Origin

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.

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Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia

By C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian lives with his uncle, Miraz, the King of Narnia, though he is not rightfully King. Miraz usurped the throne and intimidated the people of the land into supporting his reign. He fears Old Narnia, and strives to stamp out the Talking Beasts, Dwarves, and other species that ran free under Aslan both from the land and from the memory of his people. Caspian loves tales of Old Narina, but isn’t sure whether to believe them, until he is forced to flee for his life and is rescued by a Badger and two Dwarves. Word quickly spreads that Caspian wants a return to Old Narnia, and Beasts, Dwarves, Centaurs, and countless others come join him in a fierce battle against Miraz. Meanwhile, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy are magically pulled to Narnia, though not the Narnia they recognize. Their beloved Cair Paravel lies in ruins, and the forests seem large and unfamiliar, then they realize that perhaps hundreds of years have passed in Narnia during their one year in London. Realizing they have been called back to Narnia for a reason, they make the long trek across the forests of Narnia to join Caspian in a desperate battle to preserve the country they love.

“Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia” by C.S. Lewis is the 4th book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, though it was originally published second. This is the second book in the series in which the Pevensie children have a more central role in the story, and the reader has the opportunity to explore the familiar land of Narnia through a new and different perspective due to the passing of time. If possible, Lewis increases the fantasy of this novel by creating such a drastic time difference between London and Narnia. This simultaneously serves to regenerate interest in Narnia by building an entirely new country with a long history, while also fostering strong nostalgia for the Narnia of the past by drawing on the fondness already developed for the magical land. Lewis briefly dips into the tension between good and bad when talking about the people who support Miraz and those who long for a return to the Old Narnia, but does not linger long enough to explore the complexity that people can contain both good and bad within. Perhaps that can be a point for discussion or reflection when reading the novel.

I enjoyed the way this book broadened the history of Narnia, though I sometimes felt that the pace at which these revelations unfolded was a bit slow. The main question I am left with after reading this book is, how do these children’s bodies show the wear and tear of time if they spend decades reigning as Kings and Queens, then return to the land as youth after spending a year in “real time” in London? They’ve lived almost an entire lifespan at this point! Doesn’t that have some impact? Whatever. Enjoyable, fun story and worth the quick read.

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