A mystery thriller — what do I expect from a book that categorises itself as that? A deep, dark mystery to start with. Woven into a tight, intriguing plot. A protagonist as bemused as the reader about the main plot, but a lot smarter to overcome the clues and riddles en route. If it’s a Robert Langdon mystery, I am trained now to expect a bit less of the later. Of course, with abundance of information on art - the artists, the structures, the paintings - delivered as riddles relevant to the overarching plot.
Unfortunately, Origin fails on all counts for me. The mystery it intends to solve is too thin — the plot is stretched too long. It isn’t even a good Langdon story. All our polymath symbologist is made to do throughout is sit through the tiresome travelogues and some bootless scientific blabber. All in hope of an earth-shattering reveal — unfortunately even that fails to be one.
Langdon is flown to Bilbao, Spain by his old student Edmond Kirsch to witness his presentation with potentially far-reaching effects on the religions all around the world. And of course, humanity too. He has already unnerved a set of prominent religious figures by a special and exclusive preview of his discovery. “Where do we come from? Where are we going?” The enigmatic billionaire futurist has the world’s eyes with a promise to answer these longstanding questions. But a brain-washed assassin throws the world into disarray by eliminating Kirsch. Only hope rests, then, on Professor Langdon and the bold & gorgeous sidekick, Ambra Vidal, to uncover their friend Edmond’s discovery.
There are a lot of subplots involving, of course the brainwashing of the assassin and his quest to stop the protagonist duo on run, the family feud in monarchy and the struggle of the Guardia Real on whom and what to trust. And then their is Edmond’s most prized invention, his own personal Jarvis - the AI assistant Winston.
In short, there is a lot going on here. But it is presented in a bloated form where nothing captures reader’s attention or gets his pulse rising. All plot twists are easy to see miles ahead. The chapter-end cliffhangers just tend to delay some trivial or glaring surprises. Same applies to the now-renowned Brown template of holding back from reader a specific information that character owns. I admit it might be a style of keeping readers intrigued. But when the substance is not meaty, one just feels cheated. And finally the ending is anticlimactic — feeble, obvious and noncommittal.
What about the knowledge sharing sessions of Langdon, you may ask? Yes, there are a lot. And I have been forthcoming in my dislike for the irrelevance of them. This is what I had said in my review of Inferno. “Many a times, the novel reads as Brown’s travelogue of places during his research, just there to increase the page count.” That hasn’t been fixed in here too. Rather it has gone worse. In Inferno, at list the flabby travelogue were towards solving a clue. Here the sessions are just feckless, as Langdon wanders on, contemplating.
With Origin, Brown intended to take on a strong idea — about creation and destiny. About God’s existence. A deft rigidness while editing could well have turned this into terse, riveting story. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars