“Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in 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. As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.”
Much like his previous novels featuring Langdon, Dan Brown’s Origin does not deviate too much from the formula and tropes he helped continue in this suspenseful story format. It preserves its age-old premise that thrillers always need: living at the corner coincidence and convenience to ensure people turn the pages. The set-up is always basically the same in all these tales featuring a middle-aged man: a mystery starts –in a church, museum or some such building of historical significance- where eventually Langdon meets a women –while always brilliant and smart- she is forever (and stunningly) beautiful. Quickly –because these tales do take place in a small time period- they must flee together to solve whatever wild mystery Brown has laid out.
And his prose style, while readable, is never to be taken seriously (which amuses me when people actually do). While he wraps a lot of historical truths within his fictional setting, as the tales progress you realize (still) what a hugely pulpy, mostly ridiculous and nutty tale Origin truly is. Still, while Dan Brown is not a deep writer, but he does offer some intriguing ideas that can, in the end, give rise to great conversations.
They only drawback I have (okay, that may be a silly start to a sentence when talking about a Dan Brown book) is the magical, dues ex machine he creates with the Artificial Intelligence computer that provides all the necessary information to move the story forward. It's HAL like sentient not withstanding, Winston becomes too much a science fiction cliche that truly makes Origin's already shaky premise come tumbling down.
Ultimately, the book is fairly fun –if you’ve not read any other Brown book- but that’s about it. Sometimes, as I read it, I felt this book was the equivalent of today’s Hollywood blockbuster film: a silly premise, with paint-by-number dialogue brought to life by people who want to be more of a movie star than a true actor. And after five books featuring the Robert Langdon character, maybe it’s time that Brown moves on?