Don’t Bother to Read Dan Brown’s Inferno

But you should read Dante’s Inferno.  But that’s not what this post is about.  It is about my disappointment after picking up Inferno (2013) by Dan Brown with enthusiasm.  I expected it to be a fun, light read that I would enjoy, as I have appreciated some of Brown’s other books.  But I did not enjoy this one.  Not at all.

It is another Robert Langdon book, and although the need for a symbologist in any international criminal situation is doubtful, this time the situation is so hard to believe that it was corny.  And as a reader, I wasn’t sure what was really going on for the first few chapters, as Robert had amnesia and he didn’t know either.  The situation seems exciting, for there are apparent bullet wounds, police chases, and even the need for disguise, but it all falls flat.

Inferno-cover dan brown

For the most part, Brown writes in clichés and passive voice, making the narrative difficult to find engaging.  It was worthy of an eye roll every other sentence,  “he squared his jaw,” “she instinctively…”  Blah blah blah.

Additionally, Brown’s character descriptions are boring and simple.  The female character, Sienna Brooks, is constantly described as having a blonde ponytail.  That is apparently the only notable thing about her.  Other characters are the man with the cold eyes, the heavy man with the rash, the tall professor, and the woman with the silver hair.  There is no character development, just trite description.

So no, I did not enjoy this book and I wouldn’t recommend it.  The only reason I kept reading was so I could post about it!  I would say the last third of the book did get more exciting and I had more of a good time reading it, but overall I was bored.  I’m not the only one who feels this way.  A quick glance at the reviews of Inferno on Goodreads will prove that.


71 thoughts on “Don’t Bother to Read Dan Brown’s Inferno

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  1. I was disappointed by Brown’s Inferno as well. The character of Robert Langdon is now boring… there is nothing new about him. The character sketch and development is mediocre at best. And the story lacks the thrill, that we experienced when we read Angels and Demons and even The Da Vinci Code.

    1. I’m glad you mention his other books because while reading this one, I kept thinking that I had somehow forgotten the “truth” about his other books. The badness of this one doesn’t take away the thrill of the others, but I kept wondering if I hadn’t evaluated them properly. Good to know that I hadn’t!

  2. wasnt planning to (what with all the other books I have), just glad to hear someone agreeing with me!. was at a recent book quiz, where the question was “who is the better writer, Dan Brown or E. L. James?” (with the correct answer being the person with the most votes). It was a tough call but somehow James won – possibly indicating how badly Brown is viewed as a writer

  3. I downloaded a sample on my Nook and was very disappointed with what I read, normally I would have given Dan Browns book a chance because I just loved his other books but even the beginning lacked intrigue and the pull like his other books did. I am glad I didn’t buy it!!

  4. I wasn’t as let down by this book as you seem to have been. I like Brown’s style of short chapters and jumping from character to character; it keeps me reading. I will say that I think his characters are becoming more and more far fetched and that he’s writing Langdon as an idealized version of himself, which is not helped by Tom Hanks playing him in the movies. I was surprised by the ending and that Langdon isn’t able to save the day. Sienna became more and more unbelievable and at the ending reached the pinnacle of disturbing. In short, I’m inclined to agree to a point, but still found the book entertaining.

    1. I am glad you found some value in it. I almost couldn’t finish it, but yes, it does get more interesting (and farfetched) toward the end. I was disappointed that he didn’t save the day either.

      1. I’m in the same boat as Sam. I didn’t consider the book a total loss, but the beginning was confusing and I was expecting something more than just stress being the cause of Sienna’s baldness (it seemed so anticlimactic, especially since I thought Brown made a point of showing her embarrassment about it).

        I agree that having a symbologist on any of these fantastic adventures is far fetched, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

        1. You are right on! That’s totally the point. And with his other books, I was willing to suspend my disbelief for that, but on this one, it just didn’t work for me.

  5. I love how straightforward your blog titles are 😉

    I was very wary of reading any other Dan Brown book after The DaVinci Code, as I was afraid his other books wouldn’t live up. Thanks for the helpful review.

    1. You are welcome! I would say that Angels and Demons was a lot of fun, and a lot of people say it is “better” than The Da Vinci Code. It would make a good beach read.

  6. Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code have been Brown’s best books. The later ones feel like formula-based novels. Inferno was a huge disappointment to me too; especially since the entire was set-up was completely unbelievable and unnecessary.

  7. Hi, I read this book about 2 months ago and I was also feeling some type of way at the beginning. I couldn’t believe how long it was taking me to read this book. But once I found out what the evil doctor’s purpose was I kind of fell in tune with the book. I enjoyed the plot and the ending. I was kind of happy Landon didn’t save the day. Boring or not once I find out the plot to a story if I find it interesting I can easily enjoy the book which is what happened with this one.

    1. I’m happy to know that somebody enjoyed it! I agree that his not saving the day made the ending more interesting. I was expecting a formulaic end, and that didn’t happen.

  8. I like your analysis, Emily. I think you hit on problems that are common in this genre (I’m not sure what the name for it is…government/international suspense thriller?); from what I’ve read in this genre (admittedly not much, for this reason; David Baldacci comes to mind as an example of what I’m talking about), I’d be pleasantly surprised if a book in this genre DID have fully developed characters, realistic dialogue, consistent and engaging plot development, and original language. In fact, perhaps the opposites of those things partly comprise the conventions of the genre, making it familiar and accessible to its reader base. But if there are any well-written government/international suspense novels, I’d like to know, so I can read and enjoy them.

    1. Yeah, I’d like to know too! And great analysis of the genre.

      It reminded me that years ago, I told a colleague that I liked to read. We began discussing books and I realized how different our tastes were. My idea of a good book is in the literature category. His idea was David Baldacci.

  9. For some reason, I have never felt compelled to pick up a copy of a Dan Brown book. I have heard lots about them, of course. But The Da Vinci Code trend (a while ago, everyone was reading it!) passed me by. I will certainly avoid Inferno if I ever decide to read one of his books!

  10. Every time I find a blog about books…I kick myself for being on IG and Twitter too much! I need to be WELL-READ! HAH. Thanks for the swift reminder I need to do something with my life! 🙂

  11. Now I am surprised! I haven’t read Inferno yet, and fortunately I haven’t bought the book. After you review, I will think about it again.
    My first Dan-Brown-book was Angels and Demons. It was my first, and also the best I think. Maybe I liked it best because it was my first? And after that one I somehow foresaw the plot of the other ones? I am not sure. The Da Vinci Code was my second which I also liked. The Lost Symbol however somehow was quite boring and I don’t really remember anything except for the japanese woman called Sato :’D
    I am also rather a fan of books which have developed characters with whom you can feel. Dan Brown books really lack any emotion 😀

    1. It’s true. I read Da Vinci Code first and then people told me to read Angels and Demons “because it’s better.” I think they were right. You read them in a good order. I haven’t read the other. I don’t think I will! 😉

  12. Emily, do you think he was writing for a future movie script? This trend seems to happen to some good authors whose early books are made into movies. My favoritte part of Dante’s Inferno is his layers of hell for different sins. He has an interesting perspective on what’s worse. Thanks, BTG

    1. Interesting point. I bet you are right, although I don’t know if this would make a compelling movie… And yes, Dante has some frightening and creative ideas about sin.

  13. My sentiments exactly. I was so excited to read it as i loved dan brown’s previous works. Inferno was a disappointment. It didn’t compel me to go on as Da Vinci code did.

  14. Dan Brown has made it thanks to sensational boring plots and as you say cliches. Luck? His research is shaky. That is me being kind. But the general public has been fooled and one bestseller leads to another. Do we stay true to ourselves or do we sell out and mimic such authors as Dan Brown. I will stay true to myself, but no doubt stay obscure all my life.


  15. I agree with your suggestion that potential readers of Dan Brown’s book first read The Inferno. It would show readers how much of an opportunity Dan Brown wasted by not incorporating the whole idea of symbolic retribution in his novel. I was a little disappointed in his book, too, because I feel as if he just employed the setting (although I did enjoy learning about the lesser known aspects of well known Italian places) without really doing justice to the title. The places were the most interesting. The characterization, I have to agree, was pretty formulaic. But it was one of those books that you can pick up without having to think too hard, which seems to be what a lot of the “reading public” wants these days. Still, I think that some authors can do both: create a riveting read and still utilize good craft. I appreciate this blog because it highlights so many of those.

    1. Thanks, Lizzie. What a great comment. You are right that the reading public wants an easy, fun read. I sometimes do too, but for me, this one was too much fluff. I think there are levels, at least for me, of good and “bad” popular books.

  16. Oh wow, what a shame! I was hoping to read this one in December, but I guess it’s not worth the try. Well, at least, he tried to make something fun with the translations of it. Have you heard about the bunker wherer the translators stayed?

  17. For the most part I agree about Dan Brown’s writing. I notice the problems even more after going to university for English lit. these last three years. That being said, if you can stretch a little further for that “suspension of disbelief” and continue along after each eye roll, it’s still a semi-enjoyable read in my mind. I still wanted to find out what happened, and so it kept me reading. The one thing Dan Brown’s books always do for me is incite the curiosity to look up places and artifacts in the world that I may not have encountered otherwise. Believe it or not, I haven’t read Dante’s The Divine Comedy (despite my English lit. background), and now I plan on doing so.

  18. I actually still might read this. I appreciate your review, though. It’s going to have to be something I find out for myself in this case because I’ve really enjoyed his other works, so it’s hard for me to think he’s fallen off so much in this one. Also, another reason, I’m super busy with school and work right now, so a light “dumb” read might be right up my alley! 🙂 I’m in the middle of a more thought-provoking book at the moment and am finding that I am only reading a sentence to a paragraph a day. It’s too much thinking on top of all the other thinking I’m doing at the moment so perhaps Dan Brown’s the remedy.

    1. It might be just the right book for you! I will be curious to know what you think afterwards and how you think it compares to his other books. It is certainly a light read.

  19. I agree with you, but i liked this book!
    About litterature, if you want, i have created a blog about poems (i write) and litterature.
    I’m french, but i like talking about books, writers, etc…
    For the moment, my blog is not very interesting, but i think that if somebody visit it, it will invite me to continue, and i will manage to make a cool blog!
    So, please just visit my blog, called “Les reves mènent loin”, thank you very much
    Au revoir

  20. I have tried a few times to make it through “The Divine Comedy.” I guess I need to give it another serious effort, I know this Renaissance work inspired so much of Western literature, just as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” did a thousand years before. But I just have not made it through Dante. As for Brown, I thought “The Da Vinci Code” was very clever and entertaining, but I have never felt like reading his other books. I am not a series person to begin with, I think they do get boring. But I love European medieval art and architecture and find Da Vinci a fascinating historical figure so I did enjoy that book. Thanks for the warning not to bother with his new one! Sometimes authors get lazy. They hit on a popular character or theme and then they just relax and go with it, instead of challenging themselves to do new things. I have heard that Rowling is also going back to work on other aspects of the Harry Potter stories, although she at least has tried to branch out.

    1. Dante’s work is hard to get through. I think I do better with texts like that when I have a class assignment to read it! That is how I’ve gotten through a lot of classic texts. 🙂 And I agree that either Brown got lazy or he is having a hard time repeating his former success. There must be a lot of pressure to always top one’s own work and that has to be hard when it was a bestseller and a movie and when the idea was fresh and new. I’m sure he feels pressure to produce, which likely serves to stifle his creativity and desire. At least it would for me!

  21. I didn’t mind this book. but I agree that in terms of writing and overall story-telling it was definitely lacking. I think Dan Brown has just simply gotten lazy with his writing – he knows that his Robert Langdon books will sell, so he just keeps churning out the same formula over and over again, which is a pity.

    1. It is a pity. After a while, you’d think people would stop buying based on an author’s name, but even I do that with less popular literature. Branding is a huge part of it.

      1. Oh definitely agree. If you trust an author’s name then you just automatically think that it’ll be a good book. Which is pretty sad to think that an author can so quickly go from great to average from one book to another.

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