This novel returns with our hero, the Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon. And it starts off with a bang. Robert wakes up in a hospital, and he doesn't remember where he is or what's happened to him. He thinks he's in Massachusetts, but quickly discovers he's in Italy--Florence, to be exact. It appears someone tried to kill him, and he's got the stitches from a near miss with a bullet in the back of his head.
Ok. As a reader, you have absolutely no clue what is going on--you know as much as Robert does, which isn't much.
And then all hell breaks loose. This novel is one long chase through Florence, Venice, and eventually another country (I won't tell you!). And it all takes place over a few days. It's an exhausting journey that Robert begins, aided by Dr. Sienna Brooks--a young English doctor who was working at the hospital the night Robert was brought in unconscious. Robert is desperately trying to remember why he's in Florence, and who the heck is trying to kill him. All he remembers is a woman with silvery hair begging him to "Seek and ye shall find", surrounded by dead bodies. What the kind of hallucination/bad dream is this? And he's also seeing images of this is his mind:
This creepy mask is called a plague mask. Doctors wore it in Venice when the Black Death was killing thousands of people a day in the 1300's. They thought the long beak would keep them from being exposed to the plague.
All this connects to Dante's Inferno. And Robert Langdon is under a time crunch to put all the pieces together. And he's being chased by a heck of a lot of people. Who is the enemy, and who is trying to help him?
I enjoyed this novel. You get a tour of Florence and Venice and all the important buildings, art, and symbols around both cities. It can be a bit dizzying and distracting, and it makes you want to stop reading and look up photos on the internet. I think for me, the only answer is to actually go to Florence and Venice. You don't have to read Dante's Divine Comedy to understand this novel; it is all explained as you move through the story. The incredible beauty man has created is overshadowed by the incredible evil man has also created; it's up to Robert to stop it before it's unleashed. Can he do it?
Oh, the ending was not what I was expecting. I thought it was pretty darn clever, and left me saying "holy crap!". The ideas Dan Brown brings forth in this novel are certainly relevant in today's world and will have you thinking about population growth and the earth's ability to sustain it. Major themes are nature, science, and evolution--do we ethically use science to progress humanity? And what is the evolution of humanity, anyway? It will be interesting to see if Dan Brown continues his next novel on this theme. I will certainly be reading it!
Rating: 8/10 for a good old thriller based on Dante's Inferno. The descriptions of places and art around Florence and Venice can be a bit dizzying sometimes, but certainly immerses you in the world of this novel. A perfect read for a summer vacation.
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