Full review here!
Just like the previous Robert Langdon novels that came before it, “Inferno” follows the same pattern that are now probably familiar to longtime Brown readers. Playing the part of the pretty and intelligent female foil is Sienna Brooks, while a shadowy organization named “The Consortium” takes over the role that the Roman Catholic Church and the Freemasons played in previous Langdon books.
Brown also continues on the scientific streak that he first explored in earlier novels like “Digital Fortress” and “Deception Point”, and which he came back to in “The Lost Symbol”. While “The Lost Symbol” was concerned with the metaphysical study called Noetics, “Inferno” tackles the much more down-to-earth science of genetics and overpopulation.
It’s a good choice on the part of Brown, as overpopulation is something that readers can see and feel for themselves. When the book’s antagonist talks about why it is imperative to take drastic measures to curb this growing global problem, it’s easy for readers to see the sense in his argument and sympathize, if not necessarily agree.
But what is encouraging is that Brown has added little tweaks to the formula that has worked for him for so long. The fact that Langdon wakes up dazed and confused is a welcome break from previous installments. He’s also discarded the formulaic monstrous henchmen that started with Silas in “The Da Vinci Code”, replacing them with a much more believable adversary in the form of a female assassin named Vayentha.
It would have been even better if Brown took these changes all the way to the novel’s end, but these changes peter off about a fourth into the novel. From there, readers will recognize familiar territory — museum hopping, ciphers in precious artwork, and a plot whose twists and turns essentially mirror the three books that came before it.
“The Consortium” is also a poor substitute for the Roman Catholic Church. It’s much easier for readers to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a hotbed of conspiracy and controversy because it actually is a a hotbed of conspiracy and controversy. It’s harder to suspend one’s disbelief when it comes to “The Consortium,” — an organization which Brown claims exists in the real world, but one he refuses to name — especially considering some of the world events it supposedly engineered.
The novel’s climactic confrontation in a cistern near Turkey’s Hagia Sophia never reaches the same tension as the Vatican scene in “Angels and Demons,” and the misdirections that lead to the exposition near the book’s end feel too contrived and cheap.
And on a note much closer to home, a scene set in Manila is sure to raise some Filipino eyebrows. While factual in certain respects, some of the things that happen to one of the book’s characters while in the country’s capital is a stretch, even for a work of fiction.
While certainly a better effort than “The Lost Symbol,” “Inferno” still won’t be making Brown any new fans. But so long as his current fans are happy — and propel this new offering to the top of the bestsellers list — it doesn’t look like Brown will have any reason to change what works for him.