I am a fearless bookseller, advancing into the darkness of unread books and sending messages back to guide you forward.
Well, that is how I talked myself into reading the new Dan Brown thriller/art history lecture Inferno (Bantam Press) – I felt some heroic, slightly cheesy, backbone-strengthening rhetoric was needed – after all I was going to be wallowing in enough of it. And I did, but you know what? I finished the book having rather enjoyed myself – well, for the last third anyway.
The main plot was clever, if improbably coincidental, and actually very interesting and not a little thought-provoking – I don’t want to give too much away but what is motivating the ‘baddie’ is actually rooted in reality. The stuff about Florence and Dante and the artistic foment of the Medici’s long reign was really interesting, so you could put up with it being hung like a glittery robe on the bare bones coat hanger of the plot and frankly boring characters.
The writing is turgid and lumpen but who cares – you know before you pick it up, that you are not reading this for the mind-altering, heart-lifting shock of beautiful writing. So, OK, you can put up with silly Robert Langdon, symbologist (I have to say: HATE this word), oddly characterless, Harris Tweed coat obsessive (suspect this last is Mr Brown creating in his own image), and his weird (as in no-way realistic or even a facsimile of how people talk to each other) interactions with the other mostly blah characters: Italian art historian; the pretty, clever, boring girl-of-the-book who helps Landon (very much dislike the oddly chemistry-less, and so slightly creepy, admiration fest between them); scary, uber-powerful, international corporate (maybe criminal) businessman; powerful female world-government head-honcho (here in NZ, you think of Helen Clark, which actually adds quite a lot to the book); simple soldier-man who does what needs to be done… you get the picture.
None of that matters – read it fast, with belief suspended, or indeed stashed in another room, on a cold, dark weekend when you are after a spot of entertainment (which you can then be snarky about), and you will have a fine time…