“And history has proven repeatedly that lunatics will rise to power again and again on tidal waves of aggressive nationalism and intolerance, even in places where it seems utterly incomprehensible.”
Every time a new Robert Langdon book gets published, I get excited. And yet, ever since The Lost Symbol – the worst book with Langdon as protagonist – I am a little disappointed. Sure, Inferno was great, but it did not reach the same levels as The DaVinci Code or Angels & Demons. At least for me, it didn’t. And Origin is no exception. Sadly.
To be clear, Origin was no The Lost Symbol. Yet it was no The DaVinci Code or Angels & Demons and it was not as good as Inferno either. Don’t get me wrong, it was a page turner. And there have been great moments as well as great quotes – see above.
I guess I just missed the urgency in Robert Langdon’s newest mission. In his first two books Dan Brown managed to write fast paced thrillers, the stories had urgency and the characters were all really interesting. Even the villains and those characters that were in moral grey-zones. Sure, Robert Langdon still has a great pull. Yet, in Origin the supporting characters were not really interesting.
That starts with Edmond Kirsch, Langdon’s former student and a tech-genius à la Steve Jobs. Honestly, to me Kirsch seemed arrogant and his “playfulness” with Langdon at the beginning made him seem more of an asshole, than anything else. I, of course, think of the scene where Kirsch made the claustrophobic Langdon go into one of the artworks. I am sure there would have been other places to talk privately in the entire museum. Places, that are easier accessible for claustrophobic people. Something a friend would have considered, I think.
Then there was this books female companion, Ambra Vidal. I don’t think there has been a companion in any of the other books that you know so little about. Ambra is beautiful – of course -, engaged to the prince and soon to be king of Spain and she cannot have children. Oh, and she is the director of Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum, where the story starts. That is pretty much all you get to know about her. It is mentioned that she is independent and clever, unfortunately you do not get to see that side of her. She is actually just there so Langdon has a side-kick and so that the stakes are higher. I mean, the future queen of Spain dying? That would be dramatic, right? With all of the other companions, Vittoria, Sophie, Katherine and Sienna, you had a sense of who they were, what their strengths and weaknesses were. You got to know them as characters, unlike Ambra.
The most disappointing thing, though, was the ending. As it turns out, the entire plot, Kirsch’s death, the hunt for his computer password to unleash his new discovery about humans origins and the danger that Langdon and Ambra had been in, all derived from Kirsch’s AI Winston. Yep, you heard that right, a Artificial Intelligence decided that the discovery would have more of an impact if Kirsch was murdered on sight. I suppose that was Brown’s way of showing how dangerous AI can be, as it often does not understand humans the way other humans do, but given the amount of other viable villains and the senselessness of the imam and the rabbi’s death, it was not the ending I had hoped for.
My favourite part was actually a side story with the prince and his father, the dying king of Spain. Within that story, where the quote above comes from, lies so much truth about, how we as a society view our own past sometimes. Glorifying the wrong people and always at the brink of falling into old habits. In Origin, Brown discussed Spain’s past under Franco and how many people still want the old ways back. In times like these when right winged parties are as popular as ever, at least since World War II, and racism as prominent as it is, it feels like an important story. Maybe Brown should have focused more on that story and found a way to incorporated it more into the main story.
So, what do you think about Origin? Did you like it or did you feel as disappointed as I did? And while we are on the topic of Robert Langdon, which of his adventures is your favourite? And which is your least favourite? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.