Amazon Exclusive: Inside Inferno
Explore the sights of Inferno alongside Robert Langdon in this exclusive first look at Dan Brown's latest thriller.
As Langdon continued on toward the elbow of the square, he could
see, directly ahead in the distance, the shimmering blue glass dial of the
St. Mark’s Clock Tower—the same astronomical clock through which
James Bond had thrown a villain in the film Moonraker.
The Tetrarchs statue was well known for its missing foot, broken
off while it was being plundered from Constantinople in the thirteenth
century. Miraculously, in the 1960s, the foot was unearthed in Istanbul.
Venice petitioned for the missing piece of statue, but the Turkish authorities
replied with a simple message: You stole the statue—we’re keeping our
Amid a contour of spires and domes, a single illuminated facade dominated
Langdon’s field of view. The building was an imposing stone fortress
with a notched parapet and a three-hundred-foot tower that swelled
near the top, bulging outward into a massive machicolated battlement.
Langdon found himself standing before a familiar face—that of Dante Alighieri.
Depicted in the legendary fresco by Michelino, the great poet stood before
Mount Purgatory and held forth in his hands, as if in humble offering,
his masterpiece The Divine Comedy.
Amazon Exclusve: Additional Reading Suggestions from Dan Brown
- The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno—(Penguin Classics)
- The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology—Ray Kurzweil (Author)
- Brunelleschi's Dome—Ross King (Author)
- The Lives of the Artists Volume 1—Giorgio Vasari (Author), George Bull (Translator)
- The Book Of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images—ARAS
Q&A with Dan Brown
Q. Inferno refers to Dante Alighieri´s The Divine Comedy. What is Dante’s significance? What features of his work or life inspired you?
A. The Divine Comedy—like The Mona Lisa—is one of those rare artistic achievements that transcends its moment in history and becomes an enduring cultural touchstone. Like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, The Divine Comedy speaks to us centuries after its creation and is considered an example of one of the finest works ever produced in its artistic field. For me, the most captivating quality of Dante Alighieri is his staggering influence on culture, religion, history, and the arts. In addition to codifying the early Christian vision of Hell, Dante’s work has inspired some of history’s greatest luminaries—Longfellow, Chaucer, Borges, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Monteverdi, Michelangelo, Blake, Dalí—and even a few modern video game designers. Despite Dante’s enduring influence on the arts, however, most of us today have only a vague notion of what his work actually says—both literally and symbolically (which, of course, is of great interest to Robert Langdon). A few years ago, I became very excited about the prospect of writing a contemporary thriller that incorporated the philosophy, history, and text of Dante’s timeless descent into The Inferno.
Q. Where did do your research for Inferno? How long did you spend on it?
A. Researching Inferno began with six months of reading, including several translations of The Divine Comedy, various annotations by Dante scholars, historical texts about Dante’s life and philosophies, as well as a lot of background reading on Florence itself. At the same time, I was poring over all the new scientific information that I could find on a cutting edge technology that I had decided to incorporate into the novel. Once I had enough understanding of these topics to proceed, I traveled to Florence and Venice, where I was fortunate to meet with some wonderful art historians, librarians, and other scholars who helped me enormously.
Once this initial phase of research was complete, I began outlining and writing the novel. As is always the case, when a book begins to take shape, I am drawn in unexpected directions that require additional research. This was also the case with Inferno, which took about 3 years from conception to publication.
With respect to the process, the success of these novels has been a bit of a Catch-22. On one hand, I now have wonderful access to specialists, authorities, and even secret archives from which to draw information and inspiration. On the other hand, because there is increased speculation about my works in progress, I need to be increasingly discreet about the places I go and the specialists with whom I speak. Even so, there is one aspect of my research that will never change—making personal visits to the locations about which I’m writing. When it comes to capturing the feel of a novel’s setting, I find there is no substitute for being there in the flesh...even if sometimes I need to do it incognito.
Q. What kind of adventure will Robert Langdon face this time? Can you give us any sneak peak at the new novel?
A. Inferno is very much a Robert Langdon thriller. It’s filled with codes, symbols, art, and the exotic locations that my readers love to explore. In this novel, Dante Alighieri’s ancient literary masterpiece—The Divine Comedy—becomes a catalyst that inspires a macabre genius to unleash a scientific creation of enormous destructive potential. Robert Langdon must battle this dark adversary by deciphering a Dante-related riddle, which leads him to Florence, where he finds himself in a desperate race through a landscape of classical art, secret passageways, and futuristic technology.
Q. What made Florence the ideal location for Inferno?
A. No city on earth is more closely tied to Dante Alighieri. Dante grew up in Florence, fell in love in Florence, and began writing in Florence. Later in life, when he was exiled for political reasons, the longing he felt for his beloved Florence became a catalyst for The Divine Comedy. Through his enduring poem, Dante enjoyed the “last word” over his political enemies, banishing them to various rings of Inferno where they suffered terrible tortures.
The memories materialized slowly . . . like bubbles surfacing from the darkness of a bottomless well.
A veiled woman.
Robert Langdon gazed at her across a river whose churning waters ran red with blood. On the far bank, the woman stood facing him, motionless, solemn, her face hidden by a shroud. In her hand she gripped a blue tainia cloth, which she now raised in honor of the sea of corpses at her feet. The smell of death hung everywhere.
Seek, the woman whispered. And ye shall find.
Langdon heard the words as if she had spoken them inside his head. “Who are you?” he called out, but his voice made no sound.
Time grows short, she whispered. Seek and find.
Langdon took a step toward the river, but he could see the waters were bloodred and too deep to traverse. When Langdon raised his eyes again to the veiled woman, the bodies at her feet had multiplied. There were hundreds of them now, maybe thousands, some still alive, writhing in agony, dying unthinkable deaths . . . consumed by fire, buried in feces, devouring one another. He could hear the mournful cries of human suffering echoing across the water.
The woman moved toward him, holding out her slender hands, as if beckoning for help.
“Who are you?!” Langdon again shouted.
In response, the woman reached up and slowly lifted the veil from her face. She was strikingly beautiful, and yet older than Langdon had imagined—in her sixties perhaps, stately and strong, like a timeless statue. She had a sternly set jaw, deep soulful eyes, and long, silver-gray hair that cascaded over her shoulders in ringlets. An amulet of lapis lazuli hung around her neck—a single snake coiled around a staff.
Langdon sensed he knew her . . . trusted her. But how? Why?
She pointed now to a writhing pair of legs, which protruded upside down from the earth, apparently belonging to some poor soul who had been buried headfirst to his waist. The man’s pale thigh bore a single letter—written in mud—R.
R? Langdon thought, uncertain. As in . . . Robert? “Is that . . . me?”
The woman’s face revealed nothing. Seek and find, she repeated.
Without warning, she began radiating a white light . . . brighter and brighter. Her entire body started vibrating intensely, and then, in a rush of thunder, she exploded into a thousand splintering shards of light.
Langdon bolted awake, shouting.
The room was bright. He was alone. The sharp smell of medicinal alcohol hung in the air, and somewhere a machine pinged in quiet rhythm with his heart. Langdon tried to move his right arm, but a sharp pain restrained him. He looked down and saw an IV tugging at the skin of his forearm.
His pulse quickened, and the machines kept pace, pinging more rapidly.
Where am I? What happened?
The back of Langdon’s head throbbed, a gnawing pain. Gingerly, he reached up with his free arm and touched his scalp, trying to locate the source of his headache. Beneath his matted hair, he found the hard nubs of a dozen or so stitches caked with dried blood.
He closed his eyes, trying to remember an accident.
Nothing. A total blank.
A man in scrubs hurried in, apparently alerted by Langdon’s racing heart monitor. He had a shaggy beard, bushy mustache, and gentle eyes that radiated a thoughtful calm beneath his overgrown eyebrows.
“What . . . happened?” Langdon managed. “Did I have an accident?”
The bearded man put a finger to his lips and then rushed out, calling for someone down the hall.
Langdon turned his head, but the movement sent a spike of pain radiating through his skull. He took deep breaths and let the pain pass. Then, very gently and methodically, he surveyed his sterile surroundings.
The hospital room had a single bed. No flowers. No cards. Langdon saw his clothes on a nearby counter, folded inside a clear plastic bag. They were covered with blood.
My God. It must have been bad.
Now Langdon rotated his head very slowly toward the window beside his bed. It was dark outside. Night. All Langdon could see in the glass was his own reflection—an ashen stranger, pale and weary, attached to tubes and wires, surrounded by medical equipment.
Voices approached in the hall, and Langdon turned his gaze back toward the room. The doctor returned, now accompanied by a woman.
She appeared to be in her early thirties. She wore blue scrubs and had tied her blond hair back in a thick ponytail that swung behind her as she walked.
“I’m Dr. Sienna Brooks,” she said, giving Langdon a smile as she entered. “I’ll be working with Dr. Marconi tonight.”
Langdon nodded weakly.
Tall and lissome, Dr. Brooks moved with the assertive gait of an athlete. Even in shapeless scrubs, she had a willowy elegance about her. Despite the absence of any makeup that Langdon could see, her complexion appeared unusually smooth, the only blemish a tiny beauty mark just above her lips. Her eyes, though a gentle brown, seemed unusually penetrating, as if they had witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person her age.
“Dr. Marconi doesn’t speak much English,” she said, sitting down beside him, “and he asked me to fill out your admittance form.” She gave him another smile.
“Thanks,” Langdon croaked.
“Okay,” she began, her tone businesslike. “What is your name?”
It took him a moment. “Robert . . . Langdon.”
She shone a penlight in Langdon’s eyes. “Occupation?”
This information surfaced even more slowly. “Professor. Art history . . . and symbology. Harvard University.”
Dr. Brooks lowered the light, looking startled. The doctor with the bushy eyebrows looked equally surprised.
“You’re . . . an American?”
Langdon gave her a confused look.
“It’s just . . .” She hesitated. “You had no identification when you arrived tonight. You were wearing Harris Tweed and Somerset loafers, so we guessed British.”
“I’m American,” Langdon assured her, too exhausted to explain his preference for well-tailored clothing.
“My head,” Langdon replied, his throbbing skull only made worse by the bright penlight. Thankfully, she now pocketed it, taking Langdon’s wrist and checking his pulse.
“You woke up shouting,” the woman said. “Do you remember why?”
Langdon flashed again on the strange vision of the veiled woman surrounded by writhing bodies. Seek and ye shall find. “I was having a nightmare.”
Langdon told her.
Dr. Brooks’s expression remained neutral as she made notes on a clipboard. “Any idea what might have sparked such a frightening vision?”
Langdon probed his memory and then shook his head, which pounded in protest.
“Okay, Mr. Langdon,” she said, still writing, “a couple of routine questions for you. What day of the week is it?”
Langdon thought for a moment. “It’s Saturday. I remember earlier today walking across campus . . . going to an afternoon lecture series, and then . . . that’s pretty much the last thing I remember. Did I fall?”
“We’ll get to that. Do you know where you are?”
Langdon took his best guess. “Massachusetts General Hospital?”
Dr. Brooks made another note. “And is there someone we should call for you? Wife? Children?”
“Nobody,” Langdon replied instinctively. He had always enjoyed the solitude and independence provided him by his chosen life of bachelorhood, although he had to admit, in his current situation, he’d prefer to have a familiar face at his side. “There are some colleagues I could call, but I’m fine.”
Dr. Brooks finished writing, and the older doctor approached. Smoothing back his bushy eyebrows, he produced a small voice recorder from his pocket and showed it to Dr. Brooks. She nodded in understanding and turned back to her patient.
“Mr. Langdon, when you arrived tonight, you were mumbling something over and over.” She glanced at Dr. Marconi, who held up the digital recorder and pressed a button.
A recording began to play, and Langdon heard his own groggy voice, repeatedly muttering the same phrase: “Ve . . . sorry. Ve . . . sorry.”
“It sounds to me,” the woman said, “like you’re saying, ‘Very sorry. Very sorry.’ ”
Langdon agreed, and yet he had no recollection of it.
Dr. Brooks fixed him with a disquietingly intense stare. “Do you have any idea why you’d be saying this? Are you sorry about something?”
As Langdon probed the dark recesses of his memory, he again saw the veiled woman. She was standing on the banks of a bloodred river surrounded by bodies. The stench of death returned.
Langdon was overcome by a sudden, instinctive sense of danger . . . not just for himself . . . but for everyone. The pinging of his heart monitor accelerated rapidly. His muscles tightened, and he tried to sit up.
Dr. Brooks quickly placed a firm hand on Langdon’s sternum, forcing him back down. She shot a glance at the bearded doctor, who walked over to a nearby counter and began preparing something.
Dr. Brooks hovered over Langdon, whispering now. “Mr. Langdon, anxiety is common with brain injuries, but you need to keep your pulse rate down. No movement. No excitement. Just lie still and rest. You’ll be okay. Your memory will come back slowly.”
The doctor returned now with a syringe, which he handed to Dr. Brooks. She injected its contents into Langdon’s IV.
“Just a mild sedative to calm you down,” she explained, “and also to help with the pain.” She stood to go. “You’ll be fine, Mr. Langdon. Just sleep. If you need anything, press the button on your bedside.”
She turned out the light and departed with the bearded doctor.
In the darkness, Langdon felt the drugs washing through his system almost instantly, dragging his body back down into that deep well from which he had emerged. He fought the feeling, forcing his eyes open in the darkness of his room. He tried to sit up, but his body felt like cement.
As Langdon shifted, he found himself again facing the window. The lights were out, and in the dark glass, his own reflection had disappeared, replaced by an illuminated skyline in the distance.
Amid a contour of spires and domes, a single regal facade dominated Langdon’s field of view. The building was an imposing stone fortress with a notched parapet and a three-hundred-foot tower that swelled near the top, bulging outward into a massive machicolated battlement.
Langdon sat bolt upright in bed, pain exploding in his head. He fought off the searing throb and fixed his gaze on the tower.
Langdon knew the medieval structure well.
It was unique in the world.
Unfortunately, it was also located four thousand miles from Massachusetts.
Outside his window, hidden in the shadows of the Via Torregalli, a powerfully built woman effortlessly unstraddled her BMW motorcycle and advanced with the intensity of a panther stalking its prey. Her gaze was sharp. Her close-cropped hair—styled into spikes—stood out against the upturned collar of her black leather riding suit. She checked her silenced weapon, and stared up at the window where Robert Langdon’s light had just gone out.
Earlier tonight her original mission had gone horribly awry.
The coo of a single dove had changed everything.
Now she had come to make it right.
I’m in Florence!?
Robert Langdon’s head throbbed. He was now seated upright in his hospital bed, repeatedly jamming his finger into the call button. Despite the sedatives in his system, his heart was racing.
Dr. Brooks hurried back in, her ponytail bobbing. “Are you okay?”
Langdon shook his head in bewilderment. “I’m in . . . Italy!?”
“Good,” she said. “You’re remembering.”
“No!” Langdon pointed out the window at the commanding edifice in the distance. “I recognize the Palazzo Vecchio.”
Dr. Brooks flicked the lights back on, and the Florence skyline disappeared. She came to his bedside, whispering calmly. “Mr. Langdon, there’s no need to worry. You’re suffering from mild amnesia, but Dr. Marconi confirmed that your brain function is fine.”
The bearded doctor rushed in as well, apparently hearing the call button. He checked Langdon’s heart monitor as the young doctor spoke to him in rapid, fluent Italian—something about how Langdon was “agitato” to learn he was in Italy.
Agitated? Langdon thought angrily. More like stupefied! The adrenaline surging through his system was now doing battle with the sedatives. “What happened to me?” he demanded. “What day is it?!”
“Everything is fine,” she said. “It’s early morning. Monday, March eighteenth.”
Monday. Langdon forced his aching mind to reel back to the last images he could recall—cold and dark—walking alone across the Harvard campus to a Saturday-night lecture series. That was two days ago?! A sharper panic now gripped him as he tried to recall anything at all from the lecture or afterward. Nothing. The ping of his heart monitor accelerated.
The older doctor scratched at his beard and continued adjusting equipment while Dr. Brooks sat again beside Langdon.
“You’re going to be okay,” she reassured him, speaking gently. “We’ve diagnosed you with retrograde amnesia, which is very common in head trauma. Your memories of the past few days may be muddled or missing, but you should suffer no permanent damage.” She paused. “Do you remember my first name? I told you when I walked in.”
Langdon thought a moment. “Sienna.” Dr. Sienna Brooks.
She smiled. “See? You’re already forming new memories.”
The pain in Langdon’s head was almost unbearable, and his near-field vision remained blurry. “What . . . happened? How did I get here?”
“I think you should rest, and maybe—”
“How did I get here?!” he demanded, his heart monitor accelerating further.
“Okay, just breathe easy,” Dr. Brooks said, exchanging a nervous look with her colleague. “I’ll tell you.” Her voice turned markedly more serious. “Mr. Langdon, three hours ago, you staggered into our emergency room, bleeding from a head wound, and you immediately collapsed. Nobody had any idea who you were or how you got here. You were mumbling in English, so Dr. Marconi asked me to assist. I’m on sabbatical here from the U.K.”
Langdon felt like he had awoken inside a Max Ernst painting. What the hell am I doing in Italy? Normally Langdon came here every other June for an art conference, but this was March.
The sedatives pulled harder at him now, and he felt as if earth’s gravity were growing stronger by the second, trying to drag him down through his mattress. Langdon fought it, hoisting his head, trying to stay alert.
Dr. Brooks leaned over him, hovering like an angel. “Please, Mr. Langdon,” she whispered. “Head trauma is delicate in the first twenty-four hours. You need to rest, or you could do serious damage.”
A voice crackled suddenly on the room’s intercom. “Dr. Marconi?”
The bearded doctor touched a button on the wall and replied, “Sì?”
The voice on the intercom spoke in rapid Italian. Langdon didn’t catch what it said, but he did catch the two doctors exchanging a look of surprise. Or is it alarm?
“Momento,” Marconi replied, ending the conversation.
“What’s going on?” Langdon asked.
Dr. Brooks’s eyes seemed to narrow a bit. “That was the ICU receptionist. Someone’s here to visit you.”
A ray of hope cut through Langdon’s grogginess. “That’s good news! Maybe this person knows what happened to me.”
She looked uncertain. “It’s just odd that someone’s here. We didn’t have your name, and you’re not even registered in the system yet.”