Review: Inferno, By Dan Brown
Damn Brown and his infernal codes!
Saturday 01 June 2013
There are, it seems, two ways to read Dan Brown. His status as the planet's most dastardly thriller writer compels the reader on a headlong quest after clues and revelations. Inferno's codes are largely inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy. Symbologist extraordinaire Robert Langdon chases eugenicist Bertrand Zobrist through Florence armed only with a slender genius (Sienna Brooks).
If, however, you subscribe to Brown's reputation as the worst prose stylist in the universe you will pore over sentences with the same care that Christopher Ricks reserves for Milton. Stylistic innovations include: a deluge of mixed metaphors ("A searing hot pain tore into his arm"); Brown's obsession with the word "ping"; an ability to make every character sound exactly the same; and enough adjectives and adverbs to drive Sesame Street mad. Almost as annoying are Brown's know-it-all's conflation of genius and factual knowledge and Langdon's ever-convenient eidetic memory.
So, which is Inferno: angel or demon? Initially, I assumed that Brown's infernal prose would win. Lines like "his thin hospital johnny was scarcely long enough to cover his six foot frame" simply destroy the suspension of disbelief necessary to buy Inferno's end-of-the-world melodrama. Likewise, if Dante really did embed intricate linguistic clues into the Commedia, wouldn't these be in Italian?
Yet, as I continued to turn the pages almost against my will, I wondered whether these crimes against English prose might actually be a brilliant literary masterstroke. Brown's fusion of gothic hyperbole with a pedant's tour-guide deliberately restrains the imagination through its awkward awfulness. Once the plot finally kicks in, you are suddenly released like a stone from a blockbusting catapult. On page 269, there is even a decent joke. Kinder feelings blossom as Inferno moves with enhanced feelings of velocity, excitement and fun.
Am I taking Inferno too seriously, or not seriously enough? Its twisty pleasures are an advance on The Da Vinci Code. Sadly, Dante could have used Brown's cloth-eared prose to torture sinners in the ninth circle of hell. (Beware: a code is hidden in the opening four paragraphs. Solve it and save the world – or at least £20).
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures