Inferno (Dan Brown novel)
First edition cover
|Series||Robert Langdon #4|
|Genre||Mystery, Fact fiction, Conspiracy fiction, Thriller|
|May 14, 2013|
|Media type||Print, e-book|
|Preceded by||The Lost Symbol|
Inferno is a 2013 mystery thriller novel by American author Dan Brown and the fourth book in his Robert Langdon series, following Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol. The book was released on May 14, 2013 by Doubleday. It was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction and Combined Print & E-book fiction for the first eleven weeks of its release, and also remained on the list of E-book fiction for the first seventeen weeks of its release.
Harvard University professor Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital with a head wound and no memory of the last few days. His last memory is walking on the Harvard campus, but he quickly realizes that he is now in Florence. Sienna Brooks, one of the doctors tending to him, tells him he suffered a concussion from being grazed by a bullet and had stumbled into the emergency ward. Suddenly, Vayentha, a female assassin who has been following Robert, breaks into the hospital, shoots the doctor in charge of Robert's care, and approaches Robert's room. Sienna grabs Robert and they flee to her apartment.
After Sienna recounts the details of his admission to hospital, Robert finds a cylinder with a biohazard sign in his jacket and decides to call the U.S. consulate. He is told that they are searching for him and want his location. Per Sienna's guidance, Robert gives them a location across the street from Sienna's apartment to avoid getting Sienna more involved in his mysterious situation than she already is. Soon, Robert sees an armed Vayentha pull up to the location Robert gave the consulate. At this point Sienna and Robert believe the U.S. government wants to kill him.
Robert decides to open the container and finds a small medieval bone cylinder fitted with a hi-tech projector that displays a modified version of Botticelli's Map of Hell. At the bottom of the illumination are the words "The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death." Suddenly, soldiers raid Sienna's building; Sienna and Robert narrowly escape.
Robert and Sienna head toward the Old City, believing the cylinder must have something to do with Dante. However, they find that Florentine police and Carabinieri officers have sealed the bridges and are searching for them. They run into a construction site near the Boboli Gardens where Robert illuminates the modified "Map of Hell" again, notices that individual letters, which collectively spell "CATROVACER," have been added to each of the ten layers of the Malebolge, and that the layers have been rearranged. Moving them back to the order in the original Botticelli "Map of Hell" yields the words "CERCA TROVA". Robert recognizes these are the same words on the painting The Battle of Marciano by Vasari, located in the Palazzo Vecchio. Robert and Sienna manage to evade the soldiers and get into the Old City using the Vasari Corridor.
Robert stands in front of The Battle of Marciano trying to figure out where to go next by connecting the "eyes of death" phrase in the modified "Map of Hell" with his location. A custodian sees Robert snooping around and gets the director of the museum in the Palazzo Vecchio, Marta Alvarez. Marta recognizes Robert, having met him and Ignazio Busoni, the director of Il Duomo, the previous night. She leads Robert and Sienna up a set of stairs by The Battle of Marciano, and Robert realizes the top of the stairs is on the same level as the words "cerca trova" in the The Battle of Marciano painting. Marta tells Robert that she showed them Dante's death mask the previous night, which sits in a room down the hall from the Battle of Marciano painting. Robert realizes he is retracing his own steps from the previous night. Marta takes Robert and Sienna to the mask who find that it's gone. They look at security footage and see Robert himself and Ignazio stealing the mask. The museum guards turn on Robert and Sienna. At this moment, Marta calls Ignazio's office to question him but is greeted by his secretary, who informs Marta that Ignazio died of a heart attack the other night but left a message for Robert moments before he died. Ignazio's secretary asks to speak with Robert and plays to him Ignazio's message. In it Ignazio esoterically tells Robert where the mask is hidden, referring to "Paradise 25."
Robert and Sienna escape the guards, but the soldiers arrive. They cross the attic over the Apotheosis of Cosimo I, where Sienna pushes Vayentha to her death. Robert connects the phrase "Paradise 25" to the Florence Baptistry, where he and Sienna find the Dante mask along with a riddle from its current owner, a billionaire geneticist named Bertrand Zobrist. Sienna later explains that Zobrist was a geneticist who advocated the halting of humanity's growth, due to its out of control population. And that he was rumored to be working on a means to do so using an engineered disease. A man named Jonathan Ferris, with a large bruise on his chest which he hides from the two, and a severe rash on his face, claiming to be from the World Health Organization (WHO), comes and helps them escape the soldiers. They follow the riddle to Venice, where Ferris suddenly falls unconscious, with Sienna claiming he is suffering from massive internal bleeding, causing Langdon to suspect Ferris has been infected with Zobrist's plague. Robert is captured by a group of black-clad soldiers while Sienna escapes.
Robert is taken to Elizabeth Sinskey, the director-general of the WHO, and is given an explanation of what is going on: Zobrist, who committed suicide the week before, was a brilliant geneticist and Dante fanatic who has supposedly developed a new biological plague that will kill off a large portion of the world's population in order to quickly solve the problem of the world's impending overpopulation, citing the Doomsday Argument. Elizabeth raided Zobrist's safe deposit box, found the cylinder, and flew Robert to Florence to follow the clues. However, Robert stopped communicating with Elizabeth after meeting with Marta and Ignazio, and the WHO feared he betrayed them and was working with Zobrist to unleash the plague. The soldiers were the WHO's emergency response team and never meant to kill Robert.
Zobrist had paid a shadowy consulting group called The Consortium to protect the cylinder until a certain date. He also left a disturbing video filled with Dante imagery, which also showed a picture of the plague itself, kept in a hidden underwater location, within a slowly dissolving bag. The video claims that the world will be changed the following morning. When Elizabeth took it away, they were obligated to protect whatever the bone cylinder pointed to. They kidnapped Robert after the meeting with Marta and Ignazio, but Robert hadn't yet solved the whole riddle. They gave Robert benzodiazepine drugs to erase his short-term memory, created a fake head wound, and staged every event up to this point so that Robert would be motivated to solve it. Sienna, Vayentha, and Ferris are all actors working for The Consortium; the call to the U.S. consulate was also staged. The leader of The Consortium, having become aware of the bioterrorism plot, has agreed to cooperate with the WHO. Ferris's rash was due to an allergic reaction to the spirit gum he used as part of the disguise as the doctor Vayentha "murdered". His bruises were because the squib used to simulate him being shot in the chest misfired and broke his ribs. He collapsed in Venice because he had been ordered to detain Sienna, as the Provost (Consortium head) had allied with Sinskey, with Sienna realizing and punching him in his damaged ribs.
Sienna goes rogue, and The Consortium realizes she was a secret supporter and lover of Zobrist. She learned where the plague is being kept after Robert solved the riddle and acquires a private jet to get to it before everyone else. Robert, the WHO, and The Consortium, team up to stop her. From watching Zobrist's video they conclude that the bag containing the plague will be fully dissolved by the date the video specifies, and that Zobrist's clues point to its location: the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where Enrico Dandolo is buried. Robert and the others find the plague is in the Cistern, but discover that Sienna is already there. The bag that held the plague had already been broken, presumably spreading through the outer world via visiting tourists. Sienna runs out of the Cistern yelling something in Turkish, which causes panic among the tourists who stampede out into the city, while Langdon gives chase.
It is discovered Sienna didn't puncture the bag; it was water soluble and had dissolved one week previously in the Cistern waters, meaning that the whole world has already been infected. The date specified in Zobrist's video was the mathematical calculation of when the entire world would be infected. It is also discovered that Sienna was trying to stop the virus herself, but didn't trust the WHO because samples of the virus would certainly find their way into the hands of governments performing weapons research. The leader of The Consortium tries to escape WHO custody with help from disguised underlings, but is caught later by Turkish police. It is implied that The Consortium will be investigated and ruined. Sienna receives amnesty in exchange for working with the WHO to address the crisis, since she is a medical doctor and has extensive knowledge of Zobrist's research and work.
The plague that Zobrist created is revealed to be a vector virus that randomly activates to employ DNA modification to cause sterility in 1/3 of humans. Even with future genetic engineering technology, changing the human genome back would be hazardous. The human race, therefore, has been forced into a new age.
- Robert Langdon: A professor of symbology at Harvard University.
- Bertrand Zobrist: A Transhumanist genius scientist and a madman who is obsessed with Dante's Inferno, he is intent on solving the world's overpopulation problem by releasing a virus.
- (Felicity) Sienna Brooks: A doctor and Zobrist's former lover. She also worked for The Consortium. She helps Langdon find the virus Zobrist created, but her past relationship with Zobrist makes her loyalty to Langdon suspicious until the end of the novel. She was a loyal disciple of Zobrist until she reads his last letter and decided to get his new technology before it can fall into the wrong hands. She believes the World Health Organization will cooperate with other government agencies to use Zobrist's new virus for weapons. She uses The Consortium and Robert to follow the Map of Hell and get to ground zero before everyone else, but she realizes that Zobrist had set off a futile search as he released his virus well beforehand.
- Elizabeth Sinskey: The head of the World Health Organization who hires Langdon to find Zobrist's virus.
- The Provost: The head of The Consortium. He tries to accomplish Zobrist's wishes by securing the location of the virus from Langdon and Sinskey and to divulge a video Zobrist made before his death to the media. When he learns that he was helping Zobrist in a bioterrorist attack, he helps the World Health Organization to find the weapon. He is eventually arrested for his hand in the events.
- Vayentha: The Consortium's agent in Florence who has orders to follow Langdon, she is later disavowed by The Consortium. She falls to her death following a confrontation with Robert and Sienna in the Palazzo Vecchio.
- Christoph Brüder: Head of the SRS team (part of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) who is ordered by Sinskey to find Langdon after she lost contact with him.
- Marta Alvarez: An employee in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence who assists Langdon with Dante's death mask. She is pregnant with her first child.
- Ignazio Busoni/il Duomino: The director of Il Duomo in Florence who assists Langdon with Dante's death mask. He succumbs to a heart attack prior to the events of the novel.
- Jonathan Ferris: An agent of The Consortium who pretends to be in league with the World Health Organization. He used fake eyebrows and a mustache to pretend to be Dr. Marconi at the beginning of the novel.
- Ettore Vio: The curator of St. Mark's basilica in Venice.
- Mirsat: A guide of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The Association for Research into Crimes against Art
A real organization, The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, and its blog, is mentioned in the novel. In chapter 72, Robert Langdon uses the ARCA website to check the history of the Four Horses of the Basilica San Marco, and is startled by the passage:
"The decorative collars were added to the horses' necks in 1204 by the Venetians to conceal where the heads had been severed to facilitate their transportation by ship from Constantinople to Venice."
This passage is taken from a series of four articles discussing the long and tumultuous history of the Four Horses of the Basilica San Marco, the art work with the longest history of crimes against it, written by Judge Arthur Tompkins. Judge Tompkins is an ARCA trustee and faculty member, who teaches a course on Art Crimes in War as part of ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program, and he includes detailed discussion of the Four Horses as part of his course.
Brown released the book's title on his website on January 15, 2013, after prompting readers to help reveal a digital mosaic using social media posts, and revealed the cover in late February 2013. The cover depicts the famous Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore located in Florence, Italy. He also published the first chapter of Inferno along with a free ebook of The Da Vinci Code on March 17. The ebook was distributed for free to readers worldwide through online e-book stores like Amazon, Google Play and Barnes & Noble until March 24, 2013. Transworld publishers, the official UK publisher of Dan Brown books, have also released the official book trailer through YouTube.
Inferno has been translated into French, Russian, Turkish, German, Dutch, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish for simultaneous release. The publishers hired a team of 11 translators who worked on the project at the headquarters of Mondadori in Milan between February and April 2012. They were reportedly sequestered in a basement, and worked intensively under strict security and secrecy.
Inferno has been also translated into Persian by Afraz Publication, 3 months after first publishing. 
It has been also translated into Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian and Azerbaijani and released simultaneously in January 2014.
Inferno received mixed reviews from critics. The New York Times praised the book as being "jampacked with tricks" and said that Langdon is on "one of those book-length scavenger hunts that Mr. Brown creates so energetically" The New York Daily News reviewed the book favorably, calling it a book of "harrowing fun threaded with coded messages, art history, science, and imminent doom." Other reviews were more negative. James Kidd of The Independent panned Brown's awkward prose but expressed approval of the book's plot, writing: "Brown's fusion of gothic hyperbole with a pedant's tour-guide deliberately restrains the imagination through its awkward awfulness." The Boston Globe's Chuck Leddy compared the book favorably to Brown's previous works, and deemed it "the kind of satisfying escapist read that summers were made for." Samra Amir of The Express Tribune was critical of the novel's predictability and malapropism, but noted that "Brown’s art reigns over boredom. He manages to keep the reader glued." Writing for The Guardian, Peter Conrad dismissed the book's content as "conspiratorial farrago" and further elaborated: "Inferno is also dreadful, abounding in malapropisms and solecisms, leaden restatements of the obvious and naive disinformation about the reality outside the bat-thronged belfry that is Brown's head."
Inferno initially sold 369,000 copies at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. It debuted as the #1 bestselling book in the USA and was also atop the UK's book charts in its first week in shops, selling 228,961 copies. The book remained #1 on Nielsen BookScan for the week ending May 26, selling 211,000 copies and bringing its two-week total to 580,000. Despite slipping 42% in its second week, Inferno far outpaced the #2 book, Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed, which posted a debut of 91,000 copies.
Sony Pictures has dated a film adaptation to be released on October 14, 2016 with Ron Howard as director, David Koepp adapting the screenplay and Tom Hanks reprising his role as Robert Langdon. Filming is due to start in April 2015.
- Meslow, Scott (February 20, 2013). "Dan Brown's Inferno: Everything we know so far". The Week. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- McLaughlin, Erin (January 15, 2013). "New Dan Brown Novel, ‘Inferno,’ Set for May Release". ABC News. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- Brown, Dan. "Inferno." Bantam: 2013. Pg 318. Citations were removed from the text of the blogpost; the quoted passage is from Simon Houpt's "The Museum of the Missing" (2006).
- Farley, Christopher John (January 15, 2013). "'Da Vinci Code' Author Dan Brown Reveals 'Inferno,' Crashes Site". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- Flood, Alison (January 15, 2013). "Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code sequel Inferno revealed by readers". The Guardian (London). Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (February 20, 2013). "Dan Brown's book cover reveal: It's 'Da Vinci Code'-y!". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- Walker, Tim (7 May 2013) "Real Inferno for Dan Brown translators who toil in underground bunker to decode his latest book". The Independent
- Maslin, Janet (2013-05-12). "On a Scavenger Hunt to Save Most Humans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
- Connely, Sherryl (2013-05-14). "Dan Brown's powerful 'Inferno' thriller challenges readers with new puzzles based on Dante". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2013-05-14.
- Kidd, James (June 1, 2013). "Review: Inferno, By Dan Brown". London: The Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Leddy, Chuck. "‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Amir, Samra. "Book review: Dan Brown's Inferno - to hell with it". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Conrad, Peter (May 19, 2013). "Inferno by Dan Brown – review". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Tom Hanks' 'Inferno' Shifts Opening to 2016
- "Tom Hanks And Ron Howard To Return For Next Dan Brown Movie ‘Inferno’; Sony Sets December 2015 Release Date". Deadline.com. July 16, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- "Sony Pictures Locks Tom Hanks, Ron Howard For April ‘Inferno’ Start". Deadline.com. August 26, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- Official website
- An Inferno guide with places, artworks, history and people mentioned in the book (French)
- An Illustrated Guide to the Florence and Venice of Dan Brown's Inferno
- Florence Inferno Blog about symbols, mysteries, places, and personalities mentioned in the Dan Brown's novel. Frequently updated.
- Inferno at Goodreads