Dan Brown fans rejoice with the latest installment (2013) of the adventures of the fictional symbologist from Harvard, Professor Robert Langdon. Like the Da Vinci Code, Inferno is set mainly in Italy, but this time in Florence and Venice. Visitors to these cities will find his descriptions of some of the principal sites familiar. The puzzle Langdon must solve is based on Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” As usual, Brown mixes art, architecture, history, and theology in a fast-paced novel that, as in Angels and Demons, has the world on the brink of destruction. This time the villain is a geneticist who wants to save the world from overpopulation. The villain, and his extensive and powerful network, assumes that nineteenth century Parson Malthus was correct when he theorized that while human population increases geometrically, food sources increase arithmetically, meaning that food scarcity, famine, and death is assured. However, with new technology and increased productivity, the Malthusian calculus is eminently challengeable. But, of course, this would ruin the plot. Two moral questions lie at the core of this book. The first is whether human beings should die in order to save humanity; “cull the herd,” as it were, to ensure the survival of the species. The second question is whether genetic manipulation is a blessing or a curse. Both these interesting question remain unresolved by the disappointing ending.
Rabbi Wayne Allen
After being graduated from New York University with a B.A. in philosophy and Phi Beta Kappa, Rabbi Allen attended the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he earned a Masters degree in Rabbinics and went on to receive rabbinic ordination. He has served as a congregational rabbi for almost 34 years, taking on postings in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto.