Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code's Dan Brown, has yet another long-awaited book on the ever-so-near horizon featuring your favorite tweedy, turtlenecked hearthrob-tellectual Robert Langdon. It's called Inferno, and, yes, this is a Dante reference: "In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante's Inferno." Expect "a chilling adversary," "an ingenious riddle," "a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science," and loads of Dante references! As usual, the stakes are high, like, end-of-the-world high. Poor Langdon must be exhausted!
Now, no matter how you feel about Dan Brown and his novels, it is certain that you are going to run into this book. The author has already sold more than 200 million copies of his previous books worldwide. It's a near bet that you will see Inferno on the subway. You will see Inferno in a pile at your local bookstore, laughing in your face. You will hear about Inferno around the water cooler. Your mom will ask you, "Have you read this book, Fernono-something-or other, you know, by The Da Vinci Code guy? I like that Tom Hanks!" You may even read Inferno yourself, whether at the behest of an angry albino monk or because you you simply want to. "He's entertaining!", you might say of the author. "He knows how to spin a plot! Those pages keep turning!" That is fine. Reading's reading and I don't judge reading, even if I do judge, on the occasion, what people read. But, look, I have read some Dan Brown books. Maybe I'll read this one, too. More important than whether you read it or not is knowing you have options. If you're wondering what they are, read on for A Few Ways You Might Cope With Dan Brown's Inferno.
Pre-Order It Now on Amazon. It's not too late for a pre-order! Admittedly, you might want to walk into a store and just buy it outright, considering that it's in stores Tuesday. And journeying into a bookstore to purchase Brown's latest tome does have a certain circular, bringing-the-plot-back-home beauty to it, given that that's probably what you did way back in, oh holy hell, 2003, when The Da Vinci Code first made its mark on our collective psyches. But the Internet makes it more now, you know? Langdon never stops learning.
Get Psyched. This is most likely if you are 1) an unabashed Dan Brown fan, 2) in Florence, Italy, or 3) a bookseller. The latter is "predicting that the author's forthcoming new novel, Inferno, will be the biggest of the year." This is because, well, Dan Brown. As Alison Flood writes in The Guardian, this is not simply speculation. There is very real historical precedent, i.e., those more than 200 million copies of Dan Brown books sold worldwide. The Da Vinci Code (and to a lesser extent, the others, too) even managed to generate a secondary industry of pretty successful books about themselves, which is no small feat. Brown's next book, The Lost Symbol, "sold more than half a million copies in hardback in its first week on sale when it was published in 2009." Readers have had to wait almost four years for another installment of Langdon. They will likely be chomping at the bit, and the sales will show that, hope book publishers and stores. (It's already an Amazon best seller.) As for Florence — tourism is down and the Florentine government is hoping Brown can get them back on track. David needs a turtleneck and some Harris Tweed.
Contemplate Dan Brown the Artist. From an interview with the Sunday Times, via The Guardian: "Taking a moment to show his interviewer his gravity table, where he hangs upside down from metal stirrups when writer's block strikes, Brown — who gets up at 4 a.m. every day to write — said the life of an author was 'awful' and a 'brutal existence.'"
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Enjoy the Reviews. Sometimes reviews are nearly as good as the book itself, and sometimes they are better. Dan Brown says he doesn't read his reviews, or that he tries not to. But that doesn't mean we can't. Let's see what we see, eh? One of the first reviews out is from The New York Times' Janet Maslin. She writes:
"The early sections of Inferno come so close to self-parody that Mr. Brown seems to have lost his bearings — as has Langdon, who begins the book in a hospital bed with a case of amnesia that dulls his showy wits." When he wakes, in fact, Langdon's Mickey Mouse watch is gone and his Tweed is in tatters. Like I said, the stakes are high. Back to Maslin:
"As is his wont, Mr. Brown begins with a crazily grandiose prologue, this one a little more unhinged than usual."
"To the great relief of anyone who enjoys him, Mr. Brown winds up not only laying a breadcrumb trail of clues about Dante (this is Inferno, after all) but also playing games with time, gender, identity, famous tourist attractions and futuristic medicine."
No spoiler, if you like Dan Brown already, you're probably going to like this book. See "Get Psyched."
Plot Your Own Ingenious Riddles and Diligently Go About Solving Them. If you are the thinking person's Dan Brown novel reader, this is exactly what you're already thinking. Perhaps you have recently broken into the office under cover of night and positioned secret notes using coded script into the mailboxes of all of your coworkers. Perhaps you've hidden ancient pebbles in the sink, which only the inquisitive will find have been inscribed with important messages when they go to pour out their cold coffee. If you're very good, maybe you've already left a trail of breadcrumbs from the street outside up to your cubicle, and if you're not very good, the cleaning person has already swept it up. Do not be swayed from your mission. You are the only one who can save yourself. Have you looked at that Chipotle bag, like, really looked at it? There are stories being told right in front of our eyes!
Become a Dante Scholar. This vaunted profession is about to experience a sudden surge in popularity. Get there early or be left behind.
Become Infuriated. The best you is you criticizing someone else's writing, right? If you are this person you will take this moment to point out that a) the metaphors are trite, b) the delivery is stilted, c) who really wears a turtleneck with a tweed jacket anyway?, and d) this whole thing is a shameful example of the dumbing down of the world's important literary traditions. You might be wrong and you might be right, but the more important question is, does becoming outraged at someone you don't know and something you can't do much about make you happy? If so, carry on!
Join in the Mockery! The Telegraph has a very funny piece entitled, "Don't Make Fun of Renowned Dan Brown." If inclined to make fun of Renowned Dan Brown, you should read it now. Quick teaser: "Renowned author Dan Brown woke up in his luxurious four-poster bed in his expensive $10 million house – and immediately he felt angry..."
Re-Read the Other Books. If you're a purist you're spending the next 24 hours with Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol, reliving every gasping breath, diabolical revenge scheme, and near-near-near-death experience as if it were the first time. This is the equivalent of again watching all the Twilight films the weekend before Breaking Dawn Part 2 comes out. If you've read them before, you'll probably be able to solve the puzzles before Mr. Brag-don this time! Then, tomorrow, you can walk into a store (or receive your pre-ordered copy from your friendly mail person) and pick up again with the latest, Brown's self-described "darkest novel yet."
Read Something Else. The Great Gatsby, maybe, so you can join in the chorus on that book? Or Meg Wolitzer's latest, The Interestings, which I can tell you from experience is quite good. David Sedaris's latest is on shelves near you, as is the long best-selling (on Amazon) 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Maybe none of those interest you, but the fact remains that there are many, many books currently out and available for your eyes to feast upon (Drew Magary's Someone Could Get Hurt is very funny, and out this week, too!). If you hate books, how about some blog posts? You know what they say about lemmings. Just because everyone else is reading Dan Brown doesn't mean you have to.