Audiobook Review: Origin by Dan Brown
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Book 5 of Robert Langdon
Publisher: Random House Audio (October 3, 2017)
Length: 18 hrs and 9 mins
Narrator: Paul Michael
I read this one as a treat to myself. Say what you will about Dan Brown, but the man how to write a page-turner, especially in his Robert Langdon series which frequently combines elements of the mystery-thriller genre with interesting ideas about art, history, and science. There’s a lot of entertainment value in his books, and after the stressful month I’ve had (not to mention a string of less-than-satisfactory reads) I decided that I deserved a break with some much needed brain candy. Hence Origin.
I’ll begin by saying I’ve read all the Robert Langdon books and enjoyed most of them, so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into when I started this. Our favorite professor of symbology is back, this time all dressed up for an important evening at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement by a former student named Edmond Kirsch. In the two decades since Langdon had first taught him, Kirsch has become a billionaire celebrity, making a name for himself as a genius inventor and futurist who specializes in using technology to accurately predict the path the world would follow. Now the world is holding its breath to see what he will say next. In the years leading up to this night at the Guggenheim, Langdon only knows that Kirsch had been working on something big—a reveal that the futurist claims would alter the face of religion and science forever by answering the two most fundamental questions about human existence: Where do we come from? And where are we going?
On the entire planet, there are only a handful of people who are aware of the full details behind Kirsch’s mysterious presentation. However, a shadowy organization has caught wind of the earth-shattering information Kirsch plans on sharing with the world, and they will go to any lengths to shut him down. When the night inevitably devolves into chaos, Langdon suddenly finds himself partnered up with the smart and beautiful Ambra Vidal, a museum director who was helping Kirsch orchestrate his high-profile event. As the only two people who can salvage the evening’s plans, they find themselves fleeing to Barcelona following a trail of clues that would ultimately unlock the secret of Kirsch’s big discovery, meanwhile dodging police and agents from the Spanish Royal Palace who are trying to bring them in for questioning.
In other words, this story follows the classic Dan Brown formula, and if you’ve read the previous Robert Langdon novels, nothing here will really surprise you. Still, I’m enjoying the series’ shift towards themes of futurism and cutting edge technology while still remaining close to its roots of art, religion, and history, which were some of the central topics in the earlier books like Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. In Origin, however, some plot aspects even venture into the edges of science fiction, albeit the kind that deals with more current (or near-future) technology and ideas. Blending together the modern and the not-so-modern, Brown takes readers on another gripping adventure, this time delving into the age-old debate of Religion vs. Science, but there’s no agenda-pushing of any kind here, just a straight-up mystery-thriller built around the theme.
My favorite thing about Origin though, was the setting. This being a Robert Langdon book, you just know there will be a lot of famous historical landmarks and details about the architects and artists involved in the plot. Most of this story takes place in Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. There’s so much history here, and so many amazing places to see. Anyone who has ever been to La Sagrada Familia for example can tell you there’s nothing else quite like climbing to the top of the towers and looking down at the staircase spiraling down into the abyss, and I was so thrilled when I found out that a large chunk of the story involved Gaudi’s famous church. Here’s one thing I can say about Dan Brown—even though he can sometimes go a bit overboard with his info-dumping, he is also fantastic with using descriptions to bring out the true splendor and magnificence of a place.
The other thing Brown knows how to do really well is write an unputdownable book. Sure, few would describe his writing as elegant or his storytelling as original, not to mention the plot was a bit predictable and I think he might overplayed the climax and ending. Still, none of this changes the fact that Origin was just plain fun. On a pure enjoyment level, I would even say I had a better time with this than a lot of books that could be described as more “literary” or “innovative”. Brain candy was what I wanted and brain candy was what I got. Certainly if you’re a fan of Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon stories, I would recommend this one, and readers who like fast-paced thrillers may want to check it out as well.
Audiobook Comments: They chose a good narrator in Paul Michael, who apparently read for the previous books as well. He’s good at accents, which is important for a story like this which involves characters from all over the world. I was impressed with his ability to vary his voices and the way he brought the story to life. This is the first time I’ve listened to a Robert Langdon novel in audio, but I would probably go with this format again if Brown writes another one and they continue to keep the same narrator.