Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that "will change the face of science forever". The evening's host is his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world. This evening is to be no exception: he claims he will reveal an astonishing scientific breakthrough to challenge the fundamentals of human existence. But Langdon and several hundred other guests are left reeling when the meticulously orchestrated evening is blown apart before Kirsch's precious discovery can be revealed. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape, along with the museum's director, Ambra Vidal. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch's secret.
From an Amazon book page, an excerpt of a description of Dan Brown's book: "Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science......Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust....before the world is irrevocably altered." Sounds exciting, right? But this was a blurb for "Inferno", Brown's previous book. In many ways it could also apply to 2017's "Origin"(OR).
I'm not suggesting that Brown uses a cookie cutter framework to produce his books, but having read all of the Langdon series, I am struck by some common ingredients. So, off the top of my head, I have attempted below to list familiar elements common to some, if not all, of the five books. I would imagine that most Origin readers have read one or more of the preceding books and might enjoy a quick refresher, since it is seven years since the most recent release. Perhaps you will find a few I have missed...
1) Treasure Hunt. Coded clues leading to other clues. Ultimate destination unknown. Via whatever transportation is available from private jets to a driverless Tesla (OR) - Brown does load up his books with latest technology.
2) Travelogue. The focus in OR is Barcelona but we also get to visit Bilboa, especially the Guggenheim Museum there. I'm not a museum guy but check out Bing Images of that place or YouTube videos of the suspended ferry crossing the nearby river, and perhaps like me you will add it to your list of "Places to Visit Before...." Maybe you would also like to see Budapest's Szechenyi Chain Bridge to which lovers have secured padlocks professing their love. Or Parc Guell!
3) An Attractive Woman as co-star. Young, Intelligent, Beautiful, somewhat virginal. No sex, no bad words in a Langdon. Just a few dead bodies, murders and suicides, maybe too many suicides in OR; the last was not credible for me.
4) Bad Guys. Not always clear who they are, nor whom they work for. Often not the people you were expecting.
5) Action Scenes. Especially ones that will look great on film. How about helicopters plucking surrounded heroes off the roofs of buildings? Not really great climaxes though - OR gets rather talky at the end.
6) Teaching Moments. Usually art, science and technology, in OR lots on quantum computers and software advances to improve forecasting future events. Stay with it, very interesting. But also the Palmariana Church and their popes, and statistical physics.
6) Religion/Theology. often the Catholic Church is the subject and not always kindly; sometimes clergy are suspects in the most convoluted of plots. But remember that Langdon thinks of himself first as a scientist. Toward the end of OR, Langdon is asked, "Do you believe in God?"
7) Treating Readers like Mushrooms. A whispers something to B. B gasps. Totally blown away. Can't believe it. The scene ends, the Reader has no idea what was shared. But don't worry, 200 pages later all will be made clear. It felt to this Reader that occurred at least a half dozen times, and it started to get on my nerves. The good news is that as the end approaches, the reader has several open questions awaiting explanation and making for a certain amount of fun in making "educated" guess as to what all the secrets are, including who is the Regent?
The plot of OR is fairly simple and straight forward. A former student of Langdon, a world renowned scientist, claims that he has the answer to the two basic questions that man has been searching for since the beginning of time: Where do we come from? and Where are we headed? (Given that the title of the book is "Origin", when I first heard the two basic questions I immediately assumed that Origin was the first of two books and that there would be a sequel titled "Destiny" But not to worry. Both questions are answered in "Origin". OR are they?) A worldwide presentation has been scheduled. But something happens, and the video with all the answers is not shown. Langdon and co-star must find it and share it with the World.
Did I like it? Yes, but.
Dan Brown books are always entertaining and I learn a number of new things - see numbers 2 and 6 on the list above. I look upon them though as entertainment, and I enjoyed making lots of footnotes, looking at other resources to check some of Brown's descriptions and claims. Critics love to rip him as a not very good writer but I think they miss the point. Check out recent reviews in the New York Times and Washington Post; they are very different. I feel one critic "gets" Brown and his audience and the other critic.... well, draw your own conclusions. (Hint to readers - don't waste your time going to a newspaper's website and trying to do a search. Go to Google and, for example, search for "NYT Origin review".
I don't know if there'll be another Langdon - in seven years? - but if there is I'll probably read it. I wonder though how much longer Tom Hanks will play Langdon.
But there are those who would keep them from revealing the secret, no matter what the cost. Will they succeed in revealing the truth Kirsch planned to announce? And what will that revelation mean for mankind?
The fifth in the Robert Langdon series, “Origin” tackles hidden history and extreme religion in search of the answer to the two most basic questions of man:
Where do we come from?
Where are we going?
With a twisty plot that ramps up the tension and suspense, this narrative grabs the reader from the first page and doesn’t let go until the final unexpected reveal. An occasional “information dump” doesn’t detract from the overall telling of the “origin of life and future of humanity” tale and readers are likely to be left dumbfounded by the final unexpected twist they simply won’t see coming.
Robert Langdon is back racing through another adventure, this time in Spain. Sure, you are going to have images of Tom Hanks in the eventual movie version, grimacing and being brilliant as he works through the enigmas presented, but face it, Mr. Hanks has proven to be a great actor, his Langdon, is complicated enough to carry the action, and we just plain like the guy.
Edmond Kirsch is the rich genius who is out to reveal to the world the answer to two of life's biggest religious questions: Where does mankind come from and where are we going? But just as he is about to announce his findings in a stupendous computer display at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, he is murdered. Langdon and the museum's director, Ambra Vidal must race to save themselves from the killer and his handler and to find the code that will allow them to unleash the information from the bowels of a vast, hidden, encrypted computer of Kirsch's own design. Did I mention that Ms. Vidal is both beautiful and the fiancee of Prince Julian, the heir to the Spanish throne?
Okay, you may be thinking this book is similar in structure to most of Mr. Brown's work, but so what? A Frank Lloyd Wright building is similar in structure to almost all of his other works, but it is in the details of the execution that we find the genius of the man, and the same sits here with Mr. Brown and his work. I say, bring forth another Langdon book, and another and another, and watch the readers race in to gobble them up.
I for one find the vast scope of the fate that balances on the point of Langdon's intellect enjoyable to read about, his use of real places and societies revelatory, the action first rate and the puzzles or reveals more than enough to keep me coming back.
Although very similar in plot to all the other Dan Brown books, I couldn't help but enjoy myself on this cultural roller coaster. A fast and fun read which explores the dangers of modern "fake news" and it's impact on the future of humanity.
It's light and entertaining and as usual sends me scurrying to the Net to look up some of these places and art. But the mystery really is a major let down - if Elon Musk etc really stood up and said this, there would be a universal shrug of "yeah, tell us what we don't know". Hardly world changing.
Robert Langdon #5
MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▫️
PUBLISHER Random House Audio
PUBLISHED October 3, 2017
A highly entertaining race to find a cryptic password to unlock a discovery that will answer the age-old questions of human existence.
Origin begins with an presentation from billionaire computer scientist Edmond Kirsch, Robert Langdon’s former student. The presentation is being held at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and is poised to answer the controversial questions of human existence. Where did we come from? Where are we going? Kirsch believes his discovery, made possible by his advanced version of quantum computing, will put an end to the conflict between science and faith, and will change the the face of science and the world forever. But someone is trying to stop Kirsch from announcing his breakthrough discovery. The presentation is interrupted and brought to an abrupt end. Langdon is forced to go on the run with the brilliant museum director Ambra Vidal, as they try to find the key that will unravel the secrets of humanity.
In this book that pits faith against science, we are skillfully transported throughout Spain, from Bilbao, to Seville, Barcelona and Madrid. Sagrada Familia is prominently featured, and it strengthen my resolve to see Gaudi’s masterful creation. Origin is differentiated from Dan Brown’s previous books by cleverly focusing on modern technology, science, and art rather than antiquities. One of Origin’s most interesting characters is Winston an artificial intelligence avatar developed by Kirsch. The highly developed Winston steals the show and puts my little Siri to shame! Overall, Origin is typical Dan Brown: an adventure, a brilliant woman, a seemingly insurmountable puzzle, and plenty of art and religious references. While portions of the book maybe inconceivable, it’s an interesting and entertaining read.
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something.
That being said, this was a fun addition to the series, but by no means the best. This time it's atheism versus theology.
The revelation of the real assassin was...less than interesting, but the rest of the story was great. I've heard reviewers say they feel like Brown speaks down to them, like he's lecturing them on art and history. Personally, I enjoy that. I like learning new things about the art presented in the novels. I love learning about new things - no matter what they are. I'm just bummed I can't find the TEDTalk referenced near the end of the book.
The spark is gone for me and Dan. This will be the last of his I attempt, regrettably. I don't like giving up on authors I've enjoyed, but sometimes you just have to let them go.
This one is no different.
A mystery page-turner with always those secret societies/clubs/ groups.
This one indeed had all that but in my opinion it wasn’t “quite” up to his past reads. If the past reads were a 10 (on 1-10 scale 10 being the best), I’d say this was a 9. Still worth the read though.
Edmond Kirsch believes he has used a new model of the universe's physical laws (based on the best way to disperse energy) to explain how life began on earth. He also believes he's used his AI supercomputer to model where "evolution" based on this new understanding of how the universe works will take man. Kirsch believes this discovery will have profound ramifications for the religions, so he arranges to show part of his presentation to 3 religious leaders prior to his worldwide premiere.
Kirsch's friend Robert Langdon is invited to the premiere, where he witnesses Kirsch being assassinated before the videotaped presentation can be shown. Langdon and event coordinator/museum curator Ambra Vidal then set out to trigger Kirsch's presentation. This is complicated by the fact that Vidal is engaged to the prince of Spain and is being guarded by royal guards whom they must give the slip. Kirsch's AI assists them with this.
In addition to Kirsch's assassination, two of the three clerics whom he met with also perish under mysterious circumstances. A web of intrigue surrounds who gave the order for the assassin to be put on the guest list at the museum premier, who ordered the deaths of the 2 clerics, and who is feeding information to the media (causing Kirsch's worldwide viewership to increase quite a bit).
In the end, I would say I probably agree more with Langdon's view (or perhaps Father Bena's view) than Kirsch's. Langdon correctly identifies that something needed to create or author the laws of physics that Kirsch is claiming life is following. He likens it to the difference between patterns and codes. Patterns appear in nature, but they don't necessarily mean anything. Codes can be a pattern, but by definition, there is a meaning behind them. Father Bena argues that God (or the Creator if you prefer) gave us intellect therefore he intends us to use it. Can God use evolution to create? Yes. Did he? I don't know--that's one of the things I don't think we'll know this side of heaven. To me, it doesn't matter.
Like all of Brown's Robert Langdon books, this one follows a similar trajectory. Langdon finds himself in the middle of a controversial episode with a leading lady, they team up and must evade mysterious killers, all while trying to uncover secrets. Throw in the usual political and religious controversies, and you're off on a "new" adventure.
The Robert Langdon books are sort of one of my guilty pleasures, although I find myself becoming more and more critical each time I read one. The writing is not spectacular -- it's overly dramatic and often unrealistic as many thrillers are, and Brown's overuse of italicized unspoken thoughts grates on my nerves. But I've always enjoyed them for the "fun" factor: following the clues and symbols in order to figure out various puzzles. However, there really wasn't much at all of that in this one, and I missed it. The plot itself was just okay, but I think it would've been more enjoyable had it contained some of those puzzle elements. This one followed more of a traditional thriller story, which in my view, made it fairly unremarkable.
Brown does do an exceptional job in exploring and re-creating various geographical and architectural locations. Rarely do I want to travel and explore as much as I do after reading one of his novels, and this one was no exception. I'm ready to hop on a plane and explore some of Spain's architectural jewels. Though I was more or less disappointed in this overall novel, the rich and intriguing descriptions nearly make the reading worthwhile.