Dan Brown and the Origin of Pointlessness

If you haven’t heard yet, renowned writer Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown has brought forth upon the world another brick featuring renowned purveyor of symbols, connoisseur of the arts, fanatic of history and enthusiast of Mickey Mouse watches, renowned Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon embarking on an all-new spell-binding adventure to save the world! Offering the usual buffet of Christianity, conspiracy theories, plot twists, baffling tautology and bad writing, narrated in the standard issue boring-Dan-Brown-monotone, “Origin” arrives amid wild speculations of what humanity-changing secret the good professor would uncover this time, the nationality of the drop-dead gorgeous female in distress who will be on the run with him and if Dan Brown has finally learned to write.

Unfortunately, the book turns out to be frustratingly pointless. Edmond Kirsch, renowned computer scientist, and futurist with legions of followers, basically an Elon Musk on steroids, and Langdon’s student and friend (of course he is), announces that he has a major announcement to make, of a discovery that will in a single strike render all of the world’s religions irrelevant. He seems to have found the answer to humanity’s most important philosophical questions, about the origin and destiny of life on Earth. However, then an event happens which will once again necessitate Langdon and his eidetic memory to save the world while outwitting the church, the King of Spain and various confused cops. Oh and the woman is Spanish (Basque, to be politically correct) and on the run with Langdon in Catalonia from among other things, the Spanish Royal family. How exciting! Or is it?

There is something different about Origin. There are no historic puzzles to be solved, no ancient cults to be investigated, no mysterious symbols to be analysed and no old buildings to be searched. Instead, things have gotten rather quite contemporary. This time it is all modern art, contemporary architecture, smartphones, social media, computers and such shiny modern stuff. With France, Britain and most of Italy covered in his previous books, this time Spain serves as the exotic backdrop to Langdon traveling in Gulfstream jets and self-driving Teslas, sipping expensive wine, summoning his eidetic memory, tirelessly analysing architecture and modern art while trying to save the world. Then there is an entire irritating, long-drawn-out subplot of conspiracy theories involving the Spanish royal family, an obscure Spanish anti-Catholic church, William Blake, Winston Churchill, a ‘synthetic intelligence’ etc. The end will blow you away, not because it is awesome, but because how stupid and again, pointless it is, just like the towers of the Sagrada Familia. It is just another application of the Dan Brown template.

The book is bland, boring and terribly written. The uninspiring, hollow storyline has plotholes the size of <insert Dan Brown cliche>. The book is full about modern art and architecture, stuff universally viewed as the epitome of “boring”, which is what the book is. Half of the book is spent describing whatever building or structure Langdon was standing in at that time or whichever incomprehensible art Langdon was looking at, descriptions one cannot connect to or visualise, including the profiles of all the artists who only Wikipedia has heard about and is part of all haute-couture high culture stuff. Being set in Spain and Barcelona, one would expect some gems about Spanish history like the Reconquista or at least about its regional differences, but no such luck. It does mention Uber and FC Barcelona, though.

What the book actually is, is a long rant against religion and the long and tired trope of creationism vs evolution, religion vs Darwin. He goes on and on and on about how stupid and senseless religion is, how ridiculous the people who kill each in the names of their Gods are and how science will ultimately trump religion, the coming of which is inevitable.  Brown, however, centers all his anti-religious arguments against Western Catholic Christianity alone, while saying nothing about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Shintoism or Dinkoism. He even does not touch other Christian establishments like Eastern Catholic or Orthodox churches or various Protestant churches. “Origin” ends up another long diatribe of the legendary problems he has with the Roman Catholic Church.

His rant against religion as an atheist and a “worshipper” of science ends up sounding in the same tones as the rants of the followers of any religion against others. As Yuval Noah Harari would say, as a system of superhuman order of natural and immutable laws or norms and values formed to guide human actions, atheism is just another “religion”, just as Christianity or Communism is and Dan Brown comes across just another fanatic follower trying to prove the supremacy of his God and his belief system over other, stupid followers of other heretic Gods.

Brown shot to fame with the Da Vinci Code, which in all honesty, as a heavily controversial piece of work with a lot of exciting history about Jesus’ bloodline, Knights Templar etc., was a very interesting read since it took the establishment by force. Ditto with Angels and Demons with the Illuminati and more church mysteries. The Lost Symbol was basically a long apology letter to the Catholic church, while Inferno was mostly a luxury guided tour and an ode to Dante wrapped in a very badly written plot. But at least it had a plot. Origin is worse. Its only claim to a ‘plot’ is Kirsch’s announcement which makes you trudge through the book waiting for it to materialise and when it does, turns out to be a monsterous anti-climax, a damp squib that does not reveal anything we don’t already know!

If you would want to waddle through 450+ (terribly written) pages of Dan Brown rambling on how stupid religion is and how awesome science is, cleverly packaged into a half-baked plot interspersed with descriptions of Robert Langdon doing things, a lot of boring modern art stuff and bad visualisations of architecture of various buildings, this book is definitely for you. If not, keep away.

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  • disqus_dor1YsFNCG

    Saarji, long time no see.

    • Thank you! Been busy with the duties of Grihastashramam :)

      • disqus_dor1YsFNCG

        Haha!. Does this has any influence on your decision of purchasing an apartment? :)
        Hope to see you back on Quora too.

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