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“Religions have been in this predicament before. This is just science banging on our door once again”

So goes a quote from a character in Dan Brown’s new book called Origin. I’ve read all the other Dan Brown books, and was pleasantly surprised when this one seemed to get released out of nowhere.

This one is another story with Robert Langdon as the protagonist, and instead of focusing on religion and history and clues and puzzles, this story focuses more on technology, humans, and the future. Religion definitely plays a part as you can tell from my opening quote, but it is by no means the thing the story revolves around as it was in previous Langdon books like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

So what’s it about? Here is the synopsis:

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement – the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

In Origin, Brown does something that he does a lot in his novels; he takes a long time to get to the point. It takes him over a hundred pages to get to Kirsch making his big announcement, the thing that kicks off the events of the book. Its not as if those hundred pages were boring or uninteresting, but I did find myself a couple of times going “wow look how much I have read and nothing of real substance has happened” but Brown’s writing style has a way of making even the mundane sound interesting.

When things start happening, given that this is not just a Dan Brown book, but a Robert Langdon story, you naturally expect there to be a series of clues and codes to be deciphered, you expect to go for a dive into history and have it revealed that something everyone knows to be one way is in fact completely different. But this…doesn’t really happen in Origin. There is no real puzzle solving and chasing of clues apart from one main one which is Langdon and his partner Ambra searching for – wait for it – Kirsch’s computer password…

Yes you heard that right.

And again, don’t get me wrong, it’s not boring and it is the usual fun Dan Brown ride, but as I moved through the book, I felt like I was missing the usual beats of his earlier work.

There is also some weird and awkward humour in it too, an example being the following:

Without a word she held it over the railing and let go. Langdon watched the phone plummet down and splash into the dark waters of the Nervion River. As it disappeared beneath the surface, he felt a pang of loss, staring back at it as the boat raced on.

‘Robert,’ Ambra whispered. ‘just remember the wise words of Disney’s Princess Elsa.’

Langdon turned. ‘I’m sorry?’

Ambra smiled softly. ‘Let it go.’

I remember reading that and thinking “HUH?”

It seemed to come out of nowhere and felt like a shoehorned dad joke put in for no apparent reason.

Anyway, I might be coming across as negative toward this, but please don’t get me wrong. While its no Da Vinci Code it certainly is a good fun read and the sort of story that is great for light reading on a commute or flight.

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