Origin is a wonderful work of fiction conveyed to us through the creative and witty mind of Dan Brown. Origin takes place in Bilbao, Spain and begins with Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology, as he attends a conference at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao hosted by Edmond Kirsch, Langdon’s former student and billionaire futurist. Edmond believed he had answered the arguably two most important questions in existence: “Where do we come from?” and “Where are we going?” This of course sparks the debate between religion and science with neither side gaining any leverage before the presentation.
The night quickly spirals out of control, and the responsibility to answer these question falls onto the shoulders of Professor Langdon. Accompanying him on his journey is Ambra Vidal, the museum’s director who helped Kirsch put on the event. Their search for answers takes them all over Spain as they scour the country for clues to unlocking Kirsch’s discovery while facing many trials and obstacles along the way.
Robert: Robert is a professor of Symbology at Harvard, who always ends up entangled in some sort of adventure regarding his studies. Robert always has some interesting tidbit or fact to add when he takes part in a conversation, and his knowledge of symbols and eidetic memory lead to some brilliant discoveries that pave the way for rest of the story.
Ambra Vidal: Ambra is the director of one of Spain’s most famous modern art museums. She struggles with divided love and her desire to right the wrongdoings that took place the night of Edmond’s presentation. I found Ms. Vidal to be a mildly confusing character because while other characters described her as “fiercely independent” her actual character seemed reliant on the people around her for support. She is smart and quick on her feet, but I found it a little strange that she is repeatedly called “independent” when she clearly relies on Robert throughout the book.
Edmond Kirsch: Edmond, on the other hand, most definitely lives up to the other characters’ descriptions of him as “brash, drama-loving, occasionally irrational,” and of course, “a genius.” Edmond is tech-obsessed, and though his high-tech inventions don’t exist in real life yet, it is intriguing to see the possibilities of future technology. Edmond causes quite a stir up in the story, and his character takes credit for a humongous plot twist.
Bishop Valdespino: Bishop Valdespino is a very religious man who is perhaps the closest friend the king of Spain has ever had. The bishop remains a mysterious character throughout the book, and his true colors only come through in one of the final chapters. While I was reading, the Bishop remained a mysterious yet interesting character to me because save for when he is with someone he obviously trusts, he acts cruel and closed off. The development of this character is exciting to follow, and I guarantee that you’ll be shocked by the final result.
Admiral Luis Ávila: A retired navy officer and former drug addict, I guess I need to cut the man some slack. However it’s so hard due to the terrible choices he makes with his life! After the death of his wife and kids, Ávila turns to substance abuse. His savior (or so he thinks) is the Palmarian Church, or a church that worships the “old ways,” when Spain was ruled by the dictator, Franco. Ávila’s utmost devotion and naivety put him in a lot of trouble throughout the book, and I have to say while I pitied him on some occasions, I couldn’t bring myself to sympathize with him.
Prince Julián: The future king of Spain keeps his intentions to himself until the end of the book. Based on these intentions, I can say that I did enjoy this character. He is respectful and considerate, and when a huge tragedy befalls him, he’s able to harness his emotions and do what he knows is best for Spain.
I appreciated Brown’s choice to use Spain as the setting for his novel. There are many interesting locations within Spain included in the setting such as Sagrada Familia, a controversial church designed by the architect Antonio Guadí that features never before seen styles of architecture for a religious building. Every single location in this book is real, which I found fascinating as Dan Brown figured out a way to incorporate a mini history lesson with each place.
The plot of this story is filled with so many twists and turns! Just when you think you know what’s about to happen, Brown incorporates a plot twist, and everything you thought you knew falls to pieces. In this way, the story is kept alive, and it stays interesting as the reader teeters on the brink of unraveling the plot. My only complaint would be that I was able to figure out one of the plot twists before it was revealed. Normally this wouldn’t be much of a complaint save for the fact that Dan Brown normally crafts his books in ways that make it near impossible to figure out the twist by a series of elaborately masked clues that he hides within the text. All the clues come together at the end of the book, but typically they don’t make sense until they’ve been explained. It’s possible I’ve simply gotten used to Brown’s writing style, or maybe the clues were too visible this time around.
I personally love Dan Brown’s writing style. He always creates an elaborate plot filled with subtle clues towards the solution of the mystery created in the story. This novel was a treat to read from start to finish and all of the plot elements flowed nicely; the small bits of humor and themes of sacrifice and rebirth peppered throughout this novel don’t disappoint. My favorite part of all of Dan Brown’s books is probably the discrete facts that are always slipped in through Robert’s point of view. Normally one or two of these will stick with me, and the same held true for this story. This time it was that the FedEx logo forms an arrow symbolizing the goal of the company. I would highly recommend doing some research on some of the ideas, symbols, and theories mentioned in this book, as some of them are well worth checking out and give back valuable and intriguing information.
The Science and History:
Due to the nature of Edmond Kirsch’s discoveries, many scientific theories and experiments are included to assist the reader in understanding the importance and background of Edmond’s work. Among these are Darwinism or Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Miller-Urey experiment. Darwinism was Charles Darwin’s theory that explained evolution as we know it today, from ape to human. The Miller-Urey experiment was when two scientists, Miller and Urey, came together to try and recreate the instant life was created on earth. They did this by creating a primordial soup, or a mixture that simulated the condition on earth before life appeared. Though the experiment failed to produce life, it did produce amino acids and is considered a very important experiment to date.
On top of this, some of Spain’s history is also given thanks to Luis Ávila’s entanglement with then Palmarian Church. The church was founded to celebrate the “old ways” preached by Spain’s military dictator, Franco, during Spain’s civil war. Franco used his power to set policies that were responsible for the deaths of over 400,000 of his opponents in concentration camps. He also denounced liberties such as the rights of homosexuals and women’s rights. These liberties have since been accepted, except by the Palmarian Church. The Palmarian Church believed that Spain had gone too far from their old beliefs, and therefore initiated a new pope and gained followers to bring the church back to the way it was when Franco was ruling.
Overall, I found this book to be interesting, exciting, informative, and inspiring. I really enjoyed the background given on almost every location, fact or theory, and symbol mentioned. They’re incorporated in ways that don’t bore the reader; instead, I finished reading feeling content and well informed. Also interesting to read was the recurring theme of religion vs science. I immersed myself in this debate, and I appreciated the deeper level of thinking it caused me to undergo.
I recommend this book for someone who loves to unravel a good mystery or who enjoys reading conspiracy theories. These both happen to apply to me, and let’s just say that I really enjoyed this book! I hope you get the chance to read and to appreciate this novel as I have!