It seems like Robert Langdon is at it again. He wakes up in a hospital with a head wound and no idea how he got there. As expected in a Dan Brown novel everything is not as it seems. The story moves along at a decent pace but I can help but feel that once again I have been tricked into reading an elaborately concealed Mills and Boon novel. Every single character has one ‘fatal’ flaw in their personality that will eventually turn out to be the thing that saves or at least redeems them. People will lie, cheat, steal and betray but only for the best of reasons. All in all I think that Langdon deserves a rest. It is time for Dan Brown to move back to stand alone novels. Both Deception Point and Digital Fortress were wonderful books with intriguing characters. Inferno is full of colourful characters but they all seem forced. This whole idea could have been conveyed through a new, unknown character while the venerable professor stayed home. Once again Robert Langdon goes through the story without learning anything. He had the answers all along, he just needed to remember them…
My main issue with this book is it’s seemingly blasé attitude towards Eugenics. The whole novel reads like culling the human population like animals is a good, noble and ethical goal and if people have the power to genetically modify the human genome they should do it despite the fact that we know nothing of the long term side effects of such an endeavour. If we can bring back the Black Plague to wipe out 1/3 of the current global population (or about two and a half billion people) then we should do it, again without regard to how such a plague would spread with today’s unprecedented global connectivity. All in all this book reads like a eugenicist’s manifesto, a ‘how to’ for global population control.
The ‘bad guy’ in this book doesn’t even really exist. In Dan Brown’s finest (and simultaneously worst) twist yet there is no bad guy. The reader is the bad guy for having 2.3 children. This could be such a promising race if only there wasn’t so much human fodder clogging the system. Never mind the fact that the ‘fodder’ is the only reason anyone has evolved to be smart enough to actually think they could fiddle with Human DNA. I waited and waited as I read through the novel hoping against hope that someone would come up with the real answer to exponential population growth. Unfortunately the idea that too few own too much and that a redistribution of wealth, a rethinking of values and understanding that humanity is not a senseless virus on the verge of self destruction is the only logical way to address this issue does not feature in this book. It pretends to say that Eugenics is wrong for a little while but it isn’t long until Dan Brown’s real feelings on the matter are known. He wants to keep his billion dollars and he doesn’t want the rabble getting in the way (other than buying the next book of course).
tl:dr – This is a well written novel and I recommend reading it as long as you plan on reading further into the issues discussed in the book. Be prepared for a lopsided view of how humanity works and be prepared to answer the question Dan Brown almost gets around to asking, “if there was a magical button that could kill 1/3 of the human population overnight, how long would it take for some rich arsehole to press it without consulting the masses?…”