One way to read Dan Brown

I’ve just enjoyed a romp through Florence, Venice and Istanbul in Dan Brown’s latest, The Inferno. It was the usual mix of conspiracy, skulduggery, historical intrigue, ancient symbols, secret societies, hidden codes, beautiful women and travelogue.

Bugger the literati – if I want to read a Dan Brown book, I will. It certainly requires willing suspension of disbelief, but my English lecturers at Uni told us such suspension was the key to enjoying another author – their precious Shakespeare. What’s good for the Bard’s good for the world’s best selling novelist.

I’ve discovered the secret to reading a Dan Brown novel – enhance his words with pictures and maps. I did this with his first real blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code. I was late to that book, partly because of my own snobbery, encouraged by reviewer complaints about Brown’s sometimes clumsy prose and unlikely plots.

Then one day in the Martinborough library I found a deluxe edition of the Da Vinci Code. It had many beautiful colour illustrations of people, places, heraldry, symbols and the like. I read it and enjoyed it – the book came to life. And I discovered Brown was really good at twisting plots and spinning yarns.

His next book, The Lost Symbol, was only so-so, but I found The Inferno intriguing. The story raced along nicely, but really came alive for me because I was able to follow the fun visually, through  Google apps on my Google Nexus 7 tablet. I also knew a little of Florence, where most of the book is set, after holidaying there a few years ago.

It became a multimedia experience, with my Kindle enhanced by Google’s Earth, Maps and Streetview, plus Google Images on my browser. I also dipped into Wikipedia and added a Vivaldi sound track via my tablet’s music player and a set of headphones.

Scenes in Florence, from Google Streetview on my Nexus 7 tablet. Left: The Bomboli Gardens. (Note the fuzzed out genitals. Google is as bad as the English in Victorian times. I saw lots of fuzzings-out on statues during my Streetview tour of Florence.) Centre: Piazza della Signoria, with the Palazzo Vecchio in the background. The book's protagonist, Robert Langdon, had an adventurous time in this building. Right: Typical of the many narrow Florence streets Langdon negotiated while escaping various pursuers. (Click to enlarge.)

Scenes in Dan Brown’s Florence, from Google Streetview on my Nexus 7 tablet. Left: the Bomboli Gardens. (Note the fuzzed out genitals. Google is as bad as the Victorian English – I saw many fuzzings-out on Florence statues during my Streetview tour. At least the damage is virtual rather than real – the Poms whacked dangly bits off their statues with hammers. So did a pope in the Vatican Museum.) Centre: Piazza della Signoria, with the Palazzo Vecchio in the background. The book’s protagonist, Robert Langdon, had an adventurous time in this building. Right: typical of the many narrow Florence streets Langdon negotiated while escaping various pursuers. (Click to enlarge.)

Dante's death mask, held in the Palazzo Vecchio, had a key role in the plot.

Dante’s death mask, held in the Palazzo Vecchio, had a key role in the plot. This is from Google Images.

As I often do before reading a book, I checked out what other people had been saying about it on the Amazon website. It averaged four out of five stars from readers who might not be Pulitzer Prize adjudicators, but knew what they liked. Below are a couple of their reviews. I agree with the first one, but the second…well…

Amazon five star review: “I am so glad that Dan Brown has drawn me back into Robert Langdon’s world. I wasn’t too thrilled with his last book but couldn’t put this one down! I hope this is made into a movie next. I was fascinated with the Dante back story as well as the beautiful locations. Nice twists in the story, don’t want to say anything more so I don’t give anything away. Thought provoking and exciting. Thank you Mr. Brown for taking me out of my reality and into Robert Langdon’ s for such a great adventure!”

Florence's famous Duomo cathedral, from Streetview.

Florence’s famous Duomo cathedral, from Streetview.

Amazon two star review: “book not good i tryed to read it but it smelt bad i threw it away and ate my cat” [sic]

Istanbul-Cisterns

Basilica Cistern, close to the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s cathedral-turned-mosque. The last act in Brown’s Inferno was played out in the Cistern.

My Kindle and the similarly sized Nexus 7 were ideal companions for the reading experience.

Kindle, Nexus 7 and Dan Brown's Inferno

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