I recently finished reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. I almost always enjoy Brown’s novels (his misguided attempt at writing about signals intelligence in Digital Fortress was the sole exception). I enjoy his blend of action, current events, history and fictional conspiracies. I especially enjoy learning more about places I’ve visited and it makes me want to travel to see them once again.
Don’t worry, no spoilers of note will appear in this article…I want you to enjoy this book as much as I did.
I didn’t expect to be reviewing this book for these pages but the conspiracy in Inferno turned out to be a true ‘The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) event… biological terror plot of Earth shaking proportions.
As with every Dan Brown novel he draws from current events as well as history. In this case he sets up an adventure for Professor Robert Langdon, his protagonist from The Lost Symbol, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons that draws inspiration from a number of sources…most notably the Black Death Plague which reportedly cut the worlds population in half during the 14th century, current population growth models predicting a calamitous future as well as The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (free download for Kindle).
The Black Plague was undoubtedly a TEOTWAWKI event and is described in some detail in the book but in broad descriptions…think about what it would have been like to live through…half of your family, half of your friends and acquaintances gone over a period of just a few years. What would life be like if that were to happen today? How would we maintain key infrastructure, knowledge and know-how and still see to the business of living…half the police gone, half the medical community gone, half the morticians, schoolteachers, firefighters, probate lawyers and trash collectors dead, too sick to come to work or to afraid to leave the house… Our economic model is also based on a requirement to constantly increase the size of the workforce to pay for our retirees. A pandemic of that severity would undoubtedly lead to collapse of our economic system.
It’s funny that we don’t hear nearly as much in the media about the ‘population bomb’ as we did in the 1970’s and yet we’ve almost doubled the number of people on the planet since then. The implications of exponential population growth aren’t just increased chance of pandemic disease either…there would be increasing competition for scarce resources. To read more about the potential consequences try a non-fiction book that’s free to download…the Department of Defense’s Joint Operating Environment (JOE) 2010 and pay special attention to the discussions on increasing scarcity of water resources for additional information.
As disturbing as population growth models are to consider…the views some people have about what to do about population growth are even more disturbing… Brown’s antagonist believes that the solution is to suddenly and dramatically reduce the world population…even scarier, it’s not a worldview limited to fiction.
I enjoyed and recommend the book…but if you’re new to Brown’s Robert Langdon series start with Angels & Demons and work your way through The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbolbefore reading Inferno. However, if you’re a Dante Alighieri fan, or are planning trip to Florence, Venice or Istanbul soon you can jump straight to the book and go back and read the others at your leisure. Inferno is a little smaller in scope than the other books in this series… but still reads like another good road trip with an old friend.