I’ve just finished laboring through Dan Brown’s “Inferno”, a badly written story so replete with clichés it feels like a Lego set of banalities. But it’s got all the right backdrops – including Florence’s cobbled roads, Venice’s canals, and Istanbul’s exotic skyline – and an unlikely cast of characters, first and foremost the hero of previous Brown novels, American professor Robert Langdon, whose knowledge of symbology has ensured his tenure as the author’s go-to guy for all things arcane.
A new entry is Sienna Brooks, an intriguing heroine who will tag along beside Langdon throughout the story.
Their depth of character is so insubstantial, they could be starring in a videogame, but the key to Brown’s success lies in the devilishly (oops…) complex plots he creates, not in his writing ability.
All of his supporting characters are no deeper than those that populated vintage James Bond books, mere sketches that readers can flesh out with their own set of stereotypes.
I suspect it’ll prove difficult to tell the eventual script of “Inferno – The Movie” from the book itself.
One could also argue that Brown’s grasp of history is barely adequate to graft a mystery thriller onto well-documented historical events. In Chapter 68 he even says of Venice that the plague “weakened it enough for it to be conquered by the Ottomans”, but in reality Venice was never subjugated by the Ottoman Empire, a fact that neither he nor his researcher were obviously aware of.
Add an excessive amount of Italian dialogue – more than enough to fill a small phrase book -and you have an indifferent read with far too many flashbacks to “The Da Vinci Code”.
This, of course, won’t prevent it from becoming a blockbuster in bookstores and movie theaters alike.
The amount of hype that surrounded its release was professionally orchestrated and even included a free e-book sneak preview. “Inferno” was simultaneously released in mid-May 2013 in English and twelve more languages. It’s been reported that twelve translators worked in great secrecy between February and April to complete the work by the same deadline.
As a translator myself, I think the hardest part of their job must have been to render Brown’s signature shallowness into their respective languages.