Hi everyone! I didn’t think I would be posting so soon but I managed to get a hold of a book that I’d wanted to review for a while now. Since I have read (a majority of) Dan Brown’s latest novel Origin, I decided to post an unconventional review. This won’t be my standard format as I decided I want to highlight some of the issues I took with the novel and tell you about how I think certain aspects of the novel could have been different. I have read the other novels in this particular series (I don’t think this series has a name so I’m just going to call it the Robert Langdon series) and I wanted to talk about how this one separates itself from the others. Just a note, I’m not going to debate the ethics or themes of this novel. I am simply going to talk about the elements of the novel itself that worked or didn’t work. Without further ado, here is my list of grievances with Dan Brown’s Origin.
The Overall Plot: I have always been a fan of treasure hunting stories. That is what got me into Dan Brown’s novels in the first place. With this being the fifth book in a series based on historical scavenger hunts, you would think that Brown would select a different era of history to focus on in a different part of the world. Instead, he gives this weird match-up of hypermodern settings with ancient symbols thrown in. Along with that, the overall plot revolves around a literal face-off between an ultra-conservative bishop with a grudge and a billionaire futurist with the secret that will change religion forever. Brown has taken any subtlety with his “science versus religion” subplot and decided to make it front and center as the main plot. With the book’s title, I assumed that maybe the book would have to do with very early history and that might have been interesting to solve a mystery dating to the time before Christ.
The Characters: Overall, I enjoy the character of Robert Langdon. Where he could have easily been overly manly or annoying, Brown chose to make him more reserved and humble. My problem with his character is that Langdon never seems to change that much throughout the novels. While he is still a stable leading character, he lacks the development that I would like to see. Any of Langdon’s trauma stems from his childhood fears as opposed to anything that happened in the latest novels. It would have been interesting to see how Langdon handles any of his unintentional fame but, instead, he mentions these past events in the same way a person remembers a weekend vacation. The female lead, Ambra Vidal, is a passable female lead but she is kind of an amalgamation of the previous female characters who only sort of made an impact on the novels. It would have been nice to see at least one of the previous female characters brought back in some interesting way. Honestly, even if that female character was a love interest, I would still accept it because I need more female characters in these novels that don’t just hang around for the adventure then split with no explanation. The billionaire futurist, Edmond Kirsch, just comes across as arrogant for the sake of arrogance. The “villain,” Bishop Valdespino, is pretty forgettable as is his main lackey, Admiral Avila. The characters in this novel just seem to represent the furthest extremes with Langdon there to bridge the gap.
The Writing/Dialogue: Brown’s writing is good but it doesn’t exceed above good in this novel. Reading this book felt more like reading a text book with how every other chapter seems to begin with some long paragraph of history and statistics. The history no longer feels as integrated into the novel as it once did. The prose wasn’t nearly as smooth. The dialogue also felt as though Brown was trying to hard to be topical. Characters reference “fake news,” the Frozen movie, Uber, and other modern day topics in ways that just feel cheesy and awkward. The writing struggles to combine fact and prose in a cohesive manner.
Themes: I know I said I wouldn’t knock on the themes of this novel but I do have some thoughts. With the title of the novel being Origin, I was under the impression there would be an overall theme of beginnings that would help round out the plot. Unfortunately, the only beginning that matters in the novel is the beginning of religion or humanity or something really far-reaching like that. Instead of exploring a more narrow “origin,” Brown wants to tackle the complicated question of “where did people come from and how far are we going to go?” While the other novels focuses on slivers of history, this once wants to discuss the history of history. Everyone is going for meta these days and Brown seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. The whole idea of challenging your beliefs is also thrown in the most extreme direction.
Conclusion: All in all, this was not the installment I wanted to see in the Robert Langdon series. It is not that I consider this book “unreadable” but I felt it could have been done differently. You can read this book but I wouldn’t recommend putting this on the top of your TBR list. Those who like Brown are not going to enjoy this novel as they enjoyed the others. If you are looking to read a Dan Brown book in this series, I would recommend The Da Vinci Code or The Lost Symbol. Angels and Demons and Inferno are both good as well but they aren’t my favorites.
Note: The picture I’ve used for the feature image is an actual statue from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain where the novel takes place.