Origin

by Dan Brown

Read this in about 5 minutes

My first Dan Brown was, perhaps like most Dan Brown readers, The Da Vinci Code. I’d received the book from my English teacher when I was in high school, and was instantly fascinated by the controversial ideas that the book was based upon. And then, as I started reading the remaining Dan Brown titles of the time, and then the subsequent ones as and when they were released, I’d learnt to predict what would happen next. He has a pattern, as Veena mentions in her thoughts on the preview. Brown’s work hit the rock bottom, according to me, at The Lost Symbol. I don’t remember why I dislike the title so much, but well, I disliked it.

My most favourite among his works was, so far, Deception Point. That was until I picked up Origin. Although I do not mean that in the literary sense.

Cover: Origin

Cover

The interesting part of the cover was the Sagrada Família, which to me, looked a little alien (in the sense that I haven’t seen anything like that before), and grabbed my attention. And what I made out of the cover was that the “O” in Origin seemed like a single cell with the nucleus, which coincides with the tip of an aircraft’s propeller. “Starting from a single-celled organism, propelled to the present”?

But then, the cover completely lacks any sort of classical symbolism that you’d come to expect from a “Robert Langdon” title. Nor does the cover feature any of the modern art (other than Sagrada Família)—which would’ve been worth using, given how the book shifts focus off “classical” art—or I simply did not “get it”.

Characters

The beloved Robert Langdon is as lovable a professor as he’s been in all the other titles, but he does not develop at all. The only characters, that were interesting in the book were Edmond Kirsch, and his assistant.

The queen consort of Spain, Langdon’s friend through this mission has almost no role to play than introduce a little bit of drama. And let’s face it, the story could’ve done without her, except that it would’ve been a good three hundred pages shorter.

Content

The content had supposedly sparked a lot of controversy (like The Da Vinci Code had), among believers. However, personally, as an agnostic, I did not really see much of controversial thought in the book. Although, sure, if you believe in Creationism, you’re not going to like a good chunk of the book, but again, I’ve not met many staunch Creationists from our generation. That’s not to say we know the answer to how the first cell came into being.

Oh, but I loved the content from a philosophical standpoint.

Language

The language is lucid. Simple. There are some architectural terms used in the book which do not feature in common usage, but they’re not difficult to understand.

Good points

  • The book features a good number of ideas that make you think.
  • Unlike the usual Brown titles that start very slow, this one seems to have events distributed throughout the book, except some points where the story slows down to snail pace. Sure, nothing “wrong” happens for about a hundred pages into the book, but that doesn’t make you not want to read the hundred pages.
  • A good set of historical accounts are given as reasoning for things that exist, or are happening today.
  • We can see some academic sense of humour in the book, which I personally liked.
  • I liked the way it talks about order and chaos. You should really read it to know it.

Bad points

  • I was thoroughly disappointed by how the book did not feature much symbolism, and if it did not, what Robert Langdon was doing there. Apart from being Kirsch’s teacher, that is.
  • The characters do not evolve much through the course of the story.
  • The unexpected twist you expect in a Brown title is quite predictable. Although … Never mind, no spoilers.
  • Robert’s partner-victim this time, has no real role to play, in my opinion.
  • The last part of the book was way too dry and lengthy, not to mention a little clichéd.

Overall

Actually, I loved the book in a way. Not as a mystery/thriller title, but something that spells out the non-Creationist line of thought.

Given the proudly-unintellectual path that our society has taken, it came like a handy starting point to free, scientific thought.

Whom do I recommend this to

Let’s see.

Anyone who loves mystery, anyone who likes action novels. It’s got a decent pace. And some philosophical value.

Also to those who accept Darwinism, and would like to know of a possible explanation to how the first cell came into being. To know the answers to two fundamental questions to which “God” has been the answer so far:

Where do we come from? Where are we going?

I have a third: “Why?” No answer to that, though.

Quotable quotes

Historically, the most dangerous men on earth were men of God.

To permit ignorance is to empower it.

In politics, perception [is] everything.

In my classroom, T > 0. For all inquiries where T = 0, please visit the Religion Department.

Newton’s Third Law of Child Rearing: For every lunacy, there is an equal and opposite lunacy.

And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.

If a Creator designed our universe to support life, he did a terrible job. In the vast, vast majority of the cosmos, life would die instantly from lack of atmosphere, gamma-ray bursts, deadly pulsars, and crushing gravitational fields. Believe me, the universe is no Garden of Eden.

Martyrdom is at the heart of all religion … Judging from [our] books, movies, news, and ancient myths, [we] have always celebrated those souls who make personal sacrifices for a greater good. Jesus, for example.

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Ram Iyer

Writer, PowerShell addict, typographer, self-acclaimed rationalist.

Bangalore, KA ramiyer.me