Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown announced the title of his next novel, Inferno, in characteristically cryptic fashion, relying on thousands of fans to fill in a "social media photomosaic using Facebook and Twitter." (Watch the video announcement for Inferno below.) The new book, which is scheduled for release on May 14, 2013, is the fourth outing for Brown's signature protagonist Robert Langdon, who debuted in 2000's Angels & Demons and last appeared in 2009's The Lost Symbol. What can Brown's legions of fans expect from Inferno? A guide:
First — why Inferno?
"Although I studied Dante's Inferno in high school, it wasn't until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante's work on the modern world," said Brown in a statement. "With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm... a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways."
Is there any other information on Inferno's plot?
Amazon's book description offers this info: "In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces... Dante's Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante's dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust... before the world is irrevocably altered."
What do critics think?
They're less than pleased. "If Dan Brown does for Dante what he did for Leonardo [Da Vinci], the general public will probably be delighted, while the scholarly community will probably tear out their hair," says Stephen Milner, the Serena professor of Italian at Manchester University, in an interview with The Independent. In the months after its release, The Da Vinci Code proved maddening for many religious scholars, who found it difficult to convince the novel's millions of fans that its dramatic "revelations" about Jesus Christ were truly fictional, and some fear that Brown's decision to tackle Dante's revered, Christianity-infused text could have a similar effect.
Will there be a movie adaptation of Inferno?
That probably depends on the success or failure of the upcoming film adaptation of 2009's The Lost Symbol, which was Dan Brown's previous Robert Langdon book. The Lost Symbol will reportedly enter pre-production in 2013, with Never Let Me Go's Mark Romanek as a possible director and Tom Hanks reprising the role of Robert Langdon for a third time. While Ron Howard's 2006 adaptation of The Da Vinci Code earned more than $750 million during its run at the box office, 2009 follow-up Angels & Demons earned just under $500 million — a solid gross, but a sign that the franchise may not have a long-term future at the box-office.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Inferno's cover was officially revealed. Dan Brown is notorious for embedding cryptic secrets in the covers of his books — what mysteries could Inferno's cover hide?