Review: Origin by Dan Brown, published by Bantam

Review: Origin by Dan Brown, published by Bantam

Hardback edition: £20, ISBN 978-0-5930-7875-4

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 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 intensely. However my personal feelings 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 confess, I have not read any other books by Dan Brown. I’ve never felt the need. I know enough about the Knights Templar after some twenty five years of studying them to be incapable of the necessary suspension of disbelief to be able to enjoy Dan Brown’s previous stories.

So it was with a degree of trepidation that I agreed to read ORIGIN. It was very possible that I would get hooked.

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, he has visited senior figures in the Catholic Church, Judaism and the Muslim faith. 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.

Langdon accepts the invitation, and travels to teh 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 fiancee 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 am an enthusiastic reader of Private Eye. In the Literary Review pages 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 Destination” for every “|what happened next” moment. I was forced to snigger at the page before the Prologue, which declared with Trumpian confidence that “FACT: All art, architecture, locations, science, and religious organizations in this novel are real.”


However, I have not finished the book, I’m afraid. I did manage to get to Chapter 28, which was rather an effort. It wasn’t the plot (although I have to say that, again, 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”, 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 personally 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.

7 Responses to “Review: Origin by Dan Brown, published by Bantam”
  1. Lindsey Russell says:

    At last, someone else who has found both authors formulaic far fetched waffle unreadable. I obviously don’t have your perseverance as I gave up after only a few chapters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well now, I managed many, many chapters – but the damn things were so short! I only got to about 1/3 of the way through it, and just couldn’t carry on. I could feel my mind turning to mush as I read, and was worried it might leak out from my ears!


      • Lindsey Russell says:

        I’ve nothing against short chapters as long as the content in them is substantial and complete in itself. Sometimes Peter James only has one paragraph chapters and I’ve never thrown his books at the wall – Mr Brown’s however . . . .

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the same experience with The Da Vinci Code and… another early one – possibly called Deception Point. I’m all in favour for light entertainment in modern fiction – Lee Child falls into that category for me – but I’ve no intention of subjecting myself to Mr Brown again.

    Liked by 2 people

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