Dan Brown’s Inferno (2013) though in the same mould of a thriller as his other novels such as Digital Fortress (1998), Angels and Demons (2000), Deception Point (2001), The Da Vinci Code (2003) and The Lost Symbol (2009), is concerned with the global ecological crisis and its consequences.
Usually, his novels revolve around symbols, codes and conspiracy theories. They follow the similar pattern of a hero who finds himself in a strange and unfamiliar setting, with codes, symbols and mysteries to crack and a beautiful woman to rescue.
Though he writes thematic novels, Inferno stands out from the rest because of its slightly misanthropic stand on human population. In the earlier novels, it was possible to suspend disbelief at the kind of code-cracking that Robert Langdon practiced, this time it becomes a little bit tedious as the mad scientist Zobrist has written down all codes in poetry in the manner of Dante.
The character of Bertrand Zobrist is a proponent of what is known as the Population Apocalypse Equation which is a mathematical recognition that the earth’s population is rising, people are living longer, and our natural resources are waning.
He believes that with the increase in numbers, there will be a corresponding increase in human vices as well as predicted by Dante. This equation predicts that the current trend of exponential growth in population will ultimately result in an apocalyptic collapse of society.
Zobrist held unconventional views on the reduction of population through the spread of epidemics and Black Death. Zobrist praises the role that diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS plays in keeping the population in check.
He is of the view that the best thing that happened to Europe during the Middle Ages was Black Death. This event was seen as having so many socio-economic advantages as it thinned the human herd and led the way for Renaissance. Though the Black Death destroyed one third of the European population, Zobrist views it as a positive event in history because of its curbing of the human population.
Bertrand Zobrist in Inferno is no theorist but a genetic engineer who sees a way to put his ideas into practice. He creates a solution to the population problem, a virus named Inferno that is initially suspected to be a plague virus but terms out to be a germ for creating sterility in every third person in the world. He follows the same mathematical equation of one third when trying to create the human sterility virus Inferno. He contrasts himself with the actions of the World Health Organization (WHO) that tries to create awareness about population control and family planning.
Inferno is about the need for environmental conservation and population control.