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Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Dan Brown Inferno [ This Post Contains Spoilers & Extreme Snarkiness ]

 So I finished Inferno by Dan Brown, finally.

What I expected would take me two days ended up taking me closer to two weeks, and I’ll tell ya, I’m not super pleased about it.

Now, I’m not usually a Dan Brown basher. I know he isn’t a great writer, but his books sell. And I enjoyed his previous books. You can’t hate a guy just because his books make money. But now, after reading this book, I think I officially give up on trying to defend him.

I originally picked up Inferno because I was interested to see how Brown used Dante’s Divine Comedy as a backdrop to a thriller plot. I mean, levels of hell? Come on, it’s ripe of interesting conflict! Sure, I knew there would be another scavenger hunt of historical clues and some ridiculous melodrama – that’s exactly what his other books had, so I figured I knew was I was getting into. But what I really got was a book full of tired cliches and exhausting repetition.

The book opens to Robert Langdon in a hospital room in a foreign country with amnesia having just suffered a bullet wound to the head. Okay, interesting! I mean, it felt a little forced, and the visions/hallucinations were kind of lame, but it still an interesting, page-turning way to start a story. But as soon as we cut to the spiky-haired woman in an all-black, skin-tight body suit garnishing a gun with a silencer, I wanted to throw the book across the room. So freaking cliche. Why was she wearing a body suit? What is this, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? And then we meet the beautiful blond doctor who saves his life and also happens to be an incredible super genius with an IQ over 20o. Groan.

We then spend the next half of the book basically catching up to where Robert Langdon was before the “head injury,” following clues focused around Dante and his famous works in the Divine Comedy. This was pretty standard in comparison to the previous books. Find ridiculously obscure clue, try to figure out what it means, be baffled, then suddenly remember something from a lecture ten years ago and then find the next clue. Rinse and repeat.

Did I mention that he is being chased by a ton of people with guns and drone planes? But he just keeps giving them the slip….

Eventually we learn the underlying plot to this story, which is actually not that bad. Apparently there is a famous doctor who has been concerned about the world collapsing due to overpopulation to the point where he sort of goes mad and creates a super virus that will kill a big chunk of the world’s population similar to what the Black Plague did to Europe, paving the way for a Renaissance.

Considering over-population is a real concern, I was intrigued. Why the doctor felt the need to go all Dante on us is not certain since the only real explanation we get for that is because no one would have a meaningful discussion about a solution with him so he felt angry and isolated, thus driving him insane. Oh, and he sort of jumped off a building and killed himself before all of this nonsense even really got started. But not before planting a super virus to be released on a certain date and time. Cue ticking time bomb plot trope.

In all seriousness, seeing how Brown was going to tackle the whole over-population thing is what kept me reading this book. There were so many times I wanted to put it down and never finish, but I was determined. Sure I could have just skipped to the end, but I consider reading to have a code of honor – and skipping to the end is just not allowed.

So around 75% of the way into the book, we are still chasing down clue after clue, following Langdon and his brilliant, sexy blond doctor all over Europe. The thing is, they don’t exactly know why they have to solve this mystery. As far as they know, some Dante man has hid a bunch of clues and the woman from Langdon’s visions is tied up in the back of a car. Otherwise, they are flying blind. The only real pressure on them to keep moving is that this mysterious group of people might catch them so they have to get to the end of the bread crumb trail to figure out what they are even looking for…because as I said, THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW.

There is one specific thing about this book that I really, really liked. But it is a HUGE spoiler and reading this will ruin the effect should you choose to read this book. DO NOT READ BELOW THIS LINE IF YOU DON’T WANT IT SPOILED FOR YOU. Simply skip this section and get to my take on the book in general.

———

The best part about this book was the one major twist that I did not see coming. And it was because the setup was actually pretty well done. Brown essentially introduces a new character to the bread crumb crew while the B-plot characters realize that a specific character is actually a bad guy. Cut to a phone call we don’t get to listen to and a chapter entirely in flashback about meeting the crazy Dante scientist and becoming his lover. So logically, we assume that this new character is evil (and infected with a plague), which colors our reading of him for the next few chapters. Then, after Langdon is picked up by the B-plot people who were chasing him, and who are actually good guys…sort of, we find out that the flash back we saw wasn’t from the new character’s point of view…but actually from Langdon’s hot blond doctor! And that it was actually her who was the doctor’s lover. And that, GASP, she is a bad guy! The old switch-a-roo!

I thought this was actually pretty clever on Brown’s part. It was the one twist I didn’t see coming and it was a pretty cool realization to come so late in the book since it completely changed the playing field.

(Except not really because we find out that she was never really a bad guy at all…. which is a whole other issue with this book that I’ll talk about later.)

Then they head to the end of the trail only to find that the specific date on which the virus was to be released was not the release date, but instead it was the saturation point for the plague to have affected everyone on earth. Okay, Interesting!

And then we find out what the virus does. Apparently, it manipulates the human DNA to make people infertile, meaning no more babies, thus curbing human overpopulation. But it doesn’t happen to everyone! It only works on 1/3 of the population (a number taken from Dante and the Black Plague). So it is just this DNA defect now built into everyone so some people can have babies and some can’t. No one dies, they just stop having kids.

Okay, this might sound horrible, but my first reaction when reading this was, “that’s not a the worst solution to global overpopulation…” I know, that’s an awful thought, but after spending the entire book thinking people were going to die horrible deaths, things ended in sort of a “could be worse” type of situation.

Oh, and since everyone was infected, the book just sort of ends with “guess we’ll just have to deal with it.” What? Okay… I guess…

It was the first time one of these books felt separated from our reality.

———

I found the book’s ending to be really interesting, but not satisfying at all. It felt like we had departed from our reality and now Robert Langdon is part of a completely different universe. It just took away some of the “oh cool, maybe that’s true” from the story.

5 thoughts on this book:

1) Cliches. Cliches everywhere. Seriously, assassins in tight body suits brandishing guns. Hot blond brilliant doctors. Epiphanies for every single clue. It felt tired, old, and not original at all. I mean, it’s the same story over and over again, and I knew that going in, but it got to the point where it just felt so forced and contrived. Couldn’t he have tried to do things differently at all?

2) Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. I swear I did more skimming in this book than actual reading. Brown kept telling me the same things over and over again, as though he were trying to reach his word count through repetition. A video was a critical part of the story, and every time we sat down to watch it with a new character (which was like, 4-5 times), we sat through almost the entire script of the video again. And just constant reminders about the plague and Dante and amnesia, etc. etc. etc. I know that emphasis is important, but I don’t need eight different instances of contemplating the exact same thing.

3) No one was actually a bad guy. So the woman trying to kill Langdon is the bad guy. Oh wait, no, she’s not. Must be the other guy trying to catch him. Wait, no. Maybe the guy ordering those two people around? Nope, he’s not so bad either. How about this random new character? He must be evil. Okay…how about this other character who is clearly made out to be the villain. Nope, not that one either? Okay, crazy doctor guy for sure. Well, he didn’t really…er….okay, who is evil here because seriously, I feel like that was a lot of work and effort for nothing.

4) Not enough Dante. I don’t think Brown did as much research for this book as his others because the interesting Dante facts were few and far between. There just weren’t as many clues or steps to take before reaching the end of the trail. In fact, once they reached the location of the virus, it felt like all of the tension was pulled out of the story. And anything related to Dante felt like an afterthought to the actual bio-terrorism plot that was actually kind of interesting.

5) A little bit of interesting character work and a lot of running around for nothing. Some of the characters had potential to be so interesting but then twists upon twists made them lame again. It just sort of felt cheap at the end.

Overall: Don’t read this book. Seriously, it took way too much of my time to force myself to read this book and it was mostly skimming anyway. It would be a waste of your time to pick up this book. There isn’t all that much Dante so it’s not like you’ll learn anything and I’m pretty sure any summer blockbuster movie would be better than this — and that’s saying something.

Sorry Dan Brown. I tried, I really did. But this book was bad and you should feel bad (while you roll around in your piles of money.)


Do you finish books even if you aren’t enjoying them?

What are your guilty pleasure books?

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Caffeine Roundup.

Caffeine Roundup

RUNNING//

For Everyone Who Says They Cant.
Anne from FANNEtastic Foods did an amazing interview with Jeff Le who shares his incredible story of never giving up.

Why Taking a Break Isn’t the end.
We’ve all had to take time off and it can be really, really hard to get back in the game.  But it can be done.

Is Being Lean Really Worth It?
Not specifically running related, but it raises a really interesting question about lifestyle and what’s right for each of us.

WRITING//

Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists
I’ve always thought that revision is where the magic of writing really happens, but I guess that hasn’t always been the case.

7 Things Dungeons & Dragons Taught Me About Storytelling
Another fun list about great story telling.

Comfort Writing and How To Avoid It
A great post about keeping your writing fresh.

READING//

Etsy: An Unlikely Source for Children’s Books
If you’re looking for fun children’s book, why not check out Etsy? Never would have thought of this!

The Legacy of Franz Kafka As Seen Through His Impact on Gabriel García Márquez
In honor of Franz Kafka’s birthday this past week.

Famous Books Inspired By Dreams
I found this list really interesting. I’ve definitely had some strange dreams, but I can’t imagine any of them becoming full-fledged stories.

FOODING//

Low-Fat Lemon Bars
I made these last night and they were fantastic! The ingredients a little confusing in some parts, but definitely worth it.

Fish in a Tin
Still not sold on sardines as an alternative to tuna? Then check out this post.

roasted cherry bourbon milkshakes with hot fudge.
I haven’t had a chance to make this yet, but it looks incredible. Definitely on my to-make list for this summer.

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Festive shorts & morning workouts.

Exciting News!

You can now follow Medium Roast on Facebook!
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, too!

It’s looking like a pretty slow week, what with the holiday coming up and all. What is this day off work on a Thursday nonsense?  At least it breaks up the week a little, and I’ll probably just work from home on Friday since I would otherwise be the only person in the office. Most people will probably take a vacation day, but me? I don’t have any real plans so for the 4th so I don’t mind getting some work done from the couch.

american flag running shorts

I’m actually a little bummed that I didn’t sign up for any races on the 4th. I think I saw one nearby where if you signed up early enough you got a pair of very patriotic running shorts. But I’m so out of shape that it wouldn’t be worth it to sign up now. Maybe next year. Besides, I’m kind of excited to get to sleep in a bit.

workoutsummary

My run this morning was tough, but manageable. And it’s one of the farther runs I’ve done in a while, but I still had to take 3-4 breaks. Sad, I know, but my legs were killing me! It’s really the lack of fuel when I head out in the morning that keeps me from working any harder. I had half a banana this morning, but it just didn’t cut it. I think I’m going to have to start getting up earlier to make sure I get some food in me a little bit before I head out.

running time splits

My average pace is usually around 8:30/mi so this run wasn’t to far off (except for that first mile – yikes!). I was out for probably 45 minutes, but only actually running for 35 of that. Now I’ll go hide in shame.

selfie

I actually wore my hair down at work today! Usually I just throw it up in a ponytail or a bun, but it was so warm out that I didn’t mind just letting my hair air dry after showering. I really need a haircut to get some of my layers back. More layers = more curls!

neil gaiman poets and writers

My amazing boss, Jen, gave me her recent copy of Poets & Writer’s because she knows of my love for Neil Gaiman. This issue included a great interview – seven questions about his writing and his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I suggest picking up a copy if you’re a fan. And even if you’re not, he has some great advice about using social media as a writer.

How are you planning on celebrating the 4th?

Looks like it is going to rain here on Thursday. Guess I’ll just have to stay inside and light sparklers!

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Filed under Living the Dream, Running

Caffeine Roundup.

Caffeine Roundup

RUNNING//

Ridiculous New Shoe from Adidas: SpringBlade
So Adidas came out with some new shoes…with springs…what do you think? Gimmicky or the shoe of the future?

Running Laps Should Never Be a Punishment!
I remember hating the 10-minute warmup runs I had to do back when I played soccer. It wasn’t punishment, but I remember  any running that didn’t involve a soccer ball sure felt like. Younger me never would have considered doing distance running for fun.

The Running of the Interns
On the day of the Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA (yay!), a new sporting event emerged!

WRITING//

The Decline and Fall of the English Major
I was an English major in college and I often sing its praises, but the English major has had an interesting progression over the past few years. The once traditional liberal arts major is now becoming few and far between.

Daily Routines of Famous Writers
I love lists like these. Simple, interesting, and inspiring!

Call for Submissions:The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
In case you had a story you were looking to submit.

READING//

The Lottery Letters
Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors and her story “The Lottery” has stayed with me since the first time I read it in high school. I was blown away by the story’s complexity and commentary on society. So I found this New Yorker article to be hilarious.

14 Books To Read Before They Hit The Big Screen
Hello new summer reading list!

ΦBK Summer Reading List
I’m a Phi Beta Kappa member, so I get their monthly newsletters. I thought I would share their brainy books reading list. Some interesting stuff!

FOODING//

Chocolate Cherry Espresso Smoothie
Anne from Fanntastic Foods put together the perfect combination of breakfast smoothie and morning coffee.

DIY Coffee Concentrate + Speedy Almond Milk Iced Coffee
As it continues to get hotter and hotter, my coffee is getting colder and colder. Here is a great recipe for DIY iced coffee with homemade almond milk!
(Door Sixteen had the same idea)

Honey Sunflower Bread
I absolutely love baking bread and this new loaf from Budget Bytes might be my next project.

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Email marketing clearly works on me. Also, books.

I subscribe to various newsletters about the publishing industry, including Publisher’s Weekly, and occasionally they send out emails that are actually ads for upcoming book releases. Normally, I just delete these. But today, while going through my inbox, one of these emails actually caught my eye.

It was the book’s title that drew me in and the cover that sealed my interest. Something about a company that deals with unruly magic (or at least, that’s what  I  assumed based on the cover) really intrigued me. And then I did something I never do: I clicked on the link. It took me to a sneak peek of the first 50 pages and I actually started reading. I was hooked on the first page.

So then, continuing up the ladder of engagement, I added this book to my “Want To Read” list on Goodreads. All from an email. I feel like a puppet being controlled by the publishing overlords. Will they decide every book I read from now on? Will I ever have an original thought again?

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co.) by Jonathan Stroud

I jest. I’m actually really excited about this book. It’s called The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud. It reminds me of another series that I enjoyed reading, the Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, and the cover art looks very similar to The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I guess I am just a sucker for middle grade fantasy stories.

You can read the sneak peak of The Screaming Staircase here.

In other news, I actually managed to get myself up and out running again this morning, and for the second day in a row! It’s an incredible accomplishment because I really, really like sleeping. It took me a little longer to get out of bed this morning so I started a bit later than I would have liked. The run itself was pretty awful and I ended up only doing two miles instead of three like I’d planned. Boo.

shoes

I’ve decided that this week is all about acclimating to the hot, muggy weather that is no doubt here to stay. So that means shorter runs, but trying to get out there every day. And I know that if I don’t get up and run, I won’t do it later when it’s even hotter out.

One nice thing about running in the mornings is that I have so much free time at night! Time to actually dig into the pile of books sitting on my desk that I’ve been ignoring. Right now, I’m still working my way through Inferno by Dan Brown.

Inferno by Dan Brown

To be completely honest, I started this book because I was curious about the subject matter–Dante’s Inferno. But I find myself incredibly bored as I read this book, and skimming more often than paying my full attention. Everything feels cliche, especially after reading some of his previous books, and I am more interested in the grand scheme of the villain than I am about the path Robert Langdon and his beautiful sidekick have to take to uncover it. I find myself wanting to throw the book across the room because everything is just taking too damn long. I never expected this book to be good, but I at least expected to enjoy the ride. Now I feel like I have to finish it out of some weird obligation. Apparently I am incapable of leaving books unfinished once I get far enough in. Don’t worry, I’ll have a full write-up once I’m done. Aren’t I great? I read awful books so you don’t have to!

Lucky for me, next 0n my reading list is The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter. It is a little more literary than Brown and I think it will be a nice change of pace. Plus, it’s my boss’s favorite book and she has amazing taste, so I know it will be fantastic.

What are you currently reading?

What are you looking forward to reading next?

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First to Read.

First to ReadSo I recently signed up for First to Read, a program through Penguin where I sign up for drawings to receive new books before they are released. Oh Boy, am I excited! It mixes two of my favorite things: Winning and Reading!

Penguin LogoGranted, it’s not like I need more books piling up in my house and the chances of me winning any drawings is slim, but if I do (and I really hope I do), I look forward to posting some honest reviews. One of my new ambitions for this year is to be more engaged in the communities that I inhabit. So far, I’ve joined a writer’s group, I’ve run some races, and now I want to start being a more active book reviewer.

Luckily I have some time before the first round of drawing winners are announced, so I had better get moving through the stack of books I have sitting next to my bed.

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki MurakamiHow it was possible for me to get this far in life without realizing there was a book out there that combined my two loves: running and writing, is beyond me. This book, of course, is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

This book is only 180 pages. Short and poignant, it is a collection of short essays written by Murakami while training for yet another marathon. He describes his many experiences as a runner, including training, running races, and how all of it can be related to his writing.

To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t run enjoying this book. A writer may pick up this memoir to glean some wisdom about writing–which there is some–but I don’t think there is enough to satisfy someone with no interest in physical fitness.

But for me, it was the perfect mix. I have always said I would never run a full marathon, but having just run a half marathon and  now, having just read this book, I am starting to think a full marathon might be a reality for me sometime in the future. This book was inspiring in so many ways. As soon as I finished, I laced up and ran the fastest, most enjoyable four miles I’ve run probably ever.

One might consider this book a bit self-indulgent, which is exactly what Murakami said he feared in his introduction. It felt like he was working through his own thoughts, never really drawing helpful conclusions so much as, raising questions about life. At times I found this a bit frustrating, like reading someone’s diary, but at other times, I found it really human, and I appreciated knowing that this amazingly accomplished writer and runner has the same fears and concerns that I have, and works through them with the same uncertainty as I do.

As a runner, I really appreciated the discussion of his training and race experiences. He describes a grueling experience running the original marathon race in Athens, and his seemingly unbearable trial of human strength running an ultra-marathon. The details he gives of the pain he felt, physical and mental, remind me of many of the thoughts and feelings I have experienced as well. (And also solidified my resolve to never run an ultra-marathon because it does not in any way, shape, or form, sound fun.)

Below, I have excerpted some of my favorite passages from the book:

“When I’m training for a race, I have to show my muscles who’s boss. I have to make it clear to them what’s expected.” Page 72.

“Even if there were two of me, I still couldn’t do all that has to be done. No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running every day is kind of a lifeline to me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.” Page 73.

“What’s needed for a writer of fiction — at least one who hopes to write a novel — is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years. You can compare it to breathing. If concentration if the process of just holding your breath, endurance is the art of slowly, quietly breathing at the same time you’re storing air in your lungs…Continue to breathe while you hold your breath.” Page 78.

“Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life–and for me, for writing as well.” Page 83.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I appreciated it both for the wisdom is imparted, and  for inspiration of a shared human experience. It made me feel like I could pour my love into both writing and running, and that I didn’t have to choose one or the other to place my focus. Most of all, it made me feel like things I have been unable to even comprehend attempting are possible and achievable.

I’ll no doubt come back to this book for a pick-me-up every so often. It only took me a few hours to read, and it provided just the push I needed to get myself off the couch, out the door, and back putting one foot in front of the other.

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