I’ve been a huge fan of Dan Brown’s work for years now–I’ve read all of the novels in his Robert Langdon series and even a few of his other one-shot books (Deception Point is really good). As a result, I went into Origin with high expectations, knowing that his books have been consistently amazing. The symbolism and alternative history explained in his other novels definitely showed an amount of painstaking research and thought put into them, and they were wonderful in imparting a set of unshakeable ideas to the reader on different ways to see their world (e.g. who would have thought the Holy Grail was a person, lmao).
Origin, however, falls very short of that mark established in the series. Although it’s something that I’ve wondered about often, most of the novels in the series form an extremely formulaic structure; Langdon is thrusted into an impossibly crazy situation (usually when someone has died), he meets a young, brash, independent woman that’s set on finding the answers. Along the way, there’s like a bunch of history, yada yada, at the end he parts with the woman who thinks about how wonderful Langdon is. Sure, maybe it sounds not-so-formulaic at first, but believe me, you’ll feel different when you read it.
What set the other books apart was the rich historical explanations that paired the adventure. However, Origin is completely lacking in all of that. Sure, there’s a few nuggets here and there, but I think Dan Brown was more focused on developing the action and characters in the novel instead of focusing on what made the others so great. It reads like a pretty typical action book, with the interest being carried on only through the hype of Kirsch’s speech. It isn’t much, and the story is quickly tied up (kinda nonsensically?) at the conclusion of the speech.
I think the hype was pretty unreachable–throughout the novel, it’s implied that it would have “life-changing” consequences by the priests. However, the explanation didn’t live up to it; it couldn’t, I think. There’s also the question of why Bishop Valdespino came out as gay (but not really) in like the last 25 pages of the book and yet led a conservative church for so long.
One of the themes of the novel is the transition between the new and old. There’s a question of necessity regarding science and religion throughout the entire book, and at the end of the novel there’s some more regarding the future political/religious development of Spain in terms of following liberal or conservative policies. It’s pretty interesting, actually, since I haven’t read any other book that tries to touch touchy topics like that. However, I think it’s not super well-developed, since I feel like it was a bit rushed. Regardless, I like how Origin brings up those questions and tries to offer explanations in the context of our current world, or at least what it might be like in a few years.