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Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown (4/5)

25 Mar

I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s books so it seemed a shame to stop. Especially with the amazing (if a bit unreal) Robert Langdon coming back to star in another adventure. At least he didn’t leave this one with another female heroine on his arm. Maybe he’s losing his touch.

Cover image via Goodreads

Origin (Robert Langdon #5) by Dan Brown

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

This book was exactly what I was looking for: fun without being too deep. I read ebooks slowly and a plot that’s too deep or involved can be hard for me to keep track of. I loved the racing plot, short chapters, and seemingly clear bad-guys. I loved the setting, too. And yes, I’m very biased. I’ve been to Spain twice and love the country. Most recently, my husband and I were in Barcelona and enjoyed the Gaudí architecture of the city including its gem, La Sagrada Familia. My mom said I should have read this book before visiting, but reading it after brought back the awe I felt when seeing it and I think this order may have been best.

I never read a Brown book for the characters. Langdon seems to be an idealized version of Brown, a middle-aged man who isn’t slowed down by age and seems to look better as he gets older. Not everyone is George Clooney. Vidal seems too perfect, too. Her one flaw is something beyond her control and doesn’t affect her actions in this story. Prince Julian and Bishop Valdespino are the most flawed characters in this book and they still come away on top. Not a lot of people suffered during the story except the ‘bad guys.’

Father Beña was an amazing character and it’s a testament to him that a small side character stuck out so much. His grasp of religion, the church, and its place in our world was very modern and promoted a moderation that I feel many Catholics would be on board with. I also have to mention Winston as a favorite character though I’m not sure a computer technically counts as a character.

There was no particular character I really related and I find that’s par for the course in an action story. There’s not a lot of emotional attachment to characters in a fast-paced plot like this, it’s more about the story. I still enjoyed the plot without having a character I could see myself in.

Dan Brown Image via the author’s website

The time in La Sagrada Familia was my favorite because of the powerful images it evoked for me. The way light streams into the large space and the feeling of being small yet a part of something big that the church delivers is amazing and Brown portrayed it well. It was clear he’d been in that space to research this book.

I felt like Monica Martín’s character deserved a bit more closure than she got. For a while, she was central to the plot and all of the confusion that occupied the middle of the book. When she simply disappeared toward the end without explaining much about how she was changing the story of the palace, I was frustrated. I guess I wished she was on Avila’s side or something.

Science and religion have been at odds for thousands of years. I doubt very much that one person could change that, even with the findings that Edmund presented. There will be debates and infighting and wars as there always have been and as there will likely continue to be. I don’t think the religious can all fight that science and belief starkly contradict at times. Some people can’t change what they see as true.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book is a great example of pacing. With an adventure book, you have to be going from page one and Brown did an amazing job of that. The varied chapter lengths helped this as well. Some were short, just a quick press release, while others took up as many pages as they needed to in order to get their point across. I’d love to be able to use the pacing of an adventure writer in anything I do.

Overall, the book was fun and exciting but not very deep, though that was to be expected. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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