By Shruti Vairagkar (L&T Howden)
Origin is the fifth instalment in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown. A thriller released in October 2017, it combines elements of science, religion, and mystery. After visiting several cities across Europe and United States of America in the last four books, the reader now traverses through the Spanish cities of Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona.
Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University is invited to an event by his former student and futurist, Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch has not only developed super computers and AI, but also found the answers to how did life evolve on this planet and where do we go from here. He is poised to unveil his discoveries to the world through a dramatic presentation hosted at the Guggenheim Museum. However, before the fateful reveal he is assassinated. Langdon and the museum director Ambra Vidal who is also the future Queen of Spain embark on a quest to release the presentation. There are parallel storylines of the albeit fictional Spanish Royal Family and the AI assistant developed by Kirsch.
This book has all the elements of a Dan Brown novel. Langdon’s eidetic memory which the reader is reminded of every few pages, proves handy as he tends to find himself in sticky situations ever so often. He is accompanied by another female companion in the form of Vidal. She is, needless to say beautiful, much younger than Langdon, accomplished, and well educated. And a sidekick to Langdon’s role. And history mixed with symbols and religion, of course.
What works in the book’s favour is the pace and the subject. It moves quickly and the parallel storylines are narrated alternately which keeps the reader intrigued. Evolution of life forms vs creationism too is explored. However, the scientific accuracy of the details is better left to be determined by the experts. The writer often indulges in lengthy explanations of landmarks, poets and writers, and organisations. For example, he has described Uber and how it operates when a character avails its cab service.
I often found myself sighing at several situations and wondered why couldn’t the book be shorter at the end of it. It is a fun read if one is travelling or would like to read something to kill time. It can be avoided if one is not a Dan Brown fan or has a long list of To Be Reads.
As for how did life evolve and where does the future lie has been explored, you will just have to read the book to find out!