By Chet Yarbrough
By Dan Brown
Narrated by Paul Michael
Noah Charney wrote an article in “The Daily Beast” titled “Fact-Checking Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’: 10 Mistakes, False Statements, and Oversimplifications”. The truth is there are more than 10. But Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and now Inferno are terrifically entertaining fictions. Charney’s petty criticism misses the point of reading a novel for sheer entertainment. If one reads Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Christo or The Three Musketeers), the same criticism is applicable, but great tales are told by both Dumas and Brown.
Dumas’s misogyny in The Three Musketeers is off-putting and Brown’s maudlin farewell to Dr. Sienna Brooks in Inferno is superfluous and a bit cloying. But misrepresented historical facts, and personal nit-picking can be waged against most non-fiction; let alone Brown’s or Dumas’s fiction.
Inferno resurrects interest in the finest and most terrifying poem of all time, Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”. The primary focus is Dante’s meaning in the “Inferno” stanzas. “Inferno” is the sinner’s part of the “Divine Comedy”–the funneled circles of hell. Dante meets Virgil to descend a spiral of nine narrowing circles beginning at purgatory’s gate (actually a cave-like entrance) and ending in the maws of hell. Dante returns to earth’s surface and eventually explores heaven but Brown begins and ends the Inferno in the museums of Italy.
The lowest level of Dante’s “Inferno” depicts a three mouthed Satan chewing Judas, Brutus, and Cassius as eternal punishment for the sin of betrayal.
Reference to Dante’s poem in the title of Brown’s book gives notice to a discerning listener/reader. It has something to do with sin. It has something to do with betrayal. It has something to do with people who appear to be one thing but are another. Judas loved Jesus but betrayed him. Brutus was a friend to Caesar but stabbed him. Cassius surrendered to Caesar in Italy’s civil war but plotted against him when promoted to general.
In an apocryphal tale of Dante’s “Inferno”, Brown manages to meld the 18th century Malthusian theory of overpopulation with 21st century genetic manipulation. From Brown’s first chapter, listeners and readers are swept up in a shooting, a murder, and a frantic escape. Brown’s hero iconographer, Robert Langdon, is saved by a female doctor that turns out to be much more than the doctor-on-duty.
A whirlwind of action takes Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks on an adventure through Italy and Turkey in pursuit of a brilliant geneticist’ experiment. The geneticist is also a scholar of the history of Dante Alighieri. The geneticist’s plan is to save mankind from extinction caused by over population. The plan is to reduce over population with a genetically induced plague.
This deranged geneticist has a secret organization protecting him from the World Health Organization which is trying to stop him from affecting his plan. The secret organization is trying to kill or capture Langdon because he had been hired by W.H.O. to decipher a symbolic message from the deranged scientist.
There are many twists and turns in Brown’s story that will draw its audience into the tale. The cleverness of Brown’s writing is enhanced by some knowledge of Dante’s poem but the story rests on its own merit. Inferno, like The Three Musketeers, is a highly entertaining story.