Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)by Published 03 Oct 2017
|Origin (Robert Langdon, #5).pdf|
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.
"Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)" Reviews
Where do we come from?
Where are we going?
Yes, it's the new Dan Brown book. Yes, it's pulpy and ridiculous. But I have to say it-- it was really entertaining, too.
The thing about Brown is that he's a mediocre-at-best writer with really fascinating ideas. If you spend too much time analysing individual scenes and sentences, then you're going to start to see the cracks, big and small. Big cracks like world-renowned scientists jumping to ludicrous conclusions, and small cracks like world-renowned scientists suddenly knowing nothing about a subject so that Robert Langdon can inform them (and the reader) of some exciting tidbit.
And Langdon himself must be the stupidest genius ever written. He knows absolutely everything about everything until it's convenient for him to not know something so someone can explain it to him.
BUT, for some reason, Brown's plots and codes and puzzles are interesting enough to... kind of make it okay. At least for me. I love all the information about history, science and religion. I love how you can look up the organizations mentioned and find that they are all real. It's very much a plot over writing book, but sometimes that can be exactly what you need. Mindless, pageturning entertainment.
In Origin, famous scientist and billionaire Edmond Kirsch is about to make a world-changing announcement. His research and technology have led him to make a discovery about the origin of humankind, as well as their future destiny, that will shake the foundations of the world, tear apart religions, and change absolutely everything. He has essentially found answers to the two questions: Where do we come from? and Where are we going?
It's hard not to be drawn in by these universal questions. Then when the announcement event goes horribly wrong and it seems his discovery might be buried forever, Robert Langdon and Ambra Vidal must go on a clue-solving, code-breaking spree across Spain to uncover Kirsch's discovery. Throughout, all I could think was "what could his discovery be?" It would need to be something dramatic enough, something with impact... and, well, personally I loved the reveal.
Fake news now carries as much weight as real news.
Origin draws on current events and hot topics to make it more relevant to today's world. Brown touches on subjects like "fake news", the advancement of technology and artificial intelligence, and the dark corners of the Internet. He may not be an amazing writer - whatever that means - but he does play on universal thoughts, fears and questions. It makes for a very compelling tale.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for excellent writing, well-developed characters and a whole lot of sense-making. But if you want to sprint through an almost 500-page novel at breakneck pace and escape from thinking for a while, then it is very enjoyable.
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All right, Danny boy, let's see what you've got for us this time. Anyone want to take bets on how many times he mentions the Mickey Mouse watch?
Man, I hope that thing gets smashed under a garbage truck.
If you’re reading this in an effort to determine whether or not you want to read Origins, I’m going to make two assumptions:
1) You’ve already read the previous books in the series and, as such, need no introduction to Robert Langdon or Dan Brown’s art/history/symbol/puzzle MO; and
2) You’re not looking for sparkling prose (because, if you are, it’s a little bit like going to an all-you-can-eat $5.99 buffet and getting pissed that there’s no caviar and foie gras).
Dan Brown is the Hootie and the Blowfish of thriller writers. A smash hit cultural phenomenon early on (like Darius Rucker and the boys), Brown subsequently suffered an unfairly disproportionate critical backlash from holier-than-thou critics who (perhaps not incorrectly, if a bit unfairly and unnecessarily) savaged his writing style and mocked the formulaic nature of his books (which, yes, are a bit like an episode of Home Improvement: Tim creates a crazy situation, Tim screws up, Tim and Wilson have a backyard heart-to-heart, Wilson says something wise, Tim utterly bollixes up communicating the advice to Jill but succeeds in heeding it to fix what he screwed up, Al’s beard gets made fun of, cue credits (…and it just occurred to me that no one under the age of 35 gets that reference, and, if you do get it, you’re sitting there thinking, “Why did he just reference a show whose popularity was utterly inexplicable when considering the quality of its content?”); because, that’s why).
Were The Da Vinci Code (in Brown’s case) and Cracked Rear View (in Hootie’s case) good enough to warrant their absurd sales and global buzz? Probably not. But, neither were their subsequent offerings so impossibly bad that they deserved the mockery that ensued (Inferno, for example, has some fun puzzles and history, and I stand by Fairweather Johnson—“The Earth Stopped Cold at Dawn” might be Hootie’s finest work).
Look, Hootie and the Blowfish wasn’t the first bar band that broke big, and Dan Brown didn’t invent the historical thriller/mystery/puzzle genre, but they both reinvigorated their respective niches, and significantly expanded the audience receptive to such offerings. A lot of subsequent bands and writers owe these cats a debt of gratitude, as they have been able to make a decent living peddling similar (if often inferior) fare thanks to that receptivity—or, if not a decent living, maybe what I like to call “gumball money” (that is to say, pennies), as in the case of the questionable talent responsible for inflicting The Camelot Shadow (not to mention its prequel The Strange Task Before Me: Being an Excerpt from the Journal of William J. Upton) on the world (of all the things Dan Brown should apologize for, its giving the author of those debacles the idea that he could graft a Brownian approach onto a Victorian setting).
(I am just shameless, no?)
All that said, what about Origins? Well, it’s no Da Vinci Code, I’ll tell you that…
I kid. Well, no, I really don’t—it’s not as compelling, or as ingeniously crafted, a book as Da Vinci or Angels & Demons, largely because, save for one impressive feat of mental prestidigitation involving an ampersand, Langdon’s most awe-inspiring moment of symbolic insight is explaining the hidden symbol in the FedEx logo, which has nothing to do with the book’s central mystery and is, I’m sure, known about by anyone with functional eyes. Instead, Langdon relies on oodles of help from, quite literally, deus ex machina—a state-of-the art AI named Winston, the creation of the man whose murder serves as the book’s inciting incident. That, combined with the book’s focus on modern art, a scene in which Langdon is a fish out of water (or, more accurately, a squiggle out of a square, based on what I know about the composition of modern art), makes for a less engrossing and thrilling ride through intricately crafted (if often implausible) historical puzzles than past outings.
Still, there’s something to be said for the book’s concluding chapters, which ultimately convey an uplifting message of hope and unity. Maybe I’m naïve (or, at least, wish I still could be naïve), but there’s something charmingly square about Langdon (and his creator) that, in an age of divisive rhetoric, intolerance, and unbridled hatred for that which is “other” (regardless of who you are and which side of history you think you’re on) resonates and gives an otherwise average (by Brown standards, at least) tale a favorable gloss.
Next time, though, let’s get back into something Langdon actually knows about, eh?
Dan Brown is back with some of his best work in a while. I was not a huge fan of his last two – Inferno and The Lost Symbol. I think for me they seemed kind of stale after Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Origin is now probably my second favorite of his (behind Angels and Demons).
Some of the key points:
Religion and Science – this is a big battle in our world today. It is an exhausting battle for someone like me who goes to church but also loves science. I worry that the feeling is starting to be that the two cannot exist together. Dan Brown does a great job of addressing this debate in this book (even though at times I was worried that it was going to end up just being another annoying commentary on the same debate)
Lead Female Characters – Brown amuses me with every new lead female character. It is always a scientist, art expert, museum curator, etc. who just so happens to be one of the top 5 most beautiful women alive (he has 5 Langdon books, each with one of those top 5 ;) )
The Dan Brown formula – I will say that each of Brown’s book has basically the same structure. A mystery starts (usually in a museum, church, famous building). Langdon meets a woman (see above). Langdon and this woman run around trying to solve the mystery. Yes, that formula is here. However, that felt okay this time. The last two books it felt like old hat – almost like he was phoning it in. But, with this one I was kind of glad to get back into the same formula and he developed the plot and suspense well.
If you like Dan Brown – I recommend this.
If you thought maybe the Langdon series had no gas left – I recommend this.
If you want an interesting, thought-provoking mystery with a lot of suspense – I recommend this.
When Anuradha Herur woke up this morning, at the crack of dawn, she was in no way prepared for the absolute dismay she would have to face during the day. As she pulled her long, black hair into a bun, she contemplated the decision she had made the previous night. She had decided, bravely, to read Dan Brown's new treatise on the amalgamation of history and technology, religion and science. As she thumbed through the massive tome, she was, despite her initial trepidation, caught unawares of how crummy the book was going to be. You see, in this opus, Anuradha had to face her worst enemy yet. Purple prose coupled with a storyline so dreadful, she had to prod herself into finishing it. Anuradha was no quitter. She had endured much worse before.
As she boarded the metro for her morning class, she looked at her reflection in the window of the train and sighed. Today was going to be a long day. It was in no way going to help the bags under her eyes, but she knew she had to do it. She had to prove it to herself, if nothing else. It was like nothing she had read before. She read in horror as she saw Langdon fly into his "white male saviour" mode and try and save the world in a day. "If he can save the world in one day, I can read this book in the same time", she reflected. She had read enough of Brown's books to know that her troubles had only just began. She chuckled to herself wisely, knowingly. She knew what was coming, and she was prepared for it. At the same time, she couldn't help but wonder, how much preparation was enough preparation?
She took deep, calming breaths and trudged along. She gave a small yelp of pain as she read about every leap, jump, explosion, care chase and art piece mentioned. "Great, there has to be JARVIS in this", she muttered to herself, as her neighbour looked at her with disgust. Little did he know about exactly how much was at stake. She groaned as she read about the quintessential "assassin", the hot lady, her other love interest and the old-fashioned people determined to hurt Langdon. She gave an inward chuckle when she concluded that of course, Langdon wouldn't be the one hurt. Little by little, she started piecing the plot together, when alas, she had to get down for her class. Her German class, though usually interesting, held little interest for her today. All she wanted was more time to figure out who the villain was, and to know if her prediction was right. But as it had to, on such a crucial day, time was a total shrew.
Anuradha practically ran out of the class, her arms and legs flailing around her. She didn't find a seat on the way back, so she had to manage standing. It was okay. Everything would be okay if she was right. "I can bet that [spoilers removed] is the villain", she texted her brother, but alas, the train went underground and she lost network. She cursed in the dark and continued to read the damned book. Soon, as it had to happen, her stop came and she had to get down again. "This book is going around in circles. Why do all books have to be the same. And why do they have to be so big?" she grumbled. She was hungry, tired, and just wanted the ordeal to be over. She looked up at the sky, groaned because of the sun, and began her long walk home. Heavy bag on her back, and a doorstopper of a book in her hand.
She was only halfway done, and she didn't know if she would survive the day. "Tell mom and dad I love them", she texted her brother again. "Stop being so melodramatic", he texted back. You're going to be just fine. She gave a grim half-smile to herself. Little did he know. Halfway through the book, though, she was tempted to take the wise princess Elsa's advice and let it go, but she persisted. This was her Everest and she was going to conquer it. She sipped her coke and continued, rubbing her perspiring brow and kneading her forehead. She was going to do it. She was going to weave through the copious info dump and live through the terrible storyline. "I can finish it. I am sure of it", she whispered to herself and smiled.
And then, she reached *that* part of the book. The part where Dan Brown tries to (and he really does try) make it as dramatic as possible, but she pretty much knew what was coming. There was no surprised gasp when she read it. A knowing smile, yes. She knew where he was going with this. To her, it was very obvious. "Could really be this easy? This weak?" she thought to herself. [spoilers removed] It went much faster from there, after all, she was almost at the end. [spoilers removed] "You have got to stop making these things so obvious, my dear Brown", she thought. "Just a few more pages, you can do it", she pushed herself. "You'll get a chance to write that review you've been meaning to, you know how much you want to do it", she said to herself.
And then, suddenly, she screamed, "I knew it, I knew it. You're predictable as fuck Langdon", as her mother looked at her in amusement. [spoilers removed] And then, suddenly, she was free. She had done it. She had finished the book. She could breathe the air around her, enjoy the chirping of the birds. She smiled softly to herself. She had done it. She was victorious. The next book was going to be another adventure. Another day. She also hoped to herself, beyond hope, that maybe some day, Dan Brown will actually learn to write. "Well, a girl can dream", she thought.
If you think this review is terrible, imagine how bad the book was. I tried making it Dan Brown-esque, but I don't think I was very successful in my attempt. Purple prose is not my strength. Parts of it have been overdramatised for effect. I will never wake up at the crack of dawn. Of course, it's missing symbols, codes and poetry, but this was all the time I had. Maybe I'll build on this when I have more time.
The book though, is just awful. I appreciate that Brown takes time before his books to do his "research", I do. I also understand that Asimov's laws aren't the gospel truth. Brown, however, really does need work on his research. And his language. Also, please for the sake of all that is sane and good, he needs to stop with the elaborate prose and excessive description. I will give him this though, this book was leaps and bounds better than his previous book, and even marginally better than his third.
Once was fun, twice was okay. The fourth time had me saying "kill me now". Curiosity killed the cat, and someday it will kill Anuradha. Will it be this book that does the trick? We can only wait...
Side note: The final cover of the book hasn't been released yet, and the expected date of publication is a good eight months from now. How does this book already have a rating of 3.89? Me wonders.