Dan Brown is one of few ‘ridiculously famous’ authors, dizzying heights that have only been seen by JK Rowling and EL James. Most people have read the books or seen the films and that he brings together two worlds that are normally seen at loggerheads: science and religion. Well, they do say write what you know. In his first UK event at the impressive Freemason’s Hall, London, Brown talks of growing up in two worlds; mathematics and church. His father encouraged questions, doubt and scientific curiosity; whereas, his mother was The Church Lady, the church organist and choir director.
People talk of this battle as if it is something old fashion. How dare Brown do this, in a world of logic and absolutes, there are longer shades of grey. We may be more rational in this enlightened, black and white world but the clash of the titans is still going strong. I may be projecting my own prejudices but the Church is always interfering. For example, the distribution condoms in Africa to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease, the Church feels differently. As long as these two worlds are fighting, Brown’s fiction has a place in this world. His latest book ‘Inferno’ is addressing a similar subject: overpopulation. Religion features but not as heavily, instead he uses Dante’s epic ‘The Divine Comedy’ to aid protagonist Robert Langdon on his ‘quest’. His journey is literal and metaphorical for Langdon and others, descending into a world of death and sin, “the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”
He also talks of miracles, not so much the act, but where they can be found. Miracles can be seen in religion, obviously, yet they can be seen in science too. Natural Selection, the Big Bang and the Electron are difficult to fathom, just the like the stories of Creation, Floods and Virgin Births. Religion giveth, science taketh away. However, Brown also talked of science’s downfalls. The nearer you get to explaining something scientifically, the more uncertainty there is; imaginary numbers, theories and the like. Brown is overlooked in his ability to tackle these two leviathans. Critics may put down his prose and style, but you cannot doubt the man’s knowledge. He readily admits that Langdon is cleverer than he, the character’s quick dry wit may have taken days for the writer to come up with. And when he struggles, he hangs upside down.
Even if you don’t love the books, you must love the man. He is charismatic and charming, a literary James Bond. He goes on bizarre adventures to idyllic places, and enjoys throwing out the odd red herring, seen in the wrong places and well hidden in the right. He talks passionately about his mother, father and upbringing; cutting carrots and fishing during church. His talk was filled with props including his parent’s license plates: KYRIE and METRIC. He also brought his first book that he wrote when he was 5 titled ‘The Giraffe, The Pig and the Pants on Fire’. Transcribed by his mother, this book was the start of Brown’s writing career, even with its cardboard cover and print run of one. ‘Inferno’ sold almost 230,000 copies in the UK alone, love him or hate him, it’s the book everyone’s talking about.
What did I think of ‘Inferno’? It’s a brilliant read, very Dan Brown. It’s well researched, it takes you to artistic and fantastic places but it ticks all the boxes of Brown’s traits. Its fast paces, dangerous, informative and insightful. You never quite know what will come next and keeping the reader intrigued. If anyone knows how to finish a chapter, it’s Dan Brown. He’s tackling a very current and pressing issue with historical flare. Yet, I feel I’ve read it before. It’s better than Lost Symbol but it’s no Angels and Demons. Maybe it’s time for Langdon to retire, he must sick of people trying to kill him, he is just a professor after all.