Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag

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Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag

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Buy Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: With nothing much to decode in fact, this primer for Dan Brown's latest is entertaining and educational.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 271 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Profile Books
ISBN: 9781781251805

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Here be spoilers. Not so much in my review, but certainly in its subject, a very quickly produced companion guide to the latest Dan Brown blockbuster. It's not so much a page-by-page guide, but certainly serves as an educational and intelligent look at the background to the biggest-selling book of 2013.

That quickness in hitting the shelves is worth discussion. It's clear from several quotes of Brown's Inferno that all his characters speak like an encyclopedia and nothing at all like real people, while our author Haag is between the two – concise and erudite yet very easy to read. After an introduction he delves right into the life of Dante, the original Inferno, the Florentine Renaissance, and all the other subjects that Brown somehow focuses on. But at the same time a lot of this could have been drafted before the Brown book was launched, if he had some ideas as to the themes. He takes other authors' work to help him through some sections of his guide, and the more useful introductions to the novel and to Brown himself are at the end here, as if filler, and again lots could have been pre-prepared and simply re-edited.

But he still provides a very good title, which serves its purpose well. He doesn't go all-out to spoil Inferno for those who have yet to finish it, and drops teasers (such as Dante's death mask) almost as well as Brown might. He hits on interesting stories of his own (the connection between a cathedral dome in Italy and the discovery of the Americas, for one) and of Brown's ilk (the allegedly hidden da Vinci masterpiece in Florence that nobody is currently actively looking for). He certainly isn't beholden to Brown enough to not mention his copious mistakes (I for one gave up on Brown after his first book, when despite having studied in Seville he gave one of its most famous landmarks steps, when it's always been a cavalry ramp).

The main issue perhaps is with the blurb and the very title, for there seems, without the Brown at hand, very little that is to be decoded. The plot summary when it arrives here details the action, and not all the clues and so on that Robert Langdon the hero must solve, yet what we get is comprehensive and well-written background, and not a point-by-point look at any secret messages and the truth as to whether they exist or not. Myths, mysteries and locations we are promised, and it's only the latter we really discover as there's nothing jaw-dropping or completely fascinating in anything Brown thrusts into the scope of his thriller.

This isn't to say this here is a bad book, for it certainly isn't. If anything it says it's a better book than Brown's own, which perhaps is not too difficult. This doesn't try to explain why one of the baddies is lumbered with the awful surname Zobrist, it doesn't raise too many mysteries where there aren't any to be had, unlike Brown, but it does take the interested back into the world of the real Inferno and its creator very well. And in a closing glossary of characters (not the work of Haag, unfortunately) it provides a scathing and hilarious sense of humour about the whole thing that belittles Brown in such a way it's worth the price of admission itself.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A very fresh look at some of the Divine Comedy can be had with Dante's Inferno by Hunt Emerson and Kevin Jackson. If you're running a book behind with your Dan Brown explanations, there is The Secret Symbol: The Original Masonic Documents Behind Dan Brown's Latest Bestseller by Peter Blackstock, whose subtitle is now of course out of date.

Buy Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Inferno Decoded: The essential companion to the myths, mysteries and locations of Dan Brown's Inferno by Michael Haag at Amazon.com.

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