Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

 “The ‘Inferno” is Dan Brown’s fourth mystery thriller novel in the Robert Langdon series.  The novel is full of coded messages and symbols inspired by Dante Alighieri’s “ Divine Comedy.”

Art history, futuristic science and a possible global disaster thread though this tale. But the book’s real focus overall is the topic of overpopulation.
 
Mr. Brown gives the background of Dr. Bertrand Zobrist, a disturbed pioneer in the field of genetics and a Dante fanatic, who has leapt to his death from the Tower of Badea Florentina.  Zobrist supposedly had developed a new biological plague that would kill a large part of the world’s population to solve the problem of the world’s looming overpopulation. It takes the reader almost 200 pages before the outline of the plot begins to surface.

Professor Robert Langdon, the Harvard art historian symbologist, is back.  Amnesic, because of a gunshot wound to his head, he wakes up in Florence having no idea how he came to be in Italy or why an assassin is trying to kill him.  Langdon is confused and does not even know why he has left Boston when suddenly someone breaks into his hospital room, shoots and kills his doctor. Another young, attractive and brilliant doctor, Sienna Brooks, appears, and leads him through city corridors to her apartment and temporary safety.  They discover a titanium vial of biohazardous material sewn into his jacket pocket that sends them on a mad search through Dante’s nine circles of Hell, across Florence, Venice and Istanbul.

Dante Alighieri was particularly scornful of people who did not get involved. He wrote, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in time of moral crisis.”

“Inferno” confronts the issue of overpopulation. Mr. Brown argues that in the Dark Ages the Black Death wiped out one third of civilization, allowing the remaining people more natural resources.  The Renaissance was the result.
 
Since then many illnesses have been eradicated so that people are living longer. This story is about the future of humanity and what needs to happen because of the human population expansion to avoid this act of bioterrorism.

“Inferno” is a bestseller but the writer’s use of clichés and interesting “facts”
about alleged events that may have happened can put some readers off. For devoted readers, the quest is simply to solve the riddles by the clues the author presents through history and culture. For Dan Brown fans this is a fascinating read.