Origin book review: The story is not half as gripping as Dan Brown's older works
Usually, when there is another Dan Brown book around the corner the usual reaction is: “Oh god! Another one!?!”
And as ironically as we do invoke god for this exasperation, we know that we are definitely going to read what Brown has come up with now. How is he going to undo the god and science debate this time?
Brown's latest offering – Origin – works on answering two questions for humanity. Where did we come from? And where are we headed? There is no nuclear threat, no plague this time around, cardinals don't die like flies either. There's just information that would turn the religious world on its head. In that sense, the tension in Origin is contained. It does not run helter-skelter all over Rome or France. The chaos is organised in this one.
Of course, there is Robert Langdon. Perhaps the most difficult part of reading Brown is this – you cannot imagine anyone else but Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon and somewhere, every thing just goes downhill from there. The thrill is gone. The image of Hanks is anything but swashbuckling. You can just imagine a tired, worn-out professor whose claim to fame is controversy theories.
The supporting cast
Let's call them cast and not characters, because sooner or later, this too will be a movie (Sigh. Why!?) The story begins with Edmond Kirsch, very Elon Musk, very renegade and the mastermind behind everything that happens. Kirsch has made a discovery that questions the very tenets on which religion has been built on, and the ones that still sustain it. He wants the world to know, but before that he shares it with three religious leaders – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – in Montserrat, the monastery near Barcelona.
But before the three wise men can decide whether their world is ready to deal with Kirsch's discovery, he pushes the reveal date up and the story kicks off on the day Langdon walks into the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend the launch.
The token female representation comes in the form of Ambra Vidal. The museum director and the fiancee of Prince Julian, the heir to the Spanish throne (Umm...what!?). Vidal has worked closely with Kirsch for the launch, but she is waiting, like the rest of the world to find out what Kirsch has to share with the world.
The launch kicks off, the number of viewers steadily climbing as it is being shown live across all media channels, and then Kirsch gets shot dead.
Oh, the chaos
Kirsch's death pushes Langdon and Vidal to flee, with Kirsch's handy phone, equipped with a much-evolved version of Siri (I haven't used Alexa so I would not know) – Winston – aiding them through the run.
There is only one riddle that needs solving in Origin. And that's the passcode of to Kirsch's phone. And amidst all this royal-drama, the Jewish and the Muslim religious heads also get killed. Clearly, someone does not want Kirsch's discovery to get the rest of the world. Seriously, how else do Brown's stories get momentum or crisis?
The chase, the hunt and the solution all lie is close geographic proximity and thus the scale of it all does not overwhelm you. Also, no anagrams, no myths, no multiple clues in multiple art works. It all lies in one line of poetry from the poet who was the perfect marriage of religion and science – William Blake.
There also are a handful of references to Winston Churchill, just in case you felt that Brown let you down with abundant references in this book.
The future is now
We can't tell you what Kirsch's big news is, you might want to read the book and increase Brown's fortunes. But one thing is for certain, Kirsch's discovery is about the future and the world is most certainly heading in that direction.
It is a godless universe ahead, going strictly by the content of it. From where life comes from, the 'primordial soup' that began everything to, where life goes next – the droids and beyond. The let down is that these are theories that have been discussed. It includes a healthy dose of Darwin (but of course), evolution and the age of artificial intelligence. There is no surprise, no earth-shattering reveal – it does not make you go “Whoa!??” like Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons did.
Brown's story-telling in this one is rather tame. But that is not to say that Origin is a bad book. It is a decent story, it doesn't deserve the scale it tries to aspire for. It goes not grip you like his older books had.
And frankly, we are a little bored of Langdon. Sorry.
Should you read it?
You could. It's Rs 520 on Amazon right now. Or you can just borrow it from someone who has a copy. Either way, there should be no major FOMO.
Maybe, just maybe, the film version might save the day thanks to the high-visual drama of Kirsch's presentation.