Book Review: Origin

“Origin” by Dan BrownEver since the breakthrough success of Angels & Demons, his first mystery/thriller novel featuring Harvard professor and master of symbology Robert Langdon, Dan Brown has found a formula which turns arcane and esoteric knowledge, exotic and picturesque settings, villains with grandiose ambitions, and plucky female characters into bestsellers, two of which, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, have been adapted into Hollywood movies.

This is the fifth novel in the Robert Langdon series. After reading the fourth, Inferno, it struck me that Brown’s novels have become so formulaic they could probably be generated by an algorithm. Since artificial intelligence figures in the present work, in lieu of a review, which would be difficult to write without spoilers, here are the parameters to the Marinchip Turbo Digital™ Thriller Wizard to generate the story.

Villain: Edmond Kirsch, billionaire computer scientist and former student of Robert Langdon. Made his fortune from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and robotics.

Megalomaniac scheme: “end the age of religion and usher in an age of science”.

Buzzword technologies: artificial general intelligence, quantum computing.

Big Questions: “Where did we come from?”, “Where are we going?”.

Religious adversary: The Palmarian Catholic Church.

Plucky female companion: Ambra Vidal, curator of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Spain) and fiancée of the crown prince of Spain.

Hero or villain? Details would be a spoiler but, as always, there is one.

Contemporary culture tie-in: social media, an InfoWars-like site called ConspiracyNet.com.

MacGuffins: the 47-character password from Kirsch’s favourite poem (but which?), the mysterious “Winston”, “The Regent”.

Exotic and picturesque locales: The Guggenheim Museum BilbaoCasa Milà and the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Valle de los Caídos near Madrid.

Enigmatic symbol: a typographical mark one must treat carefully in HTML

When Edmond Kirsch is assassinated moments before playing his presentation which will answer the Big Questions, Langdon and Vidal launch into a quest to discover the password required to release the presentation to the world. The murder of two religious leaders to whom Kirsch revealed his discoveries in advance of their public disclosure stokes the media frenzy surrounding Kirsch and his presentation, and spawns conspiracy theories about dark plots to suppress Kirsch’s revelations which may involve religious figures and the Spanish monarchy.

After perils, adventures, conflict, and clues hidden in plain sight, Startling Revelations leave Langdon Stunned and Shaken but Cautiously Hopeful for the Future.

When the next Dan Brown novel comes along, see how well it fits the template. This novel will appeal to people who like this kind of thing: if you enjoyed the last four, this one won’t disappoint. If you’re looking for plausible speculation on the science behind the big questions or the technological future of humanity, it probably will. Now that I know how to crank them out, I doubt I’ll buy the next one when it appears.
Brown, Dan. Origin. New York: Doubleday, 2017. ISBN 978-0-385-51423-1.
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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Origin

  1. When I have a mega bestseller, do I have to acknowledge the MTJ Thriller Wizard or can I just say it was all me?

    Do you have a pen name generator? Ernest Sockingway, Sock Twain, and Charles Sockins are the best I have come up with on my own.

    4+

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  2. Your review is so to the point! I passed, after the first one.

    No, it didn’t kill me, I just didn’t read any others. 🙂

    3+

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  3. Thank you. This neatly explains the recurring sense of déja vu I had reading it. I get the same sense whenever I see Tom Hanks in anything after his first few roles. To me, he seems to be trying to overcome inertia, fatigue or the ennui of trying to appear fresh and spontaneous in a not-so-instant replay of the one-hundredth iteration of the same basic character, just with a different name.

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  4. After all the logical fallacies presented as irrefutable proofs in The Da Vinci Code, I’ve had no desire to read another Dan Brown novel.  I get enough of that sort of thing watching left-wing politics.

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  5. It the old serial business model. Goes back years. Not great for  literature but does sell books.

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  6. I read The DaVinci Code.   I have no further interest in Dan Brown.

    I would read a thriller by 10 Cents.   Dime, if you need a pseudonym, try Chaussette Maladroit.

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  7. MJBubba:
    I read The DaVinci Code.   I have no further interest in Dan Brown.

    I would read a thriller by 10 Cents.   Dime, if you need a pseudonym, try Chaussette Maladroit.

    Now all I need is 999,999 more.

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  8. John Walker:

    civil westman:
    I get the same sense whenever I see Tom Hanks in anything after his first few roles.

    Tom Hanks: Never travel with this guy.

    Someone should put up of post of things not to do that we have learned from movies. The murderer is usually the big star who seems to be in the movie for no reason.

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  9. MJBubba:
    Dime, if you need a pseudonym, try Chaussette Maladroit.

    Terrific! And the rest of us don’t have to wait for him to do so. Let’s go with it, and let us be correct with Chausette Maladroite.

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  10. jzdro:

    MJBubba:
    Dime, if you need a pseudonym, try Chaussette Maladroit.

    Terrific! And the rest of us don’t have to wait for him to do so. Let’s go with it, and let us be correct with Chausette Maladroite.

    I like the sound of Dixcen Times.  Call me Dixcen for short.

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  11. 10 Cents:
    Do you have a pen name generator? Ernest Sockingway, Sock Twain, and Charles Sockins are the best I have come up with on my own.

    Try my Pass Phrase Generator.  Set the number of words to 2, turn off Number, and press Generate.  If you don’t find one you like, press New Seed and Generate again.

    Here’s the output of a run I just made.

    costate coxcomb
    foxglove tarn
    bangle mel
    seacoast scepter
    weirdie geode
    oriole epicarp
    brig ralline
    punk frazzled
    mow colonic
    rhyming stubbed
    surtout demijohn
    maxim trisomic
    turbary shofar
    bluish pontiff
    beading cantus
    cagey redbug
    retiring cellaret
    ethane hat
    eyra tawdry
    appoint aurum

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