Series: Robert Langdon, #5
Published by Doubleday Books on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
I know Dan Brown has a lot of critics who say that his books have become too formulaic, that they follow a predictable pattern. While I won’t deny that may be true, especially with respect to his Robert Langdon series, I will also be the first to stand up and say “So what?” I personally LOVE the formula and get ridiculously excited every time I hear that a new Dan Brown book is coming out. I’m not sure what it is about Brown’s books that consistently draw me in – in some ways, I think they bring out my inner conspiracy theorist – but whatever the draw is, he always sucks me in from the first page and keeps me turning the pages well into the night. And Origin was no exception. I devoured its nearly 500 pages in less than two days!
For those unfamiliar with Robert Langdon, he is a professor of symbology and religious iconography at Harvard University. He has become somewhat of a household name in academic circles as his expertise in those subject areas have helped to uncover and stop some pretty major conspiracies over the years. In Origin, Langdon has been invited to an event at the prestigious Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain by one of his former students, Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch, who is now a 40 year-old billionaire and futurist, plans to make an announcement at this event. He claims to have made a discovery which he believes will change the face of science and will turn all of the world’s religions upside down. Kirsch says that his discovery answers two of the most fundamental questions of human existence: 1) Where do we come from? and 2) Where are we going? Because his announcement involves Langdon’s specialty, Religion, Kirsch wanted to have his former professor present at the announcement.
As soon as the presentation begins, Langdon senses that Kirsch’s announcement will be controversial and that it will have the potential to send shockwaves through the religious community. Prior to the big reveal, however, tragedy strikes and Kirsch is assassinated before he can unveil his discovery. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, Langdon makes a split second decision that could put his own life in danger – if someone was willing to kill Kirsch rather than let his discovery see the light of day, then Langdon owes it to Kirsch to not let his secret die with him. Langdon teams up with Ambra Vidal, the museum director who was most closely working with Kirsch on the details of his presentation and announcement. Vidal knows that Kirsch’s presentation was protected by a cryptic password and that without that password, they have no way of unlocking the truth. So begins a quest to discover Kirsch’s password that takes Langdon and Vidal on a path marked by modern art, enigmatic symbols, and of course danger once those who killed Kirsch realize what Langdon and Vidal are trying to do.
Will Langdon be able to unlock the mystery of Kirsch’s discovery? And if so, what ramifications will Kirsch’s discovery have on the rest of the world? Where do we come from? Where are we going?
Okay, so I’m going to start simple here and say that I just love Robert Langdon. There’s not a lot to Langdon in terms of character development because Brown’s novels are primarily plot-driven, but I just really enjoy watching Langdon get his geek on when it comes to following and deciphering religious-based clues. He can find meaning in the most seemingly insignificant symbol and even five books into the series, it never ceases to fascinate me. I also love that he’s kind of a famous nerd, and that as brilliant as he is when it comes to symbology and religious iconography, he still has this sense of fun and quirkiness about him. I mean, seriously, the guy wears an antique Mickey Mouse watch! And I know Tom Hanks was cast to play Langdon in the movies, but in my mind, Langdon doesn’t look like Tom Hanks. Instead, he looks like Harrison Ford. So yeah, Langdon is a handsome, nerdy guy with a Mickey Mouse watch. What’s not to love?
Another aspect of the Langdon series I’ve always enjoyed involves the setting. Dan Brown always places the trail of clues Langdon must find and unravel in such exciting cities. In Angels & Demons, he took us through the streets of Rome, and in the DaVinci Code, we traveled through Paris and London. The Lost Symbol then took us through Washington, D.C., while Inferno transported us to Florence, Venice, and even Istanbul. Origin doesn’t slack in the setting department either as it transports us to the glorious cities of Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona. If you want to travel without ever leaving your reading chair, pick up a Dan Brown book and off you’ll go!
I also think that, formulaic or not, Brown does a masterful job of building up the suspense in his novels. He structures the narrative so that we get alternating chapters between different characters in the story – some of whom are, like Langdon, clearly protagonists, while others are clearly antagonists who are trying to stop Langdon. I liked not only seeing the story unfold from both sides of the equation at the same time, but also feeling the suspense build as each side inched forward toward their ultimate goal. The question of “Who’s going to get there first?” coupled with the desire to know the truth about Kirsch’s discovery really drives the story forward at a rapid clip. I just couldn’t put the book down until I knew everything.
Origin also doesn’t disappoint in the action department. The story is infused with danger and action-packed scenes as Langdon and Vidal try to stay one step ahead of those who are desperate to stop them!
The one issue I have consistently had with the Robert Langdon series is that Langdon always seems to end up paired with a beautiful woman on his quest for the truth. These pairings are never really romantic — the pair is usually just sifting through clues and bouncing ideas off of one another while trying to keep from getting killed by whoever doesn’t want the truth to come out — so that’s not my issue. But when it happened again in Origin, I found myself wondering why it’s always a woman. I think it’s time for Langdon to team up and geek out over symbols and religious iconography with another guy. Langdon needs a bro-mance!
I adore Dan Brown’s novels and Origin is no exception to that. Do I think his works are destined to be considered great works of literature? No, probably not. But that said, they are consistently entertaining and intense, and now that I’ve finished the fifth book in the series, I’m already hoping that there will be a sixth. So, if you’re looking for an action-packed thrill ride that will also make you think about potentially life-changing questions like “Where do we come from?” and “Where are we going?” then I’d definitely say to give Origin a read. And if you’ve never read any of the Langdon series, I’d most highly recommend Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. Those were both 5 star reads for me.
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.