By Dan Brown
Art historian and religious symbologist Robert Langdon finds himself in Spain at the bidding of a former student, who promises a spectacular evening with a stunning announcement. Edmond Kirsch, futurist and tech guru, plans to make an announcement that will not only shock the world, but also destabilize all known religions. He claims to have found the answer to two fundamental questions: where do we come from, and where are we going? Before he can reveal his discovery, however, he is brutally assassinated. In the ensuing chaos, Robert joins forces with Ambra Vidal, the museum director, and Winston, Kirsch’s personal assistant in the form of synthetic intelligence. With the goal of releasing the final piece of the planned presentation, Robert, Ambra, and Winston race across Spain in search of personal details about Edmond to help them in their quest, tailed by the assassin. Meanwhile, rumors, information leaks, and alternative facts flood the media with speculation about who is responsible for Edmond’s death. Could the revered Bishop Valdespino, close friend to the royal palace of Spain, be the mastermind? What does Ambra’s finance, Prince Julian, know about the assassination? Robert and Ambra’s race to release the presentation quickly becomes a race for their own lives.
“Origin” by Dan Brown is the 5th Robert Langdon book. As with all other books in the Robert Langdon series, Brown weaves together art, architecture, and symbols to create codes, patterns, and intrigue. “Origin” focuses more on the unique architecture throughout Spain, including several iconic buildings by Antoni Gaudi, connecting natural elements and inspiration of the buildings with the interests and passion of character Edmond Kirsch. Also in keeping with other Robert Langdon stories, the novel moves quickly through bite-sized chapters, each ending with a cliff hanger to impel continued reading until the book is done and all mysteries are resolved. Adding to the complexity of the plot, Brown brings in multiple characters, each with their own perspective, motive, and insider knowledge. Flipping between characters, settings, and snippets of plot helps move the story along at lightning pace. And, also as with other Robert Langon stories, the revelations along the way are based in current knowledge, and the prospects for future change call into question morals and ethics at all levels of society. “Origin” suggests a future that integrates human and artificial intelligence, but with what benefits and what costs?
Considering I finished this book in 4 days, it’s safe to say that I enjoyed it. I found certain parts of the plot line to be predictable (Robert and Ambra would join forces, and the pair would soon be in opposition to the Royal Guard set to protect Ambra), but this book was a better balance of detail and intrigue than “Inferno.” Not too heavy into art and architecture, but just enough to make you feel smarter for having read the book. It also felt relatable because it draws on modern technology and recent innovation. This book keeps up, and it keeps going. Add it to your list, and you’ll be done with it before you know it.