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'Origin': Written from outside Dan Brown's comfort zone

Asmara Wreksono
Asmara Wreksono

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, November 8, 2017  /  04:56 pm
'Origin': Written from outside Dan Brown's comfort zone

American author Dan Brown poses in front of a poster promoting his new book 'Origin' at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on Oct. 12. (AFP/Daniel Roland)

Much-loved, much-hated best-selling thriller author Dan Brown is back with yet another Robert Langdon adventure in Origin.

With Spain as the backdrop of his latest novel, Brown takes readers on a roller coaster-like journey to honor eccentric billionaire Edmond Kirsch’s wishes: announcing his discovery that will change the face of science forever.

Edmond had planned a global announcement event where he was going to answer two fundamental questions of human existence: Where did we come from? and Where are we going? Accepting Edmond’s mysterious invitation to attend the meticulously orchestrated announcement event at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Robert suddenly finds himself in the midst of chaos. The Harvard professor ultimately sets off on an exhilarating journey to unlock his ex-student’s secret announcement for the world to see. 

Accompanied by an exquisite museum director, Ambra Vidal, who has strong ties to the heir to the Spanish throne, Robert does not only have to break codes and decipher messages. He and his companion must also evade mysterious enemies who want to stop the announcement of the secret.

After the success of Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, many fans of his work think that the Robert Langdon character has been embarking on less exciting adventures in the books that followed. However, Origin may have revived the thrill of the adventure that once broke past Hollywood’s thick walls and became a $758.2 million box-office hit in 2006.

Read also: God can't survive science, 'Da Vinci Code' author says

Brown seems to have completely stepped out of his comfort zone, in which he often discussed secret societies and symbolism, Robert’s expertise. Apart from putting religion face-to-face with science, he touches heavily on more relevant subjects, such as artificial intelligence and technology, while still referring to the arts, in connection with Robert’s other area of expertise. The answer to the question of human existence becomes the MacGuffin in this novel, and although the stretching out of the resolution gives it a sense of a cheesy 1980s TV series with various cliffhangers spread throughout the book, it was worth the wait. 

For non-Brown fans, the book may come across as very formulaic, thus seeming boring in its plot, action and twists. It has every element you would expect from a standard action movie: The brilliant but misunderstood antihero, the resourceful protagonist, the beautiful companion in adventure, the villain and the person disguised as a villain but was good all along. However, for Brown fans, Origin is a fresh take on the current state of the world’s growing technology. The ideas put forth by Edmond are not entirely new for the science and tech community, but outsiders will definitely have their minds blown. 

While the book does not get too philosophical or risk offending religious communities like with The Da Vinci Code, Origin is thought-provoking and may start a good discussion about human existence, technology and its greater implications in the future. The part of the novel involving imaginatively advanced superficial intelligence will raise excitement as well as concerns about where mankind is headed.

Like other Brown books, you’ll benefit from expecting an enriching, fun and entirely entertaining read rather than a literary masterpiece.


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