Origin

Written by Dan Brown

Review written by Michael Jecks


Origin
Bantam
RRP: £20
Released: October 3 2017
HBK

I confess, I have not read any other books by Dan Brown. After all, I’ve been studying the Templars for over twenty-five years. I’ve never thought I’d be able to suspend disbelief adequately to enjoy his previous stories.

Do not get me wrong. I love thrillers as well as crime stories. I grew up on Fred Forsyth, Gavin Lyall, Len Deighton and the other greats of the 60s and 70s. I just get a bit irritated with books that seem to go after religion for the sake of it. 

So it was with a degree of trepidation that I agreed to read ORIGIN. It was very possible that I would get hooked. I might have to buy his backlist. That could work out to be expensive.

So what is the story? Robert Langdon, who is the Harvard Professor of "Symbology", receives an invitation from his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch has become the world's leading inventor and predictor of technology and society, and as a result has amassed a large fortune based on his different businesses.

But Kirsch has spent a lot of time recently considering bigger issues. In the days leading up to a large presentation in Spain, he has visited senior figures in the Christian, Judaic and the Muslim faiths. He has, he told them, considered some basic questions, and the answers will lead to earth-shattering revelations that will affect all of the three leading religions and others besides. It’ll sweep away centuries of religious belief. It’ll be cataclysmic. You heard it here first, folks.

Langdon accepts the invitation, and travels to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao to see Kirsch's presentation. But Kirsch is suddenly shot dead by a gun made on a 3D printer. Langdon and the beautiful fiancée of the Crown Prince of Spain, who herself is obviously fabulously clever as well as drop-dead gorgeous, must run and uncover the massive secret.

I have had a firm policy for many years not to be rude about other writers' work. In part it is a principle based on the fact that although I personally may not like a specific book, other people may well enjoy it. For example, I do not get on with the books by James Patterson. I dislike the short chapters, the style … well, I just don’t enjoy them. However my opinions have not affected his position as probably the most successful thriller author writing today. So my feeling has always been that if I don't like a book, I'm better off ignoring it and cracking on with the next.

However, rules are there to be broken.

I am an enthusiastic reader of Private Eye. In their Literary Review pages, the reviewer has, I think, hit the nail squarely on the head when he suggests that "Langdon sprints learnedly from one renowned Spanish Tourist destination to another..." and goes on to suggest that Brown might have over-used Google in searching for "Renowned Spanish Tourist Destinations" for every "what happened next" moment. I was forced to snigger at the page before the Prologue, which declared with Trumpian confidence, "FACT: All art, architecture, locations, science, and religious organizations in this novel are real."

Really?

I have not finished the book, I'm afraid. I did manage to get to Chapter 28, about a quarter of the way through a fairly massive tome, which was in itself, was rather an effort. It wasn't the plot (although I have to say, again, that suspending disbelief was a real challenge). I like thrillers, and have written a few of my own. It wasn't the characterisation - which was written with pretty much the "Fool's Guide to stereotypes" sitting well-thumbed at his side.

No, it was more the writing style: a sort of breathless overwriting that begs for an editor's red pen.

A train climbing a "dizzying incline", a “jagged mountaintop", "sheer cliff", "massive stone monastery" - all taken from the first paragraph of the book - may give you a feel. I get the impression that Brown writes with a thesaurus open on the screen. He appears to dislike using any noun without its own adjective.

I reached page forty-nine to read, "Why am I doing this?" - but sadly it was another hundred pages before I was forced to conclude that I had no sensible answer to that question.

I do hope Professor Langdon discovers whatever it is he feels he needs to. Sadly, I won't be following him on his journey.

Meanwhile I have a copy of CRISIS, by Frank Gardner. It is a thriller, it is fast-paced, it is written with a fairly spare style, and it ticks all my boxes. Apart from anything else, it’s believable. That does help.



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