I havent’ read all of the Professor Robert Langdon books, but immediately one doesn’t get the sense that they cannot catch him on this adventure without knowing his prior exploits. In fact the only book with Langdon I’ve ever read was The Da Vinci Code. I tried to watch the movie versions of other books such as Angels and Demons and Inferno. But if you are anything like me you will understand what I mean when I say it creeps me out watching a movie adoptation of a book I haven’t read. Even when I know the chances are very high that I will never read it. For that 0.00001% that I change my mind, I will never be able to forgive myself for watching the movie first. Please tell me you get it.
But I digress. Origin.
Dan Brown has stayed true to Langdon’s character and has kept the typical tropes as introduced in earlier works. Langdon is still the ever curious religion questioning historian who has a deep fascination with symbols and their meanings. There’s still danger, thriller and a flirty love story in the undertone of his adventure. And as always Dan Brown packs in so much activity in a 1-2 day narrative that when you actually think about it seems damn near impossible, but when you are lost in the tale the suspension of disbelief is so deep that the value and meaning of time ceases to matter. Very crafty of Dan Brown.
Origin is packed with layers upon layers of religious convictions or better yet – challenges to religious convictions. It is set in religious Spain, more correctly a Spain that is trying to find the point of religion in an evolving world. Dan Brown’s story survives off the pitting of religion against technology and a constant battle of which of the two will be the creed of the future. There’s also a pursuasiveness that perhaps the two could coexist.
The story follows assassinated futurist and athiest Edmon Kirsh whose character is both controversial for the times and provocative of religion to say the least. Another character from whose view we see the world is bereaved former soldier Admiral Luis Avila. We also get a glimpse into the future King of Spain Julian’s point of view and trusted religious confidant Bishop Antonio Valdespino. Leading the way through the maze of codes and mysteries is the Princes fiance and Kirsh’s friend Ambra Vidal and Langdon. Of all the characters my favourite and the one who stole my heart to break it is Winston … I will let you discover Winston for yourself.
Everything is never as it seems in Dan Brown’s books. Just when you think you know where he is going with something a new twist can create the biggest of doubt. As long winded as the story is, the chapters are short, and concise working well with the pace of the thrill and adventure in the book. There’s a ‘treasure hunt’ element to Dan Brown’s Langdon stories. A sense of puzzle solving before getting to the next level, something has to be resolved, similar to playing a TV or PC game.
Dan Brown also places such great effort in educating his readers about his settings. That is his strength. He infuses his narratives with so much fact, history and symbolism that by the time the fiction comes it either gets absorbed as truth or goes unnoticed.
In Origin Dan Brown has woven together an intricate tale of humanity as it stands today coloured by great questions on how we will look tomorrow. Through out the book the great phrase governing the mystery is: ‘Where do we come from? Where are we going?’ Both questions need a sober introspection of present day reality. Pitting religion against technology to answer these questions it is amazing the revelation that comes with consolidating the entire book as an answer to these.
Though slightly alarmist, I dare say I’m enclined to agree with the discovery made by Kirsh as well as the subtle warning it carries. I cannot say more for fear of spoiling this read as the discovery hidden in the final reveal of this character’s life’s work needs to unfold in an innocent mind for it to have any impact.
I must admit I took a while reading this book – not because I didn’t enjoy it but because my life had taken a number of its own turns and it became difficult to keep up with the reading. However everytime I went back it was easy to find my place and my pace.
All in all I’d rate the book a 3.5-4 stars out of 5. That is only because if we are being honest Dan Brown’s books do tend to have a long winded tedious element to them where you wish you could just ask him to get to the point alread, this can even render some of the chapters repetitive or unnecessary all together. However as always he pulls it all together – I didn’t much like the ending either, I felt like the book could have ended a few pages earlier. Nothing of substance was revealed and it took away from the climax.
As always, when Dan Brown picks a location, he sparks a desire to see that place in the hearts of most of his readers. I am no exception. Spain is now on my bucket list.