I believe the Robert Langdon series is so beloved because the character is a modern day Indiana Jones. An academic (which appeals to us cerebral types) who goes on thrilling, dangerous adventures seeking to solve a mystery and discover some groundbreaking truth. Who wouldn’t want to read that?
After ‘The Lost Symbol’ I thought that I had seen the last of Langdon and Dan Brown. But, through my social media stalking, roughly a year ago I realized that Brown was in fact writing a 4th book in his Langdon series, and I’ve been salivating in anticipation ever since. I was so excited that when I actually bought the book that I deliberately only allowed myself to read a chapter at a time. But eventually, my restraint ran out and I had to finish it!
There are three things that are fantastic about Dan Brown as a writer. First is his ability to fit 300 pages worth of plot into a time span of only a few days. In the case of ‘Origin’ the entire book occurs over a period of less than 24 hours. Langdon is invited to a secretive media presentation hosted by Kirsch (an old pupil) that was being held in Madrid’s premier modern art museum. During his virtual tour, Langdon is introduced to Winston, Kirsch futuristic artificial intelligence. Winston guides Langdon through the museum and finally into the presentation.
Inside a massive art installation, Langdon is taken on a sensory journey that explains religion, the origin of mankind, and concludes with two central questions. These questions are the scientific breakthrough Kirsch has invited Langdon to see. Alas, before revealing his achievement, Kirsch is murdered in cold blood by a fanatical religious Spanish naval officer. Langdon felt he owed a debt to his former student, thus, he resolved to release the breakthrough with the help of Winston. Tagging along for the ride was a beautiful Amal who helped construct the installation for Kirsch before his demise (Brown knows that every good hero needs a woman by his side, as Langdon always has a brilliant female assistant). The three set off on a path across the city and Spain in a bid to discover how to unlock the encypted presentation.
Here is the second brilliant thing about Brown as an author, he has a puzzling mind that can produce puzzles, hints, and clues in seemingly innocuous things that no one else could think of. Brown does this by weaving together art, nature, science, religion, and in ‘Origin’, technology. Amal and Langdon rely on a specially designed smart phone designed by Kirsch to lead them back to Kirsch apartment where they attempt to find the master password to Kirsch science presentation. Langdon uses his skills to recall text to basically delve through an entire library in the space of an hour. Meanwhile, the duo are being hunted by the police as Langdon has been accused of kidnapping by the Royal Palace of Spain.
Eventually, Langdon realizes that the password hint is hidden in a tome that Kirsch donated to a modern church within Barcelona. This is where the third amazing thing about Brown emerges. Throughout ‘Orgin’ and all of his novels, Brown is able to interpret religion in a way that makes it seem alive and interesting. With the help of a Catholic priest, Langdon and Amal discover the password and attempt to rush off to the stronghold of Winston. Unfortunately, the crazy Spanish navy killer catches them and attempts to kill Langdon (it wouldn’t be a true Brown novel if his protagonist didn’t face death at least once). Luckily, Langdon survives and escapes to the find the supercomputer Winston, which is hidden within another church.
After a night of trials and dangers, Amal and Langdon finally reach the physical computer version of Winston and release Kirsch breakthrough to the world. Kirsch had managed to make a supercomputer strong enough to simulate the origin of man. The computer proves that life on earth emerged not from God, but chemicals and energy. Kirsch goes on to explain that he also simulated where life on earth was going. Kirsch predicted that humans and tech would merge into a new species. In the end, Langdon achieved his goal of publicising his students work. Sadly, he still doesn’t get the beautiful girl Amal, who is quickly spirited away. Langdon goes on to make one further discovery, that I won’t reveal to you. Some things need to remain a surprise.
To conclude, I was taught that every good review needs to include at least one thing that could be improved on. It is probably the best advice I’ve ever been given because it forces me to be critical of things I love. In the case of ‘Origin’, I question if Brown was reaching too far outside his comfort zone. The beauty of Langdon is that his talents/knowledge lie in classical art, symbolism and religion. It almost felt uncomfortable to read about Langdon being involved in so much technology. Furthermore, some of the scientific leaps described in ‘Orgin’ seem a bit too far fetched. I believe they are possible, but not for decades. Lastly, can Langdon ever get the girl? He deserves some peace and happiness.
Nonetheless, I loved ‘Origin’. It was a thought provoking read that taught me new things about architecture, Spain, and technology. I forcefully recommend that you read not only ‘Origin’ but all of the Langdon series. You will never be bored, and I guarentee you will be educated in a variety of areas. Furthermore, I pray that this isn’t the last I hear of Robert Langdon. He is simple too good a character to retire.
I aspire to be an author like Dan Brown. He manages to make intriguing, complicated characters that maintain mass appeal. Brown also has a way of provoking thought by constantly weaving religion and symbolism into everything. It makes me wonder what Brown’s actual views on religion are. I could easily research this, but I choose to let it remain a unanswered question. Maybe he will tell me himself one day when I’m also a best selling author and we meet for coffee.