. I had to finish it before doing anything else”. I have known people who have stayed overnight to finish the book that they started reading. There are people who leave everything else that they are supposed to do and finish the book that they started. I do not know if book reading has been the cause of conflict among the couples as TV watching is, but I would assume that there must be some cases of this as well.
The addiction that I am talking about is not reading books all the time. It is about getting hooked to a particular book and story and finding it difficult to do anything else and there is almost maniacal tendency to finish the book before thinking about anything else. Not every book can have this kind of effect on its readers but some authors have mastered the art of writing such books. Dan Brown and Jeffery Archer’s name comes topmost in my mind. They have a tendency to finish each chapter of their book on a suspense note and then you start reading the next one and then next one and so on.
I have myself been through such times when I could not put down the book that I was reading. In most of the cases I have regretted it later. The adrenaline rush that you get when you are in the middle of suspense takes away your energy once you finish the book and there is a time when you find yourself lost and sometimes unable to do anything else or start a new book. All these are symptoms of addiction and then withdrawal. It sucks you in and then leaves you completely high and dry. I have sometimes felt that the books where you are able to take a break and still enjoy it as much are much better. They are more like slow wine that takes you at a high and keep you there for a longer time.
Coming after “The Da Vinci Code”, this book was bound to generate lot of interest and it did become very popular but it is definitely not the same, specifically due to the final climax which leaves everybody desiring for something else. “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown is once again a thriller where his earlier hero Robert Langdon is trying to figure out the symbolism and code words in a chase where he is being threatened for his life. Dan Brown has the knack of creating chapters that reveal his story bit by bit and at the end of the chapter leaves you asking for more. It is extremely difficult to keep down the book once you start reading it.
In the story, Robert Langdon and the villain of the story are searching for the secret symbol of freemasons that is supposed to hide the secret to unleash human potential. The chase is as usual good and the author has made it interesting by involving Government agencies, research institutes and myths behind secret societies.
What I discovered in the book though was “Noetic Science”. It is the science of human consciousness and looks for research in areas of extending human capabilities and integrated healing. The idea that our “thoughts” can result in physical changes is a wonderful concept described in the book. Some of these ideas are being written about by many authors now. “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne is also one such book but more about that some other time. Also, the experiment where a person dies in enclosed air-tight chamber to see whether soul exists and if it does, whether the weight will change was really amazing.
Even though this book is a work of fiction, discovering these ideas and then reading about them was the best part of this book for me. I did not like the story as much and I felt that there was lot of avoidable gruesome violence.
I am really not going into the secret behind the mystery of holy grail but my idea is to somehow see what was the secret behind the success of this book or even if I do not worry about the success of the book, I want to write why I liked this book so much to read it multiple times. First of all, I bought this book purely because of the media publicity that it was getting. Before that I had not read anything of Dan Brown or on the same topic and I did not have much interest as well.
Once I started reading the book, it is really difficult to put it down. Dan Brown has learnt the art of closing each chapter in such a way that you want to know what happens next. This is something that he has done in all his books, though his earlier books became famous only after “The Da Vinci Code”s success. This is an excellent way of writing a mystery or thriller book. Reader is not only waiting for the last page of the book but is equally eager to read next chapter and next page.
The second thing that makes it a good read is a controversial and mystery topic. Since it is so difficult to conclusively prove what happened in history, it is easier to use half information for a completely new angle to historical facts. This is something that he has done really well. It actually does not matter whether it is true or not. As long as it sounds a bit plausible, readers will lap it up as I did. Even if it is not true, many readers would wish it to be true and somehow that makes it true for them.
Finally, the use of names from current generation of people, places gives it a look of reality. Even though the author may claim that it is a work of fiction to avoid lawsuits against him, when he starts writing about Louvre, various historical places and place of worship across Paris and London, he is asking readers to believe what he is saying. Readers would recognize the places, the pictures and their own experiences of visiting them and it becomes really hard to separate fact from fiction.
In the end, whatever he did, he wrote a great book which I have enjoyed reading. Fact or fiction is not for me to decide. In this case, unlike for other books, I even liked the movie adaptation.