Origin: Robert Langdon + religion + tech = page-turner

Origin review

What is this about?: Robert Langdon is back, and yes he’s on the run again. Heh. This time it’s a race to find the secret his friend Edmond discovered, and left behind. With him is Ambra Vidal, who is convinced her fiance wanted Edmond dead — which as he’s going to be the next king of Spain, bit of an issue.

What else is this about?: Religion and technology. Brown has some big, intriguing ideas in this. And he’s not entirely wrong, I don’t think.

Blurb: 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.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

I have — and will — forever enjoy these these books simply because Brown excels at writing page-turners. This is an almost 500 page book that I finished without even realising it. His pacing is wonderfully frustrating because I alternately wanted him to get to the Kirsch’s announcement, for example, as much as I wanted to see the building blocks he laid to to get there.

Brown catches a lot of flack for being by the numbers as a writer — and for a whole lot of other stuff — and to be fair his Langdon novels have a formula, but that doesn’t actually mean they’re not compelling reads. The history, the wealth of information Brown uses to build his story is always gripping. Brown also has a talent I think for building his tales, with various threads coming together to build an ever more intricate picture.

Langdon and location

Bless Brown for taking Langdon to the most amazing places — here he’s in Spain to attend an event by a former student of his — Edmond Kirsch. Edmond is about to announce something that will change the world, but before he does he is assassinated and Langdon goes on the run, letting me live vicariously through all the locations he goes to.

Brown sets the scene for this book, well before Langdon comes on the scene introducing readers to the players in the book, and hinting at the larger themes. It’s a well-balanced picture, giving us hints of the dangers surrounding Edmond and his announcement.

Where do we come from? Where are we going?

When Edmond is assassinated it becomes quickly clear that it has to do with silencing his announcement or rather an answer to the questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Langdon and Ambra Vidal become equally determined to ensure it’s released into the world. Her fiance is the next King of Spain, so you can see well imagine how many people and cops are after them.

Langdon is mourning the loss of Edmond’s intellect to the world — think of Edmond as a Steve Jobs/ Elon Musk combination — and his next frontier is or was religion. With that comes a wealth of suspects that could have wanted him dead. Vidal is a link to religion in this story, and Spain too which proves more dangerous as the story progress.

Her presence in the book lets Brown throw in news updates be they fake news or otherwise of Langdon and Vidal on the run.  And he also throws in an unexpected character, that I thought tied in perfectly to an ending that left me pretty much gobsmacked <— not even kidding. 

Dan Brown is a conventional storyteller in many respects, but he is also damned brilliant at weaving a tale that keeps readers enthralled to the end. Origin left me thoughtful, but also excited to be back in Langdon’s world.

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