Wednesday, September 25, 2013

See Langdon Run!...Run, Langdon, Run!


by Dan Brown

Rating: 2 & 1/2 out of 5 stars

Yay! A new Dan Brown novel!

I say that not because I am excited about the book, even though I've now read all 4 of the Robert Langdon series. I am excited because I can relax in my recliner, munch on a bowl of popcorn and read all the internet reviews. There is little middle ground in reviews of Dan Brown novels, so there tends to be some amusing fireworks. Either reviewers hate him because he is not James Joyce or love him because he is not James Joyce.

So let's get to the basics. Dan Brown is somewhat mediocre as a writer. Since The DaVinci Code, he has latched onto a formula that he is loathe to give up. Even the casual reader can predict the action just by knowing the formula. His characters are comic book cut-outs and the twists and turns tend to get really silly especially in this Fourth installment of the Langdon series.

So why do people love Dan Brown so much? In my humble opinion...

1. He is an easy read; the precise definition of summer read or supermarket novel. Actually, that's where I bought my copy. I was stuck for three hours waiting for my car to get fixed and saw this book in the store and said, "Why not? Good time to read it."

2. He blends fact and fiction well enough to cause people to think they have read something intellectual. In most places of work, saying you read Dan Brown's new novel as you chat around the water cooler will get you intellectual brownie points...unless you actually work in a facility of higher learning in which someone will probably slap a "Kick Me" sign on your back.

3. His novels are more puzzle than novel. Everybody loves a puzzle and it makes you feel good when you solve it faster than the brilliant Dr. Langdon. Some of the puzzles are pretty obvious, making you wonder if the good professor got his degree from Father Guido Sarducci's Five Minute University

4. He does write action quite well. If anything his action scenes are quite exciting.

So what about the new novel titled Inferno? It starts well with all the necessary ingredients: Robert Langdon in a tight spot, pretty girl to help him, mysterious object leading to more mysterious objects that need decoding, etc. Langdon always ties it around a gimmick and in Inferno this gimmick is Dante and the Inferno portion of the Divine Comedy. I really enjoyed all the obscure information about Dante but any historical information from Dan Brown should be met with skepticism. But as the tale continued, I am reminded not so much of a good suspense novel but of those old computer text role-playing games in which you find objects and figure out what they do: "See old book" "Take old book" "Read old book" 'You cannot do that yet". You get the picture. I found it more interesting than "The Lost Symbol" but a lot sillier than The DaVinci Code. By the time I've read three quarters of the novel, my ability to suspend disbelief was asking for two aspirins and an ice pack.

Overall it was a fun read. The perfect thing to read in an auto shop waiting room waiting for my car to get fixed. Can't say I would recommend it but if you gotta read it and realize you're not a bad person if you occasionally indulge in the literary equivalence of a Big Mac, then be my guest.

Method Acquired: Purchased

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