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article imageReview: Dan Brown's Inferno — The gates of hell or portal to heaven?

By Maria Elisa Anacay     Jun 16, 2013 in Entertainment
Contemporary author Dan Brown's latest novel received both praises and criticism from the Filipino nation. Was the criticism merited or was it the response of a scorned nation?
The thriller entitled Inferno follows the adventures of Harvard professor Robert Langdon as he leads readers to confront yet another controversial issue. After the globally acclaimed Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code, readers are already anticipating a whirlwind voyage that will reveal a juicy conspiracy. Yet Brown managed to blindside even the most loyal fans as he unveiled a world set in Dante’s Inferno and tackled transhumanism, a touchy topic at best. However, what takes the cake is how Brown surprised readers at every turn when his plot suddenly twisted to reveal a theory on controlling population growth.
Yet my review will not focus on that aspect. Alongside Brown’s international critics came the resounding criticism and praise from the Philippines as one of Brown’s lines managed to offend the Filipino nation. It even came to the point that a local official, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino even saw it as his civic journey to pen a missive to the internationally renowned author to give the latter a sound scolding.
In the story, Brown’s character Sienna Brooks, went to Manila, Philippines in a humanitarian effort. Once in Manila, she was shocked at the levels of poverty and was appealed by the population’s density. While she did her best to alleviate the locale’s hardships, a trio of hooligans cornered and was about to molest her. She was saved from her fate by the intervention of a local woman.
Following Sienna’s line of thought, the heroine dubbed the Philippines as the “gates of hell” when she witnessed the populated areas and six-hour traffic jam. Tolentino saw Brown’s attribution and took it as a personal affront; as the Chairman writes, Manila is not the ‘gates of hell’ but should be lauded as ‘portal of heaven.’
Filipino netizens immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started throwing virtual tomatoes at the novel. Yet after reading the novel, I can attest that Brown did not mean any harm. Rather, he was merely illustrating facts that are normally touted in the media.
True, traffic jams do not normally last for six hours, but Manila, as the most populated city in the world, has its merits. What the Filipino nation should do well to remember is that Dan Brown is a fiction author. Inferno, like the other Robert Langdon books, are fiction. Any similarities to living or similar places could be labeled as coincidence.
For me, Inferno is a well-written and well-researched novel. As for it being the best Robert Langdon title to date, I'll have to disagree. The Da Vinci Code still offers more thoughts to ponder upon.
More about Dan Brown, Inferno, Book review, Filipino
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