Dan Brown has been a contentious figure for years. His Robert Langdon series has been a best-seller, if not always well-reviewed. His first novel in the series, Angels & Demons, wasn’t a huge seller, but then came The Da Vinci Code, which was. I read the book shortly before the movie came out, and it was a fast, breezy read. It also felt very familiar when I read it, since I had read Holy Blood, Holy Grail year before it. I certainly wasn’t all that surprised when the authors of that book sued him for not bothering to even acknowledge that he was using their book as a basis (he claimed that he’d done the same sort of research as they did, and he did win the case).
Then came The Last Symbol, which I have to say was a turkey. Seriously, it was bad. Inferno was better, and surprised me by ending on a world-changing note that no one knows about. When I heard that a new book in the series was coming, I wondered if they would address the outcome, but wasn’t surprised that it was ignored. Probably it’s too soon for the results to have been noticed.
Dan Brown’s writing is very formulaic. He’s found a formula that works from him, and he doesn’t really deviate from them. Robert Langdon, accompanied by a younger female companion (at least the one in The Last Symbol was his age), is hunted from symbolic location to location. There’s always good guys who turn out to be bad guys, and bad guys who think he’s committed a crime who become allies. Other than Inferno, there is a fringe religious sect on the opposite side.
Oh yeah, and Langdon swims in a pool at some point, and there are references to his Mickey Mouse watch.
So, in Origin we have: a murdered scientist sends Langdon on the run with his companion, this time a museum curator who is engaged to the next king of Spain. They run from location to location, usually a building designed by Gaudi, while hunted by the assassin and the palace guard. The palace may be involved, and have announced that Langdon kidnapped the future consort. And this time, the religious sect is the Palmarian Church.
I enjoyed listening to the audiobook of this volume, but the ending left me cold. Basically, the whole book was for the purpose of delivering a lecture at the end. And the only reason that there is a mystery is because Kirsch, the dead man, never read Asimov. Seriously, the entire plot boils down to a very smart man doing something stupid. If he hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been a plot.
Still, I spent a lot of time with Google, looking up places, art, and news articles mentioned in the book. If nothing else, it gave me a lot of places that I’d like to visit if I ever get to Spain. After all, the best part of the series is the travelogues.