7.0 Florence Tour Guide
Dan Brown should be crowned as the most achieved deceptive storyteller. Just when I thought I have tied up all the loose ends, the story suddenly cut into an unexpected corner “eeey? how did that happen? I thought…” Then I realized I was tricked, yet again.
Rich classical literatures, historical anecdotes and inexplicable symbols are now inseparable hallmarks of Robert Langdon’s adventures. Not far from Langdon’s previous adventure in Vatican, Florence is the new playground where Langdon played hide and seek with his predators. A treasured trove of mysterious artefacts and hidden levers, Dan Brown spared no ink to give us a profuse city tour of Florence through the Harvard iconography professor.
Waking up with a stitched scalp in a hospital bed, Langdon was told by the doctors that a bullet just missed his head! Sooner than the doctors could finish the story, was Langdon attacked by a dreadful assassin who killed the doctor in cold blood. More disturbing was that even the authorities were sending heavily armed soldiers to kill him. Langdon was constantly running for his life from deadly enemies in between the labyrinth of palaces, gardens and museums while trying to make sense of passing events. Flying bullets, buzzing surveillance drone and haunting nightmare were quickly cornering him, then just as the walls were cramping in around him, he slipped away. The amnesia surely didn’t help to explain why people wanted him dead badly. The only clue was a sophisticated projector which gave out a master painting of a vivid and horrifying hell. As the story unfold in a breathless dash across the city, Langdon also wasted no opportunity to share elaborative and engaging stories behind the ornate gates, painting and various landmarks.
Then just when Langdon was making a steady progress, all of a sudden nothing was making sense any more: his enemies had become allies; his loss of memory was medically induced and his new memories were forged through flawless illusions; even worse, the only person whom he trusted turned out to be very different from whom she claimed to be. Every time when a puzzle was unravelled, there was always enough flexibility cunningly carved out at the corner for the next manoeuvre. I was frantically racing through the page to keep pace with Langdon!
Perhaps it was the curse left by the hugely successful Da Vinci Code, I could not find any other Dan Brown book ever reaches that peak. Similar to Lost Symbol, the book has again tirelessly weaved in pages of explanation. The only difference was that this time he didn’t place them at the end of the book. However, it was sufficient to cruelly drag me out from my immersed imagination! There are many places the dialogues were constructed merely to explain the plots. A joke needs explanation is a bad joke; similar rule applies to novels too. Furthermore, I would have enjoyed more character developments. Langdon is still a claustrophobia Harvard professor. No other side kick was ever introduced. The actions of Sienna and Elizabeth towards the end felt more like they were tailored to suit the plot. I didn’t find the characters believable. Even the main theme of overpopulation did not stand out after reading the book.
Nonetheless, it is a book I highly recommend if you would like to visit Florence. A first class tour guide, though much less as an immersing novel.