Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Origin - Dan Brown.jpgFollowing the execution of renown futurist Edmond Kirsch at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao prior to an announcement that, he claimed, would challenge the fundamentals of human existence and thereby replace religion with science, Harvard Symbology professor Robert Langdon is embroiled in a plot to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret, while targeted by a mysterious enemy who always seems one step ahead. And while the early chapters are promising, Origin lacks the thrills and smarts of  Langdon’s earlier capers, with author Dan Brown delivering a formulaic, vaguely compelling romp.

In trademark fashion, ideologies clash in Brown’s latest thriller. Religious leaders incandescent about the ramifications of Kirsch’s findings are potential suspects in his murder, but that drama is diminished by the telegraphing of the story’s overarching villain very early on in the piece. Much of the plot’s momentum is built on Kirsch’s revelations, but readers are made to wait so long for those details, you’ll fear there’s no way it’ll live up the hype, and of course, it doesn’t. Kirsch’s proclamations are the stuff science fiction authors have been hypothesising for ages, and while Brown is certainly entitled to explore this theme too, it lands with a whimper.

The lacklustre punchline mightn’t matter if the lead-up ever moved out of first gear. Origin is insufferably plodding and formulaic, the latter of which can be overcome if the plot, and the prose, had even a fragment of gusto. Richard Stark’s Parker novels retained the same blueprint, but were always exciting, because the stories were told briskly and enthusiastically, replete with interesting characters. Brown’s tale is populated by colourless characters, many of whom are allowed too many pages for mundane internalised monologues. It says something when your post interesting character is an A.I. named Winston. There is just so little bravado in this tale; there’s no velocity. Every thirty or forty pages I would pause and reflect on how another author might streamline certain chapters and scenes; how it could be made pacier.

Packaging religion, science and art, alongside cryptic puzzles and last-minute escapes-from-dire-peril into a cohesive, page-turning potboiler is Dan Brown’s speciality. It was done with aplomb  in Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, and less successfully with its successors. Origin isn’t anywhere near to the author’s best. The hunt for Kirsch’s answers to the questions that have perennially plagued mankind — Where do we come from? Where are we going? — tugs on your curiosity, but its pedestrian unravelling will repress your need to know. 

ISBN: 9780593078754
Format: Hardback (240mm x 156mm x mm)
Pages: 544
Imprint: Bantam Press
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 3-Oct-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom 



Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

9780552173483While I’ve always enjoyed Dan Brown’s thrillers for the unadulterated escapism they provide, Inferno is predictable and unexciting. It plods on, and despite its page count, has little meat on its bone. Sure, it’s perfectly readable, and the die-hards might be satisfied with Robert Langdon’s fourth adventure, but for the rest of us, it’s a mostly tedious romp.

This time round, shockingly, the fate of the world rests in Robert Langdon’s hands. Only our esteemed professor is suffering from that most hackneyed of ailments: retrograde amnesia. He appears to have suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head, and the trauma has decimated his memories of the preceding hours, which, naturally, hold the key to unlocking a great, deadly mystery. What Langdon gradually begins to understand is that a bad guy – the worst guy, who so-happens to be obsessed with Dante and the Plague – is convinced that over-population is humanity’s greatest threat. And that therefore a purge is necessary…

Inferno is a mishmash of tropes and characters readers will be familiar with. It’s all well and good to play homage to the great thriller writers of our time and borrow elements from their work – but this time, things just feel a little too cramped, too analogous. Characters float in and out of the story, their desires are over-explained with dull monologues, and the repeated use of ellipsis and the phrase “never the less” quickly becomes grating.

Say what you will about Dan Brown, but at the very least, he’s always provided action-packed page-turning romps. That’s not the case here. Inferno isn’t terrible. It’s not an insult. It’s just infuriatingly average.

ISBN: 9780552173483
Format: Paperback (198mm x 127mm x mm)
Pages: 624
Imprint: Corgi Books
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 6-Oct-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom