Dan Brown’s Origin

Dan Brown’s character Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology at Harvard, is a quite popular figure in contemporary thriller novel genre. In Origin (2017), Langdon travels through cities of Spain with elaborate descriptions on history and art, to stop someone from exposing new revelations about god and hopes of a godless world. Hiya Islam reviews the book.


Dan-Brown-OriginRELEASED in October 2017, Dan Brown’s latest work, Origin has been on The New York Times Best Sellers’ list for 16 weeks so far. This is the fifth book of the Robert Langdon series. But, to enjoy the perilous adventures of the Harvard professor, who teaches symbology and religious iconology, the reading order may or may not be followed.  The 461-page book is divided into 105 short, gripping chapters. The story surrounds around a 40-year old billionaire computer scientist, Edmond Kirsch, who is a brilliant futurist and an outspoken atheist, his important discovery gives the basic structure of the story line. According to him, his discovery will not only shake the founding beliefs of existing religions but absolutely shatter them. Edmond is known worldwide for his brilliant progress in technology and mind-boggling accuracy in prediction. He struggles to find the meaning of life in sacred texts and theories of science. His two questions on the beginning of life and the future of mankind set him on a journey to seek answers. And when he finds it, he can hardly wait to make the grand revelation.

The story is set in Spain, a country rich in culture, architecture, art and history — all the elements Brown needs to create a sensational journey overall.

The book begins with the meeting of Kirsch with prominent religious leaders from Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Despite receiving threats from Bishop Valdespino, Kirsch remains adamant and still organises a fantastic event at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao where he would finally deliver the ultimate truth about god to the world. This is where the author offers chapter after chapter elaborately describing the event at the Guggenheim museum. At one point, the details had become excruciatingly tiring yet I still admire the knack the author has for vast and vivid description. At times, his descriptions managed to take my mind off the epic findings that is about to be revealed and ponder on the various works of art displayed around the museum. The fact that the book includes accurate information on all art, architectural locations, science and religious organisations only heightened the fascination. However, after much fanfare, when Edmond finally comes to sharing his findings with the world, a disappointing turn of events occurs that only succeed in silencing him forever.

This change in the plot is very predictable as without it the story would have certainly ended and would not achieve the intended effect on the reader’s mind. And soon, Langdon’s skill for breaking codes comes into play. He teams up with the director of the museum, who is also the host for the evening, Ambra Vidal, to bring Kirsch’s discovery to light. Robert travels through four cities of Spain — Bilbao, Seville, Barcelona and Madrid. As always, this has only given the author a chance to go through a bit of history in every city. The connection between Langdon and Kirsch goes back about two decades in the past. Langdon was Kirsch’s professor at Harvard. And over years, they had maintained contact strengthening their relationship. As the two set forth on a dangerous mission to find the password that unleashes Edmond’s epic presentation, they are joined by Winston. As Ambra reveals that the password contains 47 characters and is a line from Edmond’s favorite poetry, their only choice is to rush to Barcelona. The top floor of Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milà was where the famed futurist used to live.

Winston is Edmond’s super intelligent AI (artificial intelligence) assistant that he had personally programmed. From the very beginning, Winston’s performance always has an element of great marvel. The way its ‘mind’ works only triggers oneself to think how wonderful the world can be in presence of artificial intelligence. His loyalty to his code or instructions is truly remarkable. His persistence has been described by the author using a quote of Churchill — ‘Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm’. This completely agrees with Winston’s persistence as Langdon and Vidal received 53 missed calls from Winston in a period of 30 minutes. But as the book comes to its end, the twist in Winston’s character is one of the reasons why Origin poses several dilemmatic questions in the mind regarding the future of technology.

After earnest efforts, the duo succeeds in finding the one of a kind password. The situation worsens with the loss of contact with Winston, the only way through which the presentation can be launched.

Brown does reveal Kirsch’s earth-shattering discovery in the end for which Langdon and Vidal go through much turmoil. Kirsch’s logic in explaining the supposed godless universe reflects his great research and is somewhat convincing. But at the same time, the author throws in comments in italics which further create chaos. As the explanation of where man comes from ends, the prediction of where man is headed to begins. Kirsch’s futuristic ideas baffle the audience and his predictions are rather undesirable. His findings generate a huge global response. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories on his death run wildly. Key members of the Spanish palace are suspected and charged.

In the book, Kirsch is portrayed as a man of knowledge, just like his professor. And a mysterious man, too. His life is gradually revealed in the pages. Of the many surprising things, he has the vial of Miller-Urey experimental primordial soup back from the 1950s in his possession. His collections of books and paintings and his choice of abode only emphasise the power and influence he has.

In a nutshell, Origin is a definite read for the curious minds. For the ones uninterested in history, the first half of the book may seem mundane. However, the sudden twist in the story later is highly enthralling and is what completes experience as a whole.


Hiya Islam is a student of BRAC University.





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