I will start off by saying that when I picked this book to read what I was looking for was an exciting adventure story. The reason I choose Dan Brown from among the many authors who write this genre, was that his stories normally have an infusion of art and history within them that makes them different to the ordinary boy’s own action plot. I have read The Da Vinci Code so I was hoping for something along those lines of excitement, thrills and historical mystery.
Unfortunately Origin just didn’t cut it.
It once again tells the story of Professor Robert Langdon getting involved in a conspiracy to expose a truth. This time instead of the Holy Grail, it’s a scientific discovery made by a former pupil, brilliant futurist Edmond Kirsh. He claims to know the answers to the two most important questions asked by humanity – where did we come from and where are we going. He says his discovery will see the end of religion throughout the world and give birth to the age of science as the reigning thought movement. But before he can announce the answers to these two questions at a splashy and upscale gala event in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, he is murdered. Langdon is plunged into a race to get Edmond’s discovery released to the world before he too loses his life as he finds himself in the crosshairs of very dangerous and powerful people.
Helping him on his journey are a super computer invented by Kirsh, Winston, and the future Queen of Spain (yeap – you heard me right). Her involvement comes via her role as the director of the Guggenheim Museum and as the fiance of the Crown Prince of Spain who just might be the person behind all these nefarious deeds (again – you heard me correctly). There are of course other people and groups involved. I mean being a Dan Brown book the Catholic Church features prominently. I sometimes wonder what the church did to the author for him to consistently make them, or corruptions and offshoots of them, the centre of all that is bad in his books.
Now I know Dan Brown has his literary detractors but I actually enjoyed The Da Vinci code as a great escapist read. However for much of this book I felt like I was part of a giant lecture on the history of Spain, the merits of Spanish art both traditional and modern, technological developments and debates that exist in the field of origin of life theory. It seemed as though he sat down and made a list of locations, subjects and groups that he wanted to include or thought were of interest and threw together a plot around them. Now I am not knocking those things – I am sure they are fascinating but they don’t feel like it when subjected to Mr Brown’s pen. I would almost swear that he had raided the Encyclopedia Britannica and used the large tracts of information he found as the basis for long passages in this book. It was like reading a textbook. I got to the stage where I said to myself …. not another one! It broke the flow of the story and slowed everything down.
And the book took an age to get going. We had so much scene setting that I thought we were going to get halfway through the book before any actual action took place. The author was lucky I didn’t DNF it at that stage. I thought that if I just stuck with it, the interesting bits would be the pay off. They weren’t. I’m not going to go into all the whys and wherefores of the plot except that it just didn’t grab me. As readers I think we were supposed to be sucked into the excitement of learning a deep seated and earth shattering truth about the origins of life but …. tumbleweeds blowing by on that one. And if that didn’t catch you then the book became nothing more than a watered down techno adventure. The writing isn’t engaging enough to sustain the book. It felt very mechanical and formulaic of which I am sure Dan Brown has been labelled as in the past. In this instance I feel that it is entirely justified.
And poor old Robert Langdon became nothing more than a bystander with only small episodes of problem solving and code breaking. The best way I can describe his situation in this book is when there is a hit movie with a hero. And because that movie was successful they make more with the same hero. But with each new movie our hero gets more and more sidelined and becomes a very pale version of the one we saw in the original. The writing gets stale and the character loses any joie de vive it might have had. That’s our boy the Professor and that’s this book.
I know this all sounds very harsh and some will say … what did you expect? Well not Shakespeare obviously, but I did hope for better than what I got. Sorry Mr Brown but I think it’s time to retire Professor Langdon and shelve this type of book. Look to something new and fresh. Be brave and spread your wings a bit because if you are going to continue along these lines, your reading audience won’t include me.
Rating: 1 Star (and that’s being generous).
(Header Image: Sarah Kreig)