Originally published June 2013

If only we could all use amnesia as an excuse for being forgetful.

And so it goes with Tom Hanks … I mean, Robert Langdon in Inferno, Dan Brown’s latest novel and the third in his series featuring the whipsmart art and symbology (I think I just made up a profession) professor. Hanks/Langdon has just woken up to find himself in a hospital with a gunshot graze to the head, not remembering a thing and stunned further to learn he’s in Italy.

The heavy religious overtones are not as readily at the forefront in this tale, instead focusing Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” (Yes, religious, but not to the same degree as “Da Vinci”) and “The Consortium”—an organization that assists its clients with whatever it is they desire to do—in this case, the ability to completely disappear for a year to complete a project. And until now, The Consortium hadn’t given much thought to the possible outcomes of their involvement with any particular client. But when you suddenly realize you may be complicit in ending the human race, well…

Langdon’s goal this time is to stop the release of a supervirus created by your stereotypical narcissistic whackjob who thinks his actions ultimately will save the world, instead of destroying it. Now, you can’t really argue with most of the extremely valid points made when it comes to the threat of overpopulation—so, if you’re an OCD/anxiety-ridden type who just doesn’t need another worry on the brain, you may want to wait to read this. It’s fiction, but still.

The role of woman-who-isn’t-Langdon’s-lover-but-the-sexual-tension-is-there is in this turn filled by Sienna Brooks, a doctor who is also a child actress who is also some sort of mega genius with a past. This is where the book got a little fuzzy for me, in that I’m not quite sure I buy the twist. But if I say much more, I could spoil it. So there.

Should you read it? If you’re a casual Dan Brown fan, sure. Love everything he writes? Absolutely. If you’re a one-and-done type, and filled the order with “The Da Vinci Code,” you’re probably fine. For anyone who has visited Florence and Venice, Brown’s finely-detailed visual interpretation should be a treat. And for book clubs and those that just like to ponder, the book does offer up its fair share of ethical questions—the most important being, if you could save the world and the people in it but had to kill off half the population to do so, would you? As Dante says, “The darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Makes you think. (For the record, it’s a big ‘ol Hell to the no for me. I’m all for humanity in perpetuity, but I couldn’t pull the the trigger.)

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