Dan Brown’s latest offering follows the continuing adventures of Harvard Professor and Symbologist Robert Langdon. Seeming not to run out of connections that enable him to attend exclusive museum events (that inevitably land him in trouble), he finds himself at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, where his ex-student Edmund Kirsch is about to launch a multi-media presentation of a discovery that he promises will shock the world.
Specifically, the discovery is set to rock the very foundation of all forms of religion by using science to answer two of life’s unanswerable questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going?
The author sticks to the formula that made him a best-selling author in the first place: an historical city as a setting, the pitting of science against religion, the weaving of art into the plot, a female sidekick and a scavenger hunt for clues that will ultimately lead to a discovery of epic proportions.
A reader can always expect a Dan Brown book to be meticulously researched and rich in detail. However, portions of the book read like a museum guidebook rather than a work of fiction and he falls short of seamlessly weaving his research into his actual narrative.
Dan Brown first gained fame when he brought what was already an established theory about the divinity of Jesus Christ into mainstream attention. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church condemned The Da Vinci Code only increased its notoriety, which led to a proportionate increase in sales.
So it’s only natural for the author to want to stick to this “anti-religion” theme, this time by tackling the one area where science and religion are – and perhaps always will be – at an impasse: the story of creation.
The Big Bang Theory vs. The Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve vs. Homo Erectus, in short, the origin of man is a theme that is explored in detail in the book. The problem is, it fails to capture the reader’s interest as much as secret organizations guarding a centuries-old secret and the book loses much of its steam two-thirds of the way into the book. Even the “big reveal” – the secret of where man is going – felt a little anti-climactic after so many lives have been lost to keep it a secret.
Part of the book is a satirical commentary on current society’s obsession with technology and social media. It is a subtle dig against a world that seems to be moving too fast for its own good, where scientific advancement is measured in years instead of decades.
If one is observant enough, one will find that the author actually hints at this all throughout the book, starting with the unique, personalized tour experienced by Robert Langdon at the Guggenheim up to the fact that the renowned symbologist actually does less in this book than in others because someone – or something – else is doing much of the legwork for him.
Even the novel’s main plot twist seems to be a manifestation of Dan Brown’s belief that man will eventually succumb to technology if we carry on letting it control so much of our lives the way we do.
Ultimately, Origin is miles away from what we still consider Dan Brown’s best book, Angels and Devils. While aspects of the book are good, and Dan Brown is a good enough writer for this to still be readable, it lacks the seamlessness and tight plotting of the former. This book, and its rather underwhelming story and anti-climactic ending, is proof positive that an artist’s (or writer’s in this case) longevity relies on constant reinvention.
I think Dan Brown can no longer trust on shock value and notoriety to save the day; there is a need for him to come up with fresher ideas or else he will fade into obscurity faster than you can say ‘Tom Hanks’.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Guest contribution by Miss Blabbaholic. This blog is about music, travel, life in London but mostly its for people who share my passion for books.