Ever since I've picked up The Da Vinci Code, I've been hooked on the Robert Langdon books. I admit that I have a weakness for the formula Dan Brown utilises for his thrillers, employing an intoxicating mix of history, art, poetry, symbols, codes, and famous landmarks or architecture. A rousing adventure through exotic and renowned locations that have me reaching for Google search ever so often.
As usual, all the architecture and locations mentioned are real, and again it fuelled the wanderlust in me. This time with Spain as the backdrop, we have the bizarre and breath-taking Guggenheim Bilbao as the opening venue with a fair amount of exposition on some of its more notable modern art exhibits. Robert Langdon will then, of course, find himself heading from one famous location or landmark to another. The narrative becomes info-dumpy at these parts of the story; a little more than usual in this novel, which does make the pacing slower.
It goes without saying that the author went through a lot of research to produce his Robert Langdon series and it shows. This is probably the most critical component of his books which makes them so enjoyable for me. One that overcomes the fact that his stories are repetitive and his prose ordinary.
Nothing has changed as far as his plot structure and characterisation are concerned. It all starts with a murder, and somehow Robert will end up on the run, with a beautiful sidekick (be it a museum director or a scientist or some other expert of sorts), from some national guard or local police as well as an assassin with a tragic past. At the same time, he is also running against time to solve pertinent clues to unwind the mystery, etc. That said, there seemed to be less code-solving in this novel, which was a bit of a downer.
The real history that underscored this narrative highlighted the dark times of Spain under the military dictator, Francisco Franco. With the current political crisis in the same country, I couldn't help feeling that some strange twist of fate is at work here that would have this novel being released around the same time.
Origin will not win any points for originality. It is, however, a real page-turner. Despite not having the breakneck pace of some of its predecessors, I still find myself engrossed and captivated, unable to put the book down.
What I found compelling is the underlying theme which resonated quite deeply with me. It is about creation and destiny, and the vast divide between religion and science in answering the universal questions of 'Where do we come from?' and'Where are we going?' It deals with relevant current issues around rapid technological advancements, especially in artificial intelligence and wearable technology, and the propagation of sensational news fuelling conspiracy theories through ungovernable internet media.
If you are looking for non-cerebral page-turning entertainment, or if you are a Robert Langdon fan like me who can overlook certain flaws, I will recommend Origin.
To conclude, I'd like to post a quote of relevance to the story, from one of the world's greatest and most renowned scientists, who had been very outspoken about his religious views: