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Origin: A Novel (Robert Langdon Book 5) Kindle Edition
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"A brisk new book that pits creationism against science, and is liable to stir up as much controversy as The Da Vinci Code did. In Origin, the brash futurist Edmond Kirsch comes up with a theory so bold, so daring that, as he modestly thinks to himself in Brown’s beloved italics, “It will not shake your foundations. It will shatter them.” Kirsch is of course addressing The World, because that’s the scale on which Brown writes. Brown and serious ideas: they do fit together, never more than they have in Origin."
–-Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Origin asks the questions Where do we come from? Where are we going? They are questions about humanity--but they could just as easily be questions about Robert Langdon. The Mickey Mouse watch-wearing, claustrophobic, always-near-trouble symbology professor is back in Dan Brown’s latest book. And just like he was in his original exploits (Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code), Dr. Langdon is once again wrapped up in a global-scale event that could have massive ramifications on the world’s religions. As he does in all his novels, Brown[‘s] extensive research on art, architecture, and history informs every page."
"Entertaining . . . Loyal fans of his globetrotting symbologist Robert Langdon will no doubt be thrilled with the fifth book in the series."
"Dan Brown is once again taking on the big questions: God and science and the future of the world. Origin is a familiar blend of travelogue, history, conspiracies and whodunit, with asides on everything from the poetry of William Blake to the rise and fall of fascism in Spain."
"The bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code is back with a new book that looks to the future. Origin features many of Brown’s signature themes. An evil, Catholic-adjacent cult, in this case the Palmarian Church, is behind some murders. Gems from art history are the key to solving the mystery. [And] if the reader is in it for the thrill and the twist, the faithful will be glad to hear that there’s a Da Vinci Code-esque background to Robert Langdon’s mission."
--The New Republic
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
As the ancient cogwheel train clawed its way up the dizzying incline, Edmond Kirsch surveyed the jagged mountaintop above him. In the distance, built into the face of a sheer cliff, the massive stone monastery seemed to hang in space, as if magically fused to the vertical precipice.
This timeless sanctuary in Catalonia, Spain, had endured the relentless pull of gravity for more than four centuries, never slipping from its original purpose: to insulate its occupants from the modern world.
Ironically, they will now be the first to learn the truth, Kirsch thought, wondering how they would react. Historically, the most dangerous men on earth were men of God . . . especially when their gods became threatened. And I am about to hurl a flaming spear into a hornets’ nest.
When the train reached the mountaintop, Kirsch saw a solitary figure waiting for him on the platform. The wizened skeleton of a man was draped in the traditional Catholic purple cassock and white rochet, with a zucchetto on his head. Kirsch recognized his host’s rawboned features from photos and felt an unexpected surge of adrenaline.
Valdespino is greeting me personally.
Bishop Antonio Valdespino was a formidable figure in Spain—not only a trusted friend and counselor to the king himself, but one of the country’s most vocal and influential advocates for the preservation of conservative Catholic values and traditional political standards.
“Edmond Kirsch, I assume?” the bishop intoned as Kirsch exited the train.
“Guilty as charged,” Kirsch said, smiling as he reached out to shake his host’s bony hand. “Bishop Valdespino, I want to thank you for arranging this meeting.”
“I appreciate your requesting it.” The bishop’s voice was stronger than Kirsch expected—clear and penetrating, like a bell. “It is not often we are consulted by men of science, especially one of your prominence. This way, please.”
As Valdespino guided Kirsch across the platform, the cold mountain air whipped at the bishop’s cassock.
“I must confess,” Valdespino said, “you look different than I imagined. I was expecting a scientist, but you’re quite . . .” He eyed his guest’s sleek Kiton K50 suit and Barker ostrich shoes with a hint of disdain. “ ‘Hip,’ I believe, is the word?”
Kirsch smiled politely. The word “hip” went out of style decades ago.
“In reading your list of accomplishments,” the bishop said, “I am still not entirely sure what it is you do.”
“I specialize in game theory and computer modeling.”
“So you make the computer games that the children play?”
Kirsch sensed the bishop was feigning ignorance in an attempt to be quaint. More accurately, Kirsch knew, Valdespino was a frighteningly well-informed student of technology and often warned others of its dangers. “No, sir, actually game theory is a field of mathematics that studies patterns in order to make predictions about the future.”
“Ah yes. I believe I read that you predicted a European monetary crisis some years ago? When nobody listened, you saved the day by inventing a computer program that pulled the EU back from the dead. What was your famous quote? ‘At thirty-three years old, I am the same age as Christ when He performed His resurrection.’ ”
Kirsch cringed. “A poor analogy, Your Grace. I was young.”
“Young?” The bishop chuckled. “And how old are you now . . . perhaps forty?”
The old man smiled as the strong wind continued to billow his robe. “Well, the meek were supposed to inherit the earth, but instead it has gone to the young—the technically inclined, those who stare into video screens rather than into their own souls. I must admit, I never imagined I would have reason to meet the young man leading the charge. They call you a prophet, you know.”
“Not a very good one in your case, Your Grace,” Kirsch replied. “When I asked if I might meet you and your colleagues privately, I calculated only a twenty percent chance you would accept.”
“And as I told my colleagues, the devout can always benefit from listening to nonbelievers. It is in hearing the voice of the devil that we can better appreciate the voice of God.” The old man smiled. “I am joking, of course. Please forgive my aging sense of humor. My filters fail me from time to time.”
With that, Bishop Valdespino motioned ahead. “The others are waiting. This way, please.”
Kirsch eyed their destination, a colossal citadel of gray stone perched on the edge of a sheer cliff that plunged thousands of feet down into a lush tapestry of wooded foothills. Unnerved by the height, Kirsch averted his eyes from the chasm and followed the bishop along the uneven cliffside path, turning his thoughts to the meeting ahead.
Kirsch had requested an audience with three prominent religious leaders who had just finished attending a conference here.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Since 1893, hundreds of spiritual leaders from nearly thirty world religions had gathered in a different location every few years to spend a week engaged in interfaith dialogue. Participants included a wide array of influential Christian priests, Jewish rabbis, and Islamic mullahs from around the world, along with Hindu pujaris, Buddhist bhikkhus, Jains, Sikhs, and others.
The parliament’s self-proclaimed objective was “to cultivate harmony among the world’s religions, build bridges between diverse spiritualities, and celebrate the intersections of all faith.”
A noble quest, Kirsch thought, despite seeing it as an empty exercise— a meaningless search for random points of correspondence among a hodgepodge of ancient fictions, fables, and myths.
As Bishop Valdespino guided him along the pathway, Kirsch peered down the mountainside with a sardonic thought. Moses climbed a mountain to accept the Word of God . . . and I have climbed a mountain to do quite the opposite.
Kirsch’s motivation for climbing this mountain, he had told himself, was one of ethical obligation, but he knew there was a good dose of hubris fueling this visit— he was eager to feel the gratification of sitting face-to-face with these clerics and foretelling their imminent demise.
You’ve had your run at defining our truth.
“I looked at your curriculum vitae,” the bishop said abruptly, glancing at Kirsch. “I see you’re a product of Harvard University?”
“I see. Recently, I read that for the first time in Harvard’s history, the incoming student body consists of more atheists and agnostics than those who identify as followers of any religion. That is quite a telling statistic, Mr. Kirsch.”
What can I tell you, Kirsch wanted to reply, our students keep getting smarter.
The wind whipped harder as they arrived at the ancient stone edifice. Inside the dim light of the building’s entryway, the air was heavy with the thick fragrance of burning frankincense. The two men snaked through a maze of dark corridors, and Kirsch’s eyes fought to adjust as he followed his cloaked host. Finally, they arrived at an unusually small wooden door. The bishop knocked, ducked down, and entered, motioning for his guest to follow.
Uncertain, Kirsch stepped over the threshold.
He found himself in a rectangular chamber whose high walls burgeoned with ancient leather-bound tomes. Additional freestanding bookshelves jutted out of the walls like ribs, interspersed with cast-iron radiators that clanged and hissed, giving the room the eerie sense that it was alive. Kirsch raised his eyes to the ornately balustraded walkway that encircled the second story and knew without a doubt where he was.
The famed library of Montserrat, he realized, startled to have been admitted. This sacred room was rumored to contain uniquely rare texts accessible only to those monks who had devoted their lives to God and who were sequestered here on this mountain.
“You asked for discretion,” the bishop said. “This is our most private space. Few outsiders have ever entered.”
“A generous privilege. Thank you.”
Kirsch followed the bishop to a large wooden table where two elderly men sat waiting. The man on the left looked timeworn, with tired eyes and a matted white beard. He wore a crumpled black suit, white shirt, and fedora.
“This is Rabbi Yehuda Köves,” the bishop said. “He is a prominent Jewish philosopher who has written extensively on Kabbalistic cosmology.”
Kirsch reached across the table and politely shook hands with Rabbi Köves. “A pleasure to meet you, sir,” Kirsch said. “I’ve read your books on Kabbala. I can’t say I understood them, but I’ve read them.”
Köves gave an amiable nod, dabbing at his watery eyes with his handkerchief.
“And here,” the bishop continued, motioning to the other man, “you have the respected allamah, Syed al-Fadl.”
The revered Islamic scholar stood up and smiled broadly. He was short and squat with a jovial face that seemed a mismatch with his dark penetrating eyes. He was dressed in an unassuming white thawb. “And, Mr. Kirsch, I have read your predictions on the future of mankind. I can’t say I agree with them, but I have read them.”
Kirsch gave a gracious smile and shook the man’s hand.
“And our guest, Edmond Kirsch,” the bishop concluded, addressing his two colleagues, “as you know, is a highly regarded computer scientist, game theorist, inventor, and something of a prophet in the technological world. Considering his background, I was puzzled by his request to address the three of us. Therefore, I shall now leave it to Mr. Kirsch to explain why he has come.”
With that, Bishop Valdespino took a seat between his two colleagues, folded his hands, and gazed up expectantly at Kirsch. All three men faced him like a tribunal, creating an ambience more like that of an inquisition than a friendly meeting of scholars. The bishop, Kirsch now realized, had not even set out a chair for him.
Kirsch felt more bemused than intimidated as he studied the three aging men before him. So this is the Holy Trinity I requested. The Three Wise Men.
Pausing a moment to assert his power, Kirsch walked over to the window and gazed out at the breathtaking panorama below. A sunlit patchwork of ancient pastoral lands stretched across a deep valley, giving way to the rugged peaks of the Collserola mountain range. Miles beyond, somewhere out over the Balearic Sea, a menacing bank of storm clouds was now gathering on the horizon.
Fitting, Kirsch thought, sensing the turbulence he would soon cause in this room, and in the world beyond.
“Gentlemen,” he commenced, turning abruptly back toward them. “I believe Bishop Valdespino has already conveyed to you my request for secrecy. Before we continue, I just want to clarify that what I am about to share with you must be kept in the strictest confidence. Simply stated, I am asking for a vow of silence from all of you. Are we in agreement?”
All three men gave nods of tacit acquiescence, which Kirsch knew were probably redundant anyway. They will want to bury this information—not broadcast it.
“I am here today,” Kirsch began, “because I have made a scientific discovery I believe you will find startling. It is something I have pursued for many years, hoping to provide answers to two of the most fundamental questions of our human experience. Now that I have succeeded, I have come to you specifically because I believe this information will affect the world’s faithful in a profound way, quite possibly causing a shift that can only be described as, shall we say—disruptive. At the moment, I am the only person on earth who has the information I am about to reveal to you.”
Kirsch reached into his suit coat and pulled out an oversized smartphone—one that he had designed and built to serve his own unique needs. The phone had a vibrantly colored mosaic case, and he propped it up before the three men like a television. In a moment, he would use the device to dial into an ultrasecure server, enter his forty-seven-character password, and live-stream a presentation for them.
“What you are about to see,” Kirsch said, “is a rough cut of an announcement I hope to share with the world—perhaps in a month or so. But before I do, I wanted to consult with a few of the world’s most influential religious thinkers, to gain insight into how this news will be received by those it affects most.”
The bishop sighed loudly, sounding more bored than concerned. “An intriguing preamble, Mr. Kirsch. You speak as if whatever you are about to show us will shake the foundations of the world’s religions.”
Kirsch glanced around the ancient repository of sacred texts. It will not shake your foundations. It will shatter them.
Kirsch appraised the men before him. What they did not know was that in only three days’ time, Kirsch planned to go public with this presentation in a stunning, meticulously choreographed event. When he did, people across the world would realize that the teachings of all religions did indeed have one thing in common.
They were all dead wrong.
Professor Robert Langdon gazed up at the forty-foot-tall dog sitting in the plaza. The animal’s fur was a living carpet of grass and fragrant flowers.
I’m trying to love you, he thought. I truly am.
Langdon pondered the creature a bit longer and then continued along a suspended walkway, descending a sprawling terrace of stairs whose uneven treads were intended to jar the arriving visitor from his usual rhythm and gait. Mission accomplished, Langdon decided, nearly stumbling twice on the irregular steps.
At the bottom of the stairs, Langdon jolted to a stop, staring at a massive object that loomed ahead.
Now I’ve seen it all.
A towering black widow spider rose before him, its slender iron legs supporting a bulbous body at least thirty feet in the air. On the spider’s underbelly hung a wire-mesh egg sac filled with glass orbs.
“Her name is Maman,” a voice said.
Langdon lowered his gaze and saw a slender man standing beneath the spider. He wore a black brocade sherwani and had an almost comical curling Salvador Dalí mustache.
“My name is Fernando,” he continued, “and I’m here to welcome you to the museum.” The man perused a collection of name tags on a table before him. “May I have your name, please?”
“Certainly. Robert Langdon.”
The man’s eyes shot back up. “Ah, I am so sorry! I did not recognize you, sir!”
I barely recognize myself, Langdon thought, advancing stiffly in his white bow tie, black tails, and white waistcoat. I look like a Whiffenpoof. Langdon’s classic tails were almost thirty years old, preserved from his days as a member of the Ivy Club at Princeton, but thanks to his faithful daily regimen of swimming laps, the outfit still fit him fairly well. In Langdon’s haste to pack, he had grabbed the wrong hanging bag from his closet, leaving his usual tuxedo behind.
“The invitation said black and white,” Langdon said. “I trust tails are appropriate?”
“Tails are a classic! You look dashing!” The man scurried over and carefully pressed a name tag to the lapel of Langdon’s jacket.
“It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” the mustached man said. “No doubt you’ve visited us before?”
Langdon gazed through the spider’s legs at the glistening building before them. “Actually, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never been.”
“No!” The man feigned falling over. “You’re not a fan of modern art?”
Langdon had always enjoyed the challenge of modern art—primarily the exploration of why particular works were hailed as masterpieces: Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings; Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans; Mark Rothko’s simple rectangles of color. Even so, Langdon was far more comfortable discussing the religious symbolism of Hieronymus Bosch or the brushwork of Francisco de Goya.
“I’m more of a classicist,” Langdon replied. “I do better with da Vinci than with de Kooning.”
“But da Vinci and de Kooning are so similar!”
Langdon smiled patiently. “Then I clearly have a bit to learn about de Kooning.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place!” The man swung his arm toward the massive building. “In this museum, you will find one of the finest collections of modern art on earth! I do hope you enjoy.”
“I intend to,” Langdon replied. “I only wish I knew why I’m here.”
“You and everyone else!” The man laughed merrily, shaking his head. “Your host has been very secretive about the purpose of tonight’s event. Not even the museum staff knows what’s happening. The mystery is half the fun of it—rumors are running wild! There are several hundred guests inside—many famous faces—and nobody has any idea what’s on the agenda tonight!”
Now Langdon grinned. Very few hosts on earth would have the bravado to send out last-minute invitations that essentially read: Saturday night. Be there. Trust me. And even fewer would be able to persuade hundreds of VIPs to drop everything and fly to northern Spain to attend the event.
Langdon walked out from beneath the spider and continued along the pathway, glancing up at an enormous red banner that billowed overhead.
AN EVENING WITH
Edmond has certainly never lacked confidence, Langdon thought, amused.
Some twenty years ago, young Eddie Kirsch had been one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard University— a mop-haired computer geek whose interest in codes had led him to Langdon’s freshman seminar: Codes, Ciphers, and the Language of Symbols. The sophistication of Kirsch’s intellect had impressed Langdon deeply, and although Kirsch eventually abandoned the dusty world of semiotics for the shining promise of computers, he and Langdon had developed a student–teacher bond that had kept them in contact over the past two decades since Kirsch’s graduation.
Now the student has surpassed his teacher, Langdon thought. By several light-years.
Today, Edmond Kirsch was a world-renowned maverick— a billionaire computer scientist, futurist, inventor, and entrepreneur. The forty-year-old had fathered an astounding array of advanced technologies that represented major leaps forward in fields as diverse as robotics, brain science, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. And his accurate predictions about future scientific breakthroughs had created a mystical aura around the man.
Langdon suspected that Edmond’s eerie knack for prognostication stemmed from his astoundingly broad knowledge of the world around him. For as long as Langdon could remember, Edmond had been an insatiable bibliophile—reading everything in sight. The man’s passion for books, and his capacity for absorbing their contents, surpassed anything Langdon had ever witnessed.
For the past few years, Kirsch had lived primarily in Spain, attributing his choice to an ongoing love affair with the country’s old-world charm, avant-garde architecture, eccentric gin bars, and perfect weather.
Once a year, when Kirsch returned to Cambridge to speak at the MIT Media Lab, Langdon would join him for a meal at one of the trendy new Boston hot spots that Langdon had never heard of. Their conversations were never about technology; all Kirsch ever wanted to discuss with Langdon was the arts.
“You’re my culture connection, Robert,” Kirsch often joked. “My own private bachelor of arts!”
The playful jab at Langdon’s marital status was particularly ironic coming from a fellow bachelor who denounced monogamy as “an affront to evolution” and had been photographed with a wide range of supermodels over the years.
Considering Kirsch’s reputation as an innovator in computer science, one could easily have imagined him being a buttoned-up techno-nerd. But he had instead fashioned himself into a modern pop icon who moved in celebrity circles, dressed in the latest styles, listened to arcane underground music, and collected a wide array of priceless Impressionist and modern art. Kirsch often e-mailed Langdon to get his advice on new pieces of art he was considering for his collection.
And then he would do the exact opposite, Langdon mused.
About a year ago, Kirsch had surprised Langdon by asking him not about art, but about God— an odd topic for a self-proclaimed atheist. Over a plate of short-rib crudo at Boston’s Tiger Mama, Kirsch had picked Langdon’s brain on the core beliefs of various world religions, in particular their different stories of the Creation.
Langdon gave him a solid overview of current beliefs, from the Genesis story shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all the way through the Hindu story of Brahma, the Babylonian tale of Marduk, and others.
“I’m curious,” Langdon asked as they left the restaurant. “Why is a futurist so interested in the past? Does this mean our famous atheist has finally found God?”
Edmond let out a hearty laugh. “Wishful thinking! I’m just sizing up my competition, Robert.”
Langdon smiled. Typical. “Well, science and religion are not competitors, they’re two different languages trying to tell the same story. There’s room in this world for both.”
After that meeting, Edmond had dropped out of contact for almost a year. And then, out of the blue, three days ago, Langdon had received a FedEx envelope with a plane ticket, a hotel reservation, and a handwritten note from Edmond urging him to attend tonight’s event. It read: Robert, it would mean the world to me if you of all people could attend. Your insights during our last conversation helped make this night possible.
Langdon was baffled. Nothing about that conversation seemed remotely relevant to an event that would be hosted by a futurist.
The FedEx envelope also included a black-and-white image of two people standing face-to-face. Kirsch had written a short poem to Langdon.
When you see me face-to-face,
I’ll reveal the empty space.
Langdon smiled when he saw the image— a clever allusion to an episode in which Langdon had been involved several years earlier. The silhouette of a chalice, or Grail cup, revealed itself in the empty space between the two faces.
Now Langdon stood outside this museum, eager to learn what his former student was about to announce. A light breeze ruffled his jacket tails as he moved along the cement walkway on the bank of the meandering Nervión River, which had once been the lifeblood of a thriving industrial city. The air smelled vaguely of copper.
As Langdon rounded a bend in the pathway, he finally permitted himself to look at the massive, glimmering museum. The structure was impossible to take in at a glance. Instead, his gaze traced back and forth along the entire length of the bizarre, elongated forms.
This building doesn’t just break the rules, Langdon thought. It ignores them completely. A perfect spot for Edmond.
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, looked like something out of an alien hallucination— a swirling collage of warped metallic forms that appeared to have been propped up against one another in an almost random way. Stretching into the distance, the chaotic mass of shapes was draped in more than thirty thousand titanium tiles that glinted like fish scales and gave the structure a simultaneously organic and extraterrestrial feel, as if some futuristic leviathan had crawled out of the water to sun herself on the riverbank.
When the building was first unveiled in 1997, The New Yorker hailed its architect, Frank Gehry, as having designed “a fantastic dream ship of undulating form in a cloak of titanium,” while other critics around the world gushed, “The greatest building of our time!” “Mercurial brilliance!” “An astonishing architectural feat!”
Since the museum’s debut, dozens of other “deconstructivist” buildings had been erected—the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, BMWWorld in Munich, and even the new library at Langdon’s own alma mater. Each featured radically unconventional design and construction,and yet Langdon doubted any of them could compete with the Bilbao Guggenheim for its sheer shock value.
As Langdon approached, the tiled facade seemed to morph with each step, offering a fresh personality from every angle. The museum’s most dramatic illusion now became visible. Incredibly, from this perspective, the colossal structure appeared to be quite literally floating on water, adrift on a vast “infinity” lagoon that lapped against the museum’s outer walls.
Langdon paused a moment to marvel at the effect and then set out to cross the lagoon via the minimalist footbridge that arched over the glassy expanse of water. He was only halfway across when a loud hissing noise startled him. It was emanating from beneath his feet. He stopped short just as a swirling cloud of mist began billowing out from beneath the walkway. The thick veil of fog rose around him and then tumbled outward across the lagoon, rolling toward the museum and engulfing the base of the entire structure.
The Fog Sculpture, Langdon thought.
He had read about this work by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya. The“sculpture” was revolutionary in that it was constructed out of the medium of visible air, a wall of fog that materialized and dissipated overtime; and because the breezes and atmospheric conditions were never identical one day to the next, the sculpture was different every time it appeared.
The bridge stopped hissing, and Langdon watched the wall of fog settle silently across the lagoon, swirling and creeping as if it had a mind of its own. The effect was both ethereal and disorienting. The entire museum now appeared to be hovering over the water, resting weightlessly on a cloud— a ghost ship lost at sea.
Just as Langdon was about to set out again, the tranquil surface of the water was shattered by a series of small eruptions. Suddenly five flaming pillars of fire shot skyward out of the lagoon, thundering steadily like rocket engines that pierced the mist-laden air and threw brilliant bursts of light across the museum’s titanium tiles.
Langdon’s own architectural taste tended more to the classical stylingsof museums like the Louvre or the Prado, and yet as he watched the fog and flame hover above the lagoon, he could think of no place more suitable than this ultramodern museum to host an event thrown by a man who loved art and innovation, and who glimpsed the future so clearly.
Now, walking through the mist, Langdon pressed on to the museum’s entrance— an ominous black hole in the reptilian structure. As he neared the threshold, Langdon had the uneasy sense that he was entering the mouth of a dragon. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- File size : 6576 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 463 pages
- Publication date : October 3, 2017
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B01LY7FD0D
- Publisher : Anchor (October 3, 2017)
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,844 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from the United States
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I give this book two stars only because Dan Brown is still skillful at constructing a decent plot structure and managing his narrative pace. In my opinion, however, it is the worst novel he has ever written. The ending and “the culprits” were fairly easy to predict very early on. Brown telegraphed the secrets Robert Langdon and Ambra Vidal would reveal even as Langdon went through his usual machinations of deciphering various symbols while on the run.
As is the case with all of Dan Brown’s novels, the page before chapter one states that “All art, architecture, locations, science, and religious organizations in this novel are real.” This may be technically true, but Brown twists the reality behind the above to suit his purposes and, at times, grossly distorts the underlying truths and meanings of art, science, religious institutions, and locations.
A few examples are in order, although pointing out every discrepancy between what is real and what is fabricated would take a book in itself. First, the narrative states that Michelangelo’s David is effeminate because of its pose. The truth is that Michelangelo was forced to position the David as it now stands because it was necessary to carve around various flaws in the column of marble he had selected for the piece. The David is real, of course, but not the information about its carving or its resulting presentation.
Second, the ultraconservative Palmarian Church is indeed a Catholic schismatic sect that broke away from the Church in 1978, not recognizing any further popes in Rome but rather electing its own. It is not, however, a thriving sect that has hundreds of thousands of followers worldwide who donate veritable fortunes to keep conservative Catholicism alive, which is what the book claims as fact. It is estimated that the sect has fewer than 1,000 followers left and continues to shrink. It has only thirty nuns and a pope who left to get married. That’s conservative? In Origen, the Palmarian church is a popular and wealthy driving force helping to drive Brown’s plot on several fronts. What Brown has written about the church is not in any sense “real.” At the very end, he pulls back and says the church was just a financial scam, but that’s not entirely true either.
But let’s move onto a third example, one that is inferred from both science and religious institutions. This is the biggie.
The book plainly states in multiple chapters that there are only two possibilities: either God created man fully-formed or else Darwinian evolution is correct and negates the possibility that there is a God. Catholic doctrine and most Christian denominations have no argument with science, nor is there any belief that Darwin’s theories preclude the existence of God. The Catholic Church (and its theology) openly acknowledges that the creation story in Genesis and much of the Old Testament are genre fiction and not to be taken literally. The entire premise of the book is that once evolution and its corollaries have been proven correct, such as how the first DNA was created in the primordial oceans, then God can no longer exist. With the exception of many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, this view is not shared by most Christians, and Genesis is not taken literally by believers.
Brown has made his entire plot revolve around this central question of evolution and the creation of the first living cells. Okay, so what if a lightning strike caused certain molecules to form into one-celled organisms, meaning that God didn’t come from heaven on a chariot and place Adam and Eve in the Garden? Other questions must be answered. Who made the oceans? The planet? The galaxies? Who is responsible for the Big Bang? Brown, who gives enormous shout-outs to New Atheists such as Hawking, deGrasse Tyson, Dawkins, and others, tries to limit the entire debate over the existence of God to a point that is not in contention within Catholicism. The plot, presented as philosophical fact, and its assumption that definitive proof of evolution will put an end to all religions, is absurd—and is most definitely not fact. (Evolution was presumed as fact by most scientists long ago, and religion didn’t die.)
But consider that little sentence at the beginning of the book again: “All art, architecture, locations, science, and religious organizations in this novel are real.” The author has skillfully manipulated his readers into buying into believing that science and religion cannot coexist, a central theme to the book without which there can be no plot. Once the reader believes that little innocent-looking sentence, then the whole philosophical premise of the book is entertained as being a valid argument that will topple religion.
Brown has been hammering away at religion for several years by inserting twisted facts into his plots, and this is a tour de force in inviting the reader to step inside his world of scientific rationalism. But one cannot prove the “supernatural” with “natural” sciences. Science itself admits that beyond an event horizon of a black hole or the instant before the Big bang, physical laws—and physics itself—no longer exist. In Origen, Brown has pulled out all of the stops and tried, once and for all, to bludgeon religion to death with science that modern Catholicism does not repudiate. He has failed miserably and instead has given his readers a diatribe, not an engaging novel of suspense.
So why is this so troubling? I, for one, am tired of trying to read an enjoyable thriller without being hit over the head constantly by the axe Brown has to grind with religion, the Catholic Church in particular. Without contributions from Catholic scholars and monks, learning would not have survived the Dark Ages due to monasteries preserving classical Greek philosophy, and many of the greatest scientific breakthroughs have been made by Christian men and women of faith. Even today, there are millions of scientists who belong to organized religions, scientists who do not believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive.
The character of Robert Langdon remains undeveloped after six Langdon novels, which would qualify most writers for an immediate rejection slip. Yes, we know that he swims every morning, wears a Mickey Mouse watch, has an eidetic memory, and grows irate and frustrated at all people who do not have every nuance of history, art, architecture, and symbology committed to memory. In this latter respect, Langdon never fails to grow aggravating to me and patronizing and condescending to other characters. Yes, Langdon is an uber scholar, but as a human being he is flat, one-dimensional.
And speaking of Langdon, his role in this novel is minimal. He is more of a bystander as Brown preaches his gospel of atheism. He solves a few riddles, but he certainly doesn’t advance the plot.
The copy editing for the book (as with other Brown novels) is bad. Hundreds of compound words are split into two, such as “crossfire.” In the novel we are told that two characters are in “a cross fire.” That literally means that they are somehow threatened by a burning cross. Words are hyphenated that shouldn’t be. Commas are thrown about haphazardly, and sentences that need commas to prevent a misreading have none.
The constant use of italics (and Spanish sentences) is especially annoying. Sentences are italicized at the drop of a hat to show thoughts, alarm, emphasis, etc. These are all valid uses of commas, but they are used thousands of times in the book, and I couldn’t always tell when a sentence was expressing a thought, emphasis, surprise, or all of the above. This overuse of italics slows the reading process and at times makes it unclear who is thinking or speaking.
In terms of using italics to indicate a rise in vocal inflection, there is no rhyme or reason to where the italics are placed. I read many sentences out loud, but they sounded ridiculous and sing-song. The incorrect vocal emphasis compromises the dialogue in hundreds of places.
As usual, Brown revels in describing architecture and art, but his description of architecture was way over the top here. It was pervasive throughout the book and extremely repetitive in spots. I suspect Brown couldn’t resist the descriptions since they are mostly framed as architectural explanations that reinforce the atheism or paganism of the architect. There’s such a thing as too many chambers, staircases, crypts, balconies, and spires. At times, I felt as if I were reading Architectural Digest.
And then there is the anticlimactic ending that runs for seventy-five mind-numbing pages (a video presentation to shock the world into giving up belief in God). The science is shaky at best, and the presentation jumps from one scientific conjecture to another. I felt as if I were sitting in a college auditorium, forced to listen to a longwinded and slightly far-fetched lecture. It’s tedious in the extreme and seventy-five pages of more didacticism and philosophy mixed in with science that again twists facts combined with computer simulations that are both nebulous and a bit hard to swallow.
But wait! Langdon at the last minute asks where physics came from? Who made the laws of science? Maybe there is a higher power after all. Nah. Science is the new religion. Or, well, maybe they can work together. Nah, science is the new religion. But maybe God exists and the fault lies with fundamentalists and evangelicals. No, science is the new religion. The ending is garbled from a narrative perspective, but the message has been driven home. God, according to the narrative, is irrelevant either way. Only science can save the world.
I think Mr. Brown would be well advised to put Robert Langdon on the shelf for a while and write other novels, ones similar to Deception Point or Digital Fortress. When the formula is always so preachy, determined to prove an anti-religious belief ad nauseum, the patience wears thin.
Unfortunately, Brown’s thrillers have become a platform for not-so-thinly veiled attempts to refute God and religion. It has become tiresome. Origen hardly qualifies as fiction because of its heavy-handed rant against religion. As noted, his books are not really based on facts, but he has snookered millions of readers into believing that he and his alter ego, Robert Langdon, know arcane secrets and truths. They don’t.
Please understand that (at that time) I felt that "The Da Vinci Code" was one of the most refreshing and interesting novels that I have ever read. It is a blockbuster of a novel that was made into a highly successful film that grossed about $224 million worldwide. HOWEVER, "Origin" follows almost the exact same formula using the same basic premise but involving a modern supercomputer instead of an ancient cryptex. If you buy and read "Origin" you will be reading essentially the same story with updated technology using Spain as the locale instead of France. As I realized that this book was just essentially a rework of the same formula used in "The Da Vinci Code", it become a bit tiring for me to finish.
Once again, an interesting and well written novel with characters moving around and through beautiful European locales. The struggles of science and religion continue with the whole world waiting for which discipline would win out. Don't be surprised if a sequel is waiting in the wings. The author left enough 'clues' to pave the way for some type of continuation of the story line. I feel like Dan Brown let me (and other loyal readers) down. Time to change formulas.
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The formula is simple:
* Put Langdon in a bizarre situation (usually to do with an ex-colleague / student / long-time academic friend)
* Throw in an eligible female lead
* Have some sinister goings-on with a character with particularly nasty predispositions
* Do stuff that relies on Langdon's convenient eidetic memory
* Overly describe obscure aspects of history / location that don't really add much to the plot
* Have a fairly predictable ending.
So yeah, sorry... but I think it's time to try something else.
In the book, he also argued for open borders. Plus, all the villainous characters are conservative or religious. I also got fed up with Edmond - the dead genius atheist - whose trail Langdon followed to uncover the secret that would turn the world upside down.
Too many cliches.
So, I think Dan Brown is a puppet, sorry, and his days are numbered now that globalism is in the process of crumbling. I’m sure he will still have his readers who’ll keep the flame of globalism alive but they will be fewer and fewer as time goes on.
AS AN ARDENT ADMIRER OF DAN BROWN'S WRITING MY SPIRITS WERE DAMPENED AFTER READING INFERNO BUT I STILL BOUGHT A COPY OF ORIGIN ON THE VERY DAY OF IT'S RELEASE HOPING FOR A MORE POSITIVE THEME. HAVING SEEN HIS INTERVIEW ON YOUTUBE I SOMEHOW SENSED THAT SHARJAH WOULD BE FEATURED IN THE BOOK AND IT WAS. ALSO I THOUGHT THAT THE RECURRENT QUESTION OF SCIENCE VERSUS GOD WOULD BE EXPLORED IN SOME NEW WAY ALONG WITH THE TIMELESS QUESTION WHERE DO WE COME FROM ? “Human creation and human destiny. They are the universal mysteries.”
BUT THIS BOOK RUNS MUCH DEEPER.
THE WASHINGTON POST , THE TELEGRAPH, THE GUARDIAN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES HAVE GIVEN VERY SCATHING REVIEWS TO THE BOOK BUT THE REAL REVIEW IS IN THE SALES FIGURES AND THE RECEPTION FROM THE MASSES IT IS AIMED AT. THE CRITICS EVEN NOTIFY TOM HANKS FOR HIS UPCOMING MOVIE SHOOTING IN SPAIN AND COMMENT ON THE BOOK'S FORMULA. THE REASON FOR A FORMULA BEING REPEATED BY SOMEONE IS THAT IT WORKS. IT IS A THRILLER SET IN A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY WITH GREAT HISTORICAL MONUMENTS EXPLORING EXISTENTIAL QUESTIONS. HISTORY +BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE + SMART DAMSEL IN DISTRESS + SOLVING CODES + CONTROVERSIES + UNDERDOG GEEKY HERO OVERCOMING ALL OBSTACLES DESPITE CLAUSTROPHOBIA & THE WORLD AGAINST HIM ETC = MILLIONS OF BOOK COPIES SOLD ALONGWITH MOVIE RIGHTS.
“In your world of classical art, pieces are revered for the artist’s skill of execution—that is, how deftly he places the brush to canvas or the chisel to stone. In modern art, however, masterpieces are often more about the idea than the execution.“ THIS INSIGHT FROM THE BOOK IS A VERY SIMPLE WAY TO EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT OF MODERN ART TO THOSE WHO ARE PERPLEXED BY IT. I liked the way he has approached modern art by making Bilbao museum the starting point for the story. The description of ideas behind modern art is a gateway for people who do not appreciate it perhaps and I for one have added the Guggenheim museum to my bucket list.
ON MY PART, I AM FASCINATED BY THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF MONUMENTS AND THE VARIED THEORIES DAN BROWN SHARES USING LANGDON HIS ALTER EGO PERHAPS. I DO NOT MIND THE DESCRIPTIONS ABOUT CITIES AND MONUMENTS WHICH IS WHAT THE CRITICS ABHOR THE MOST IN HIS BOOKS. LEARNING ABOUT A PLACE DURING A STORY IS MORE INTERESTING THAN PICKINGUP A TRAVEL BOOK. I READ HIS BOOKS SLOWLY, SEEING VIDEOS AND PICTURES OF THE PLACES AND READING A BIT ABOUT THEM BEFORE MOVING ONTO THE NEXT MONUMENT. HE MOVES FROM MONUMENT TO MONUMENT AND CITY TO CITY SOLVING A PUZZLE. I AM AS A READER INTRIGUED BY THE PUZZLE AS MUCH AS BY THE ARTWORK AND PASSAGES OR POETRY SHARED DURING THE QUEST. Getting a fresh perspective about works of Nietzsche and William Blake as an interwoven part of the tale makes it DEEPER THAN A SIMPLE THRILLER.
DAN BROWN STEPS CAUTIOUSLY INTO ISLAM for a brief moment AND MOVES INTO THE Familiar territory of Christianity for the rest of the book. He shares the controversies of the Christian world in interesting plot twists.
I like the manner in which he deals with religious fanaticism subtly and even provides a solution of sorts “that the human mind has the ability to elevate an obvious fiction to the status of a divine fact, and then feel emboldened to kill in its name. He believed that the universal truths of science could unite people—serving as a rallying point for future generations.” “That’s a beautiful idea in principle,which is why Edmond hoped science could one day unify us,” Langdon said. “In his own words: ‘If we all worshipped gravity..."
In making up artificial intelligence as a main character Dan Brown shows the contentious cusp between present and future possibilities. To quote“ assess a machine’s ability to behave in a manner indistinguishable from that of a human“ makes it sound achievable. The concept of building intelligence that can be near human but not humane is intriguing and scary both. “the human brain is a binary system—synapses either fire or they don’t—they are on or off, like a computer switch. The brain has over a hundred trillion switches, which means that building a brain is not so much a question of technology as it is a question of scale.“ I WONDER IF THE FUTURISTIC UPGRADED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGANCE WINSTON WHO PUTS SIRI TO SHAME IS BEING DEVELOPED SOMEWHERE.
THE "SMART DAMSEL IN DISTRESS SOLVING CODES" THEME RECURRS HERE AND I WONDER HOW HIS NOVELS WOULD FARE IF THE FEMALE LEAD WOULD BE A MUCH OLDER MARRIED LADY OF GRANDMOTHERLY AGE OR MAY BE EVEN A MALE SCIENTIST? DESPITE THE PLATONIC FRIENDSHIP PORTRAYED, A RAVISHING FEMALE LEAD ADDS AN ELEMENT OF WOW DEFINITELY. THOUGH STATED AT A DIFFERENT POINT IN THE STORY ,AN AUTHOR HAS TO TAP INTO BASIC HUMAN TENDENCIES AT SOME POINT BECAUSE IN DAN BROWN'S OWN WORDS "humans, despite being God’s most sublime creation, were still just animals at the core, their behavior driven to a great extent by a quest for creature comforts." MOST READERS' ATTENTION WOULD BE DRAWN TO ATTRACTIVE FEMALE LEADS IN TROUBLE AND IN HIS NOVELS IT IS BEAUTY WITH BRAINS.
THERE IS A TENDENCY TO INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL CHARACTERS TO GET WIDER AUDIENCE AND AN INTELLIGENCE OPERATIVE OF INDIAN ORIGIN MAKES AN APPEARANCE BUT I HOPE DAN BROWN CHOOSES A BETTER INDIAN NAME NEXT TIME.
I HAVE READ ALL OF DAN BROWN'S BOOKS AND MY RATINGS WERE THE HIGHEST FOR THE DIGITAL FORTRESS FOLLOWED BY DA VINCI CODE FOLLOWED BY ORIGIN FOLLOWED BY DECEPTION POINT FOLLOWED BY ANGELS AND DEMONS FOLLOWED BY THE LOST SYMBOL FOLLOWED BY INFERNO. I HATED THE NEGATIVE THEMED INFERNO THE MOST . ALL IN ALL HIS RECENT BOOK"ORIGIN" IS A PLEASANT READ AND I WOULD RATE THE PLOT AS 3.5/5 AND THE WRITING AS 4/5 BECAUSE I LIKE TRAVEL AND MYSTERY BOTH AND DAN BROWN MARRIES THEM IN QUITE A DECENT NARRATIVE. I ALSO LIKED THE WAY I WAS FORCED TO THINK OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE FUTURE IN MYRIAD HUES AND NOT JUST AS AN AID TO HUMAN KIND.