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Posted January 24, 2014
Posted September 26, 2013
Review on free copy received from publisher. Dan Burstein and Ar
Review on free copy received from publisher.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer have been unearthing the facts behind Dan Brown’s fiction since 2004 when their first book in the
Secrets-series, Secrets of the Code, spent six months on the New York Times bestseller list. I have not read any of their previous
offerings, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading Secrets of Inferno in which they analyse Dan Brown’s Inferno which came out in May of this
Burstein and De Keijzer have assembled a team of experts from various fields touched upon in Brown’s novel who manage to give a
very balanced view of Brown’s novel while also giving readers more insight into their respective areas of expertise.
Almost the entire first half of the book is devoted to Dante and his Divine Comedy. Aside from Burstein himself, various experts on
Renaissance literature, art and history give their take on Dante’s epic poem and Brown’s use of it in his novel.
What struck me about this section was the passion with which almost every contributor spoke of the Commedia. Needless to say,
some take issue with Brown’s treatment of this work, but then there was also the highly enjoyable and interesting essay by Professor
Glenn W. Erickson who argues that one could very well see Brown’s Inferno as a modern parody of Dante’s, which would imply that
Brown actually understands it much better than it would appear.
The second section focuses on some of the issues raised by Brown in his novel. It mainly consists of interviews with experts from the
fields of population studies, future studies, emerging technologies and epidemiology and virology, as well as two influential members
of the transhumanist movement, Humanity+.
While most of the interviewees seem to disagree with Brown’s interpretation of humanity’s current state, De Keijzer also interviews
Paul Ehrlich, author of the controversial book, The Population Bomb, who might very well have served as partial inspiration for
Brown’s antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist.
While still mostly interesting, I did not enjoy this section as much as the first, but that’s probably just because the interview-format
doesn't really appeal to me. However, this section is invaluable for those interested in the actual science which lies behind the fiction.
Section three contains an essay by David A. Shugarts, Dan Brown expert and a regular contributor to the Secrets
series, who climbs into Brown’s Inferno with gloves off and highlights some of the things Brown either missed or ignored
regarding his locations and their histories, as well as factual errors, writing slip-ups and inconsistencies in the novel.
In the final section we revisit Dante’s Firenze, including some beautiful photographs by Julie O’Connor, before Burstein closes with
a final essay where he reflects on the moral message of Brown’s Inferno, that, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those
who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis,” as well as some of the other references and allusions Brown makes to both
Dante’s culture and his own.
Secrets of Inferno is a relaxing read and is well worth the time whether you've read Brown’s Inferno or not and whether you're a fan
of Dan Brown or not.
At the very least Secrets of Inferno might convince you to read Dante’s Inferno (and Purgatorio and Paradiso), which I think would
satisfy Messrs Burstein and De Keijzer. I know it has convinced me.