Saturday, June 15, 2013

miss rand -- call your lawyer

"Who is John Galt?"

The question rattled around inside the stunningly intelligent Robert Langdon's infernally darkened mind. He couldn't even remember the word he slipped charismatically into his own narratives to describe his brilliant memory.  Eidetic.  That was it.

"Something terrible has happened to you," a young, but stunningly intelligent voice, averred authoritatively.  "But I can't just blurt it out because your amnesia-muddled mind will burst like a swirling amber-hued sack of plague.  --  Probably shouldn't have said that.  --  Someone shot you in the head." 

He groggily focused on a pair of doe brown eyes, a runner's blond pony-tail, and a medical smock that could only have been tailored in a certain small shop on the west side of the Piazza San Croce.

"I'm Dagny Taggart. I'm a doctor and I am stunningly intelligent with an IQ that would humiliate you if I told you only the first three digits.  And I have absolutely no understanding of subtext.  But you need to move right now. Someone is trying to kill you."

"Why would anyone want to do that?" he asked, not being ably to think of any Roget-sized words.

"Because someone has to stop Dan Brown before he writes again."

Just then, a spiky-haired, stunningly intelligent leather lesbian burst through the doors firing a Glock 17C outfitted with an after-market silencer from Neiman Marcus. 

Dagny pressed a button, that no one had guessed might be there, and she and Langdon were sucked skyward defying gravity into a curved series of tunnels (a phrase translated into Urdu meaning "Satan's Navel" -- a fact both of them knew from their MENSA examination) that took them serially through three cities and two countries.   

On his way into the claustrophobic-inducing tunnel, Langdon failed to notice that back in the hospital room, the director just yelled: "Cut!"

Along the way we will meet the stunningly intelligent John Galt, a scientist so creative and brilliant in manipulating DNA that everyone thinks he is mad until he shows them all up by letting everyone believe he is going to destroy all of humanity -- and balance the American budget with neither spending cuts nor tax increases.

Then there is the stunningly intelligent Dr. Floyd Ferris, the head of the World Health Organization, who is a woman, but in this type of novel, it doesn't matter because her underlying evil is enough to make us want to have dinner with her -- no matter which rest room she chooses to use.

And the stunningly intelligent Dr. Robert Sadler, also called the Provost, who has reduced himself to the level of a fixer and living his entire life in a yacht in the middle of the Adriatic.  He does not allow his moral sensibilities to get in the way of getting a job done.  The type of guy who could use nothing more than his body to turn a lump of coal into a diamond.

The book is Dan Brown's latest novel -- Inferno.  And it is probably the worst installment of the Robert Langdon series.  And that is saying a lot.

It is essentially the same book he has written three times before.  And each one gets worse.  I fear my satiric take at the start of this post is only a pale imitation of just how purple Brown prose can be.

But what bothered me the most was Brown's view of the world.  I have heard echoes of it in the earlier books, but it is on full display here. 

And I finally put the mystery together.  Dan Brown is Ayn Rand.  At least, he has been doing a lot of grave robbing in Ayn's coffin.

You have undoubtedly already concluded the names Dagny Taggart, John Galt, Dr. Floyd Ferris, and Dr. Robert Stadler will not be found in Inferno.  They are names from Rand novels.  But the characters are essentially the same.

Highly intelligent people living in a Nietzschean nightmare world where science and logic need only be imposed on the little people to let the supermen (and women) solve all our needs. 

Brown writes scenes where his heroes are always alone doing whatever they need to do for The Greater Good.  Even in areas crowded with tourists, some silly distraction will allow Langdon to enter a room without disturbing any of the sheep.

That, of course, is the mark of a writer who believes we really do not need relationships in this world.   All we need is our mind.  No spouse.  No children.  Certainly no God.  In the same manner as Ayn Rand's self-satisfied remark when she first met Bill Buckley: "You are much too intelligent to believe in Gott."

Tie that type of teenage philosophizing into this series of tinny sentences.

"These six words ... welled up from the bottom of the stairs like the ominous stench of death.

"Only one form of contagion travels faster than a virus.  And that's fear."

"Langdon suddenly felt a ghostly pall envelop him, as if the long fingers of an unseen hand were reaching out of the earth and raking his flesh."

Or leaden dialog like: "Send the drone back up. I'll check this cave here."  Even a Star Wars script would not be so devoid of subtext.

I have about thirty more.  But I will not inflict on you what Dan Brown inflicted on me.  What I kept asking myself was: "Where was the editor?"

What made Brown's book doubly painful is that I have just finished reading Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood.  Wolfe is such a masterful craftsman that Brown and Wolfe do not even seem to be writing in the same language.

And after struggling through all of that, Brown does what he has done in each previous Langdon novel.  He promises us answers to the great mysteries of life -- only to serve up the most tepid of gruel. 

Not only is there no there there.  There wasn't any there in the first place.  Once again Lucy snatches the football from Charlie Brown's kick.

My advice:  skip Brown; read Wolfe -- almost anything by Wolfe.  But if you feel compelled to read Brown, I suggest reading him in the Ayn Rand original.

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