‘The Geeks shall inherit the Earth’. It’s a quote displayed proudly on the licence plate of futurist Edmond Kirsch, who happens to be one of the lead characters of Dan Brown’s latest thriller Origin. And that statement sums up what Brown attempts to tell his readers in his voluminous book running into over 100 chapters.
The story opens with Kirsch addressing three religious leaders just after a meeting of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He tells the heads of Islam, Christianity and Judaism that he is going to unmask what all religions have propagated so far. And what follows is an epic presentation that Kirsch unveils, three days later, at the majestic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, with a proclamation that it will change the face of science and religion forever. It is this proclamation that Brown plays up and allows an entire book to take shape from, while readers attempt to figure out what had Kirsch intended to disclose. Trust Brown to bring out a page-turner that is going to leave you wondering what the climax will be all about.
Several reams of print are dedicated by Brown in describing the Guggenheim Museum, which is a perfect blend of modern and contemporary art. The story takes a dramatic turn as Robert Langdon, the Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the museum and attempts to put together the pieces of a puzzle that questions the origin of the human race. Kirsch’s presentation—which, he claims, will shake the foundations of organised religion—is cut short by a sudden act of violence. Wrongly accused of kidnapping, Langdon goes on the run with Guggenheim Museum’s director Ambra Vidal, who also happens to be engaged to the heir to the Spanish throne.
The book throws up two vital questions in the beginning—‘where are we coming from?’ and ‘where are we going?’—and the reader is kept on tenterhooks to find answers to these. Brown has a knack for building up drama. He weaves his plot very neatly, paying attention to every small detail possible in explaining an architectural or historical fact. But what he lacks in Origin is sustaining the momentum while unraveling the plot. The climax is quite tepid, and the reader is left wondering what the fuss was all about.
It’s an absolutely riveting book that completely falls flat towards the end. The urgency with which a reader rushes past the first 300 pages is lost as one nears the climax, which becomes predictable. His mysteries are easy to guess and the deliberate attempt to divert suspicion on innocent men is bound to generate lukewarm interest from readers.
To give credit where it is due, Brown highlights a pertinent question of our times. In a world where the clash between religion and atheism is ever so stronger, the novel attempts to have a world where the co-existence of both is essential for the human race. Would God stop to exist when AI takes over is questionable and Brown presents a smattering of views—from religious leaders and scientists—on this topic.
For what it’s worth, the book is an ode to Spain’s beauty. The writer impresses with the research he has done on Europe, but then this isn’t a promotional guide for Spain tourism. Some readers might get floored by the way the author painstakingly describes the statistics of Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished church, La Sagrada Familia, or the artworks on display at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. But most would want the author to be less of a tourist guide and more of a thriller writer and churn out stories that are a little more than travelogues.
Die-hard Brown fans can pick up this tome for a one-time read, but there is nothing you will miss even if you don’t. It is a decent story that could have been written in half the number of pages with lesser adjectives and even lesser historical details of Spain.
Towards the end, there’s a reference to Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it”. One just hopes that Brown is kind to his readers and attempts to write something that can match up to the magic of The Da Vinci Code, his most popular book till date. It is time that Brown realised that his books are becoming somewhat boring and repetitive. For it is only so much that a writer can exploit a Harvard professor and his love for symbols and try to weave this into a tale amidst the backdrop of some stunning locale.