Inferno by Dan Brown is a mystery thriller, 4th in the Robert Langdon series. Set against the mysterious literary masterpiece The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, the part called Inferno, showing the life people would be subjected to, after being put into hell by Him (The Last Judgement), the book follows the Harvard professor across Florence, Venice and eventually Turkey, to solve a series of riddles in order to save the world from a bio-hazard, to be released by a fanatic, before it irrevocably alters the future.
Robert is lying in a hospital, his head throbbing. Unable to recall the last few days and how he came to be in such a position as now, he is informed by the young lady doctor, Sienna, that he is suffering from amnesia, and also that he came staggering into the hospital last night with a gunshot wound to his head. It is then that an assassin, Vayentha, enters the hallway to his hospital room, only to be left seething, as Sienna helps Robert escape, escorting him to her place. He calls the U.S. Consulate, and gives them his location, opposite to that of Sienna’s building, in hopes of being rescued. But to their horror, it is Vayentha who shows up at the location which he gave to the consulate, forcing them to flee again. Meanwhile, he finds a cylinder in his jacket, with a bio-hazard sign. He opens it to find a medieval bone projector, displaying the Map of Hell by Botticelli, based on Dante’s Inferno.
The following events see Robert and Sienna going towards the Old City, where they believe they might find something of importance as to what does the map from the projector means. However, they find checks at the city’s entries and take a detour. On looking at the map again, Robert notices changes in it with respect to the original, which further leads them to a painting at the Palazzo Vecchio. There they are found to be snooping around by a custodian, who calls for the director of the museum, Marta. While Marta is surprised to see Robert back, he doesn’t recall meeting her. She informs her that he and Ignazio, the director of another museum, had visited her the previous night and she had shown them the concerned painting followed by Dante’s mask. Asking her to help him again, Robert has a feeling of deja vu, as he retraces his steps from the previous night. Reaching the cupboard where the famous mask is held, Marta almost has an attack on seeing it gone. CCTV footage reveals that Robert and Ignazio had lifted it before leaving. Not finding proof against his being guilty, he and Sienna escape the museum. Finding themselves at a block to the solution of what is happening, Robert gets a message from Ignazio, recorded the previous night, pointing towards the Florence Baptistery where they find the mask, but with a riddle inscribed at it’s back by its current owner, Bertrand Zobrist. Sienna explains that Zobrist was geneticist, who believed that the world’s problems arise from it’s out of control population and advocated the need to curb it immediately by the means of an engineered disease. They try to solve the riddle, which shows them the way to Venice, but not before being encountered by the soldiers and helped by a man named Ferris to escape. There again, they are targeted by the soldiers, while this time Sienna manages to escape, Robert is held.
Robert wakes up to find himself facing a woman, Elizabeth Sinskey, director-general of WHO. she explains to him that she was the one who had called him to Florence after getting the hint of Zobrist’s supposed plans and enlist his help in solving the riddle Zobrist had left her before committing suicide last week. She further states that Zobrist had planned to release the bio-hazard plague, which will kill a substantial number of the world’s population. They find out that Zobrist had paid a shady organization, The Consortium, to protect him from WHO until he finishes his project. True to their word, The Consortium did that, but not before their employer jumped to his death. Vayentha was their assassin, sent to stop Robert from foiling Zobrist’s plan but it was before their leader came to know of the truth. They inform the WHO that Sienna was a long time accomplice of Zobrist as well as his lover. Robert is shown a video, in which he sees the plague contained in a water-soluble bag, inside a cistern, with the next day’ date marked. Robert racks his brain, which leads him to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul as the location of the plague. They all rush to the place, to find a music concert being held in the underground, where the cistern is located. Fearing the effect of the plague on these people, Robert moves towards the cistern, but he is beaten by Sienna, who is already in the cistern. On seeing him approach her, she runs out, creating a ruckus, stopping Robert and the soldiers to capture her.
It is revealed that Sienna didn’t rupture the bag, in fact, she was trying to stop it from being exposed but was too late as it had already dissolved a week ago. The date marked was the day when, as per Zobrist’s calculations, the entire world would be affected by the plague. The plague he created was a vector virus, which randomly activates and modifies the DNA of humans, affecting one-third of them and cause sterility, thereby reducing the population to a more stable level. Elizabeth enlists the help of Sienna in informing this to the leaders of the world, for who better than she knows her dead lover’s work. Although they want to reverse the course of Zobrist’s actions but decide against it, as it might be hazardous, also acknowledging the fact that overpopulation, indeed is a danger.
The problem with Dan Brown’s novels is that they all seem to follow the same methodology, Robert Langdon, a protagonist adept at solving mysteries no one else in the world can, a woman, especially young, in awe of him, helping him find solutions and escape from inescapable places, an antagonist, at times hiding in plain sight, a labyrinth of several artworks/literary pieces which threaten to ruin people’s faith/life/world and jumps to multiple cities/countries before the final revelation, forming a thrilling 24-hour journey with numerous flashbacks, with minimal or no difference. Inferno is no different. The only thing that makes me pick up his books are the plots around which the novel is built, instigating me to look for information about the concerned topic with a newfound inquisitiveness.
Inferno talks about the most important evil of all times, over-population, the problem of all other problems. If the author’s claims via Zobrist’s calculations regarding the exponential population growth are to be believed, then boy, we are doomed. With the human count going up untamed, and the resources going down to zero, one can only think of the condition our world is gonna get into in near future, the fight for survival will be greater than it has ever been before. I just hope that despite all its flaws, the concerns raised in this novel are taken seriously by each and all, for a livable world.