I’ve just started Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’. I’ve seen the previous Dan brown movies but never read his books. I tried once with the first one but found I disliked the writing style so much I never finished the book. This time because of the great accolades the book has received, I became curious to see if his style of writing might have changed.
Afraid I still don’t like the writing. It makes my fingers itch to edit – I could cut maybe half the book and not lose a second of the action.On the up side, he writes very good action sequences – they are quick, visible and well-choreographed. The action sequences have short sentences and the words used are short and to the point. He has an eye for movement and is good at building suspense, which is always a close run thing because taking too much time over it causes boredom and skipping instead of the wish to know more.
Dialogue – well what can I say? Most of it is contrived, too long and he describes the tone of the words with –ly adjectives as if he feels insecure that the dialogue is creating the right impression on the reader. Some of it makes you cringe, some of it makes you laugh.
Narrative prose – Brown has a masterly way of creating flowing narrative prose but he interrupts the flow with interjected descriptive prose. He also has a really amateurish knack of giving detailed descriptions of characters who are of no particular interest. Details of faces and clothes are great but not when they are put in as a routine – it shows. One character at the beginning of Inferno is of little consequence but his face is vividly described. One ends up reading those details and becoming distracted. It is a technique used by PD James and I’ve never got to grips with the idea. I think (OK, what do I know) descriptive prose should be detailed, colourful, and suggestive – leading the reader to make connections instead of ‘in your face’ blank detail. Graham Greene had an amazing way of writing in two lines what writers like Brown do in two pages.
The story is good though – action packed, suspenseful and happily the writing doesn’t spoil it overmuch. Let’s face it, story is everything and that is the bottom line.
SPOILER ALERT! Don't read the next bit if it might spoil the story!
The most glaring error of the book had me smiling all morning. In chapter 5 (I think) the protagonist has escaped from a hired killer and he and Sienna (a young, beautiful, talented, willing and resourceful doctor– never met one myself ) are in the back of a cab. He still has the IV cannula in his arm. She reaches down with her hand and pulls it out. Unfortunately in modern medicine we call these IV’s ‘cannulae’ not catheters. The book states that she reaches down and pulls out his ‘catheter’ and it causes him agony to the point of fainting.
And so it might. There are many kinds of catheter – cardiac catheters,pulmonary catheters and most common of all are - urinary catheters. If you say 'catheter' without qualifying it is immediately brings to mind a urinary catheter. The latter is a small bore tube placed through the urethra into the bladder and a small inflatable balloon on its tip is blown up with some air to keep it in place. If you pull violently on the catheter the balloon can deform but it widens the urethra as it comes out – a procedure that causes pain like the fiery finger of Satan himself. You have to empty the balloon with a small syringe before you can remove it. I do recall two demented old fellas when I was a senior house officer in Clatterbridge Hospital in Liverpool. They sat outside the geriatric ward having a competition to see who could throw their almost full bag of urine the furthest. One of them succeeded and the balloon dilated his urethra as it cameout, so he was passing blood in his urine for a week.
What was funny in ‘Inferno’ was that I had a vivid picture in my head of Sienna pulling out Robert’s urinary catheter. No wonder he fainted with the pain.
For heaven’s sake, we call them catheters in the bladder and Cannula(e) in the arm. Sorry, but can’t stop smiling about it. There they are in imminent danger and she does that to the poor guy. It would put him off the rest of the action – wouldn’t it?