Book Review: Origin (Robert Langdon #5) by Dan Brown


Origin (Penguin Random House, October 2017) is the latest installment of the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, following bestsellers Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, The Lost Symbol, and Inferno. However, the books can more or less be read out of order, as each adventure is separate and none really build upon the others or upon Robert Langdon’s character.

Origin is a fast-paced techno-thriller starring our favorite Harvard symbology professor, Robert Langdon (who’s described in previous books as looking like Harrison Ford, but I just picture Tom Hanks from the films), this time on a dangerous escapade across Spain. (At this point, after 18 years, I’m hoping Brown will branch out of Western Europe and finally give us an installment someplace else – China? Africa? South America? Russia? The Middle East…? There; I just tweeted him about it.) However, I use the term “starring” loosely, as this is really a story about one of Robert’s former students, a fictional Mark Zuckerberg/Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-esque tech mogul genius named Edmond Kirsch, who has just made a groundbreaking discovery about the origin of life, and the direction in which humanity is headed.

The pros about the books are, as usual with Brown’s novels, its un-put-down-able readablity, fun and intellectual banter between science vs. religion, and fast-moving plot that makes you feel like you’re watching a movie rather than reading a book. I LOVE THAT, and I love the tech, science, and ideas swimming through this novel, which are presented in a very accessible way. One of the joys of reading Brown – particularly his Robert Langdon series – is the fact that you will not only be entertained but will learn about art, history, literature, real secret societies, religion, philosophy, symbols, and more. But it’s not just a love letter to the humanities – just like his previous books, it contains the cutting-edge tech & science of the day.

However, although it’s a fast ride that kept me invested till the last page, be forewarned that the “big reveal,” when it finally comes, is anticlimactic, and many aspects of the plot (the identity of “The Regent,” who’s behind the assassination and why, etc.) is predictable from miles away. Kirsch’s “major” revelation – which is, of course, saved for the final chapters – is nothing groundbreaking that we haven’t heard from Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk already, or from various popular TED Talks. Sadly, I didn’t feel the theories proposed fulfilled Kirsch’s bold promise of debunking the world’s religions. (If anything, even if we understood how the laws of nature created life, the question remains…who, or what, created the laws of nature? And why?) Sorry if this is a little spoilery, but it’s important that, if you’re going to read this book, just read it to go along for the ride, but don’t expect anything earth-shattering in the end, even though that’s what’s promised throughout the book. This will save you the disappointment.

Lastly, I want to mention I enjoyed the Artificial Intelligence character of Winston; he reminded me of Jarvis from the Iron Man and Avengers movies (indeed, that’s whose voice I heard in my head when I read him). Although some writers may feel having a genius AI computer is kind of a cop-out method to provide otherwise impossible escapes, connections, and exposition, Winston’s character is actually one of the most – if not *the* most – significant parts of the overall plot and message. And, I find, his role opens up an even more fascinating discourse on human technology and ethics than any of the ‘religion vs. science’ discourses this story presents.

I recommend Origin to anyone who enjoyed the previous Robert Langdon books; those interested in the future of science, humanism, or the Singularity; or to someone looking for a fast/light techno-thriller with a philosophical edge.

Book Review: Deception Point by Dan Brown

Deception Point is a political and scientific action-thriller, written by Dan Brown in 2001. When NASA discovers that a meteor in the Arctic Circle contains fossils of life in space, the information is about to change the world. But as the evidence unravels, it becomes questionable whether the meteor is a massive sham. If so, the question remains: why? With careers, reputations and various motives to protect on both sides of the argument, heroine Rachel Sexton, NRO analyst and daughter of the president’s sleazy running opponent in the current election, finds herself in the midst of decoding the truth from the powerful politicians and scientists around her.

Brown’s writing reads like a movie script: fast-paced, full of action, never boring. There are some laugh-out-loud funny parts, and his grasp of science is remarkable. His exposés on the Arctic Circle, meteorites, military aircraft and weaponry, marine sciences, and NASA history are well-researched, so the reader learns a thing or two. While the ending could’ve stood to be better (IMO), this is a fun novel if you need something engrossing to pass the time.

Book Review: The Robert Langdon books by Dan Brown

roblangdonThe Robert Langdon books by Dan Brown consist of four (to date) fast-paced thriller/suspense novels, featuring fictitious genius Harvard symbology and iconology professor, Robert Langdon. I have read the first three: Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, and The Lost Symbol. Each book takes place in a famous city, involves a secret society of a religious or occult nature, and includes a new female counterpart with Langdon.

Angels & Demons is a murder mystery taking place in Vatican City, where Professor Langdon must save the day to stop the murders of Catholic Cardinals inflicted by a mysterious, archaic secret society, called the Illuminati. This is one of the best books in the series.

The DaVinci Code, this time in Paris, focuses on a grand secret kept by the Knights Templar, which the Catholic Church has been trying to eradicate for centuries. This is my favorite book in the series.

Lastly, The Lost Symbol is a scavenger hunt across Washington, D.C., leading to a hidden message left by the Freemasons. In each book, Langdon and his female counterpart encounter a series of clues. Langdon must then use his expertise in interpreting symbols and icons to solve them. The FBI or Secret Service is usually involved, as is some breaking-edge scientific technology: in Angels & Demons, it is an antimatter bomb; in The Lost Symbol, it’s a scientific invention that weighs (therefore proving the existence of) the human soul.

The Robert Langdon books are fun, plot-driven thrillers designed to twist and turn in all the right places. Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code in particular were a blast. The ending of The Lost Symbol fell flat for me. I couldn’t get through the grisly visuals of Inferno.