24 June 2018

Book Review -- 'Origin" by Dan Brown

This one snuck by me. Origin was released in October of last year and I didn't even know. For someone as devoutly adoring of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon series, that's sacrilege in my eyes. When I found out it was there, I grabbed it immediately. And tried to find the time to savor it. Took me three times, finally ending on the date of this posting. Before you read anything into that...don't. It's just that life gets in the way sometimes. It happens. But I've finished it.

Professor Langdon has been called to Spain to witness a former student's revelation. A revelation that is alleged to be so shattering and explosive, that the student--Edmund Kirsch, by name--had to consult with three religious leaders to get their opinions on the matter. A revelation that is almost explosive enough to prompt Kirsch to share it with the world a month earlier than he promised these religious leaders he would. A revelation as to the origins of humanity and what humanity will one day become. Answering the most fundamental questions humanity has had since its birth.

Where did we come from? Where are we going?

But it turns out to be a revelation that's just a bit too explosive as Kirsch is murdered in the middle of the broadcast, before he can actually make that revelation. It's up to Langdon, Guggenheim Museum Director Ambra Vidal (who also happens to be the fiancée of the Crown Prince of Spain), and the unseen personal assistant of Kirsch, Winston, to find out where the revelation is hidden and solve the clues along the way to releasing what has become Kirsch's life's work.

And, of course, the murderer will be revealed in there somewhere. It always happens that way. Find out who tried to silence Edmund Kirsch and you find out who killed him.

Very heady stuff. And I've read some of the negative reviews of the book. Valid points in there. Quite a few level a charge of the Langdon Series becoming formulaic. And they're right. They are. Robert Langdon is in town for some event, happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, gets dragged into a life threatening situation for someone, and he's the only one who can figure out the clues. That's pretty much what happens here. Can't argue that. Truth is truth. Others found it a heavy and ponderous story line. And there's truth there. There is a darkness that is more like The Lost Symbol than the tone of Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and Inferno. But....

The theme of this book can't be treated lightly, nor does Mr. Brown. It's not going to be an easy answer and it's not going to be something as lofty as finding the tomb of the Magdalene, or whether or not you believe in secret societies. There's no Indiana Jones adventure to this. This is a struggle between religion and science, a desperate need to know who we are and what we believe. In a world where wars are started over religious iconography and a simple cartoon drawn by someone poking a little light in the oh so serious dogma of a religion, the subject and theme of this story is not going to surface level. It's going to run deep. Dark. And make you question everything you think you believe. The questions can be painful. So are the answers.

Another review made note that the book was a bit long winded. That's also true. But! If you read the first four books, the set up was rather short. Uncomplicated. Two, maybe three chapters to set up the action and the books all took off at a gallop. They were simple to set up. Well, maybe not The Lost Symbol, but the other three certainly were. Origin isn't that simple to set up. The "origin" of the book will be just as complicated as the rest of the story. You can't sum up what is about to happen in a few words. You just can't.

The book was everything I'd hoped it would be. Deep, dark, mysterious. Complicated. The characters are vibrant. Action a-plenty. Getting pulled away from the story was like ripping me out of my mother's womb all over again. Sitting down again, even some time later, and I was sucked back into the story to the exclusion of sleep. Food. Drink. Until one of those pulled me out and the demands of the body...or of friends and loved ones...took precedence. That was how riveting the story was to me.

As always, there was some new twist or turn that caught me unaware and I followed with renewed vigor. A few I anticipated. Many I didn't. I met people that I was so sure were enemies or friends, only to have those plot twists turn those ideas on their heads. I fell in love with Winston, no lie. Each character is just as complicated, just as fascinating. Just as complicit in the drama.

But the book ended exactly as it should have. As it needed to. I saw a few reviews that didn't like that ending. I loved it. I thought it was perfect. The book could end no other way. Dan Brown leads you by the hand through a very complicated, sometimes disturbing, but always satisfying story to an equally satisfying conclusion. And if you're like me, something to chew on for a while.

I'm giving this one **** out of five stars. Yes, its formulaic and dark, but the dark is on point The formulaic isn't. Time for a new formula, Dan. But this is a must read. Lots of action, lots of twists and turns, excellent characters, and a story that will linger long after the words The End come .

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