“Origin” by Dan Brown


asteriaiconThere’s a new Dan Brown!!!

Robert Langdon is back! Langdon has been invited to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain by his dear friend and former student Edmund Kirsch. Kirsch, a very rich and tech savvy genius who uses computer programs to make predictions (that so far have all come true), has discovered the answers to man kind’s most fundamental questions: Where did we come from and where are we going?  As Kirsch is announcing his discovery to his prestigious guests, and to the world, he is brutally shot and killed. How will we ever know the answers? Robert Langdon to the rescue! Langdon vows to find out what Kirsch discovered, and honor his friend by revealing it to the world. There is just one problem: Someone does not want that information revealed. Could it be the church? What about the King of Spain? Only Langdon can find out! He sets out on his quest with the beautiful Guggenheim museum director Ambra Vidal, who just so happens to also be the future Princess of Spain, and races around the country in an attempt to reveal everything!

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE me some Dan Brown! The problem with Brown’s books is we get them so rarely! It should be a holiday when a new Langdon book is released. To me it is like Christmas morning! I am always torn between wanting to burn through his books right away, but also wanting to take my time and savor every moment!

Brown definitely has a formula to his Langdon books. It is one that has served him well for the last four novels, and this book is no exception. Langdon finds himself in a foreign city, someone dies, he has to find out answers and follow clues and solve puzzles, all with the help of a beautiful woman, and in the end, all little loose ends are tied, the ending is satisfying, and Langdon goes home…alone. And all told in short chapters, making it a very fast paced, easy and enjoyable read!

Dan Brown’s Langdon books always scratch all of my nerd itches at once. I love reading about a nerdy character with its own eccentricities’ like someone who can spout off random nerdy facts all while wearing a Mickey Mouse watch! I love that Langdon has to solve some kind of puzzle or code. I love reading about places all over the world, and learning about cities with rich history. I love that Brown does so much research to bring history alive and relevant to today.  And, while I believe in the advancement of science, and am not a religious person, I appreciate the fact that many people are. Brown seems to be similar, and I love that he always tries to incorporate into his books that science and religion are not enemies, but merely trying to tell the same story, just in a different way.

One of the critiques that I have read by people is that Brown’s stories always take place in a famous old city, of course at tourist attractions no less. To me, that is what makes them brilliant. I can go and google a place I have never been, and know that it exists. I can pull up pictures and see what Brown is talking about, and get the feel of really being there. On a recent trip to Rome, I was able to see some of the places mentioned in Angels and Demons, they even have tours dedicated to taking tourists to the famous attractions. In Rome, tourism is their primary industry, and Dan Brown certainly helps them attract tourists. Plus, some of the major places mentioned in the book were not the huge churches you see very easily in Rome, such as the Vatican and the Pantheon. Many of them were little churches, full of famous artist’s work that would otherwise go unnoticed, churches that sort of blend in with their surroundings.

In Brown’s latest novel, technology is a character itself. Literally. We have a character named Winston, who is an automated docent in the museum, and who helps Langdon along the way. He is a computer program designed by Kirsch, one who knows everything about his creators life, including schedule, research notes, phone call and email history, banking information, and even his medical records. Winston was designed to observe human behaviour, and to learn how to mimic it, and even encouraged to develop a sense of humour.

The technology mentioned in the book is absolutely mind boggling. I am torn between being encouraged by some of the advances, and being terrified by them. The headset technology used by the guests at the Guggenheim museum is brilliant. Each headset is placed on the face, rather than in the ears, which utilizes bone conduction technology to interact with Winston, freeing up the guest’s ears in order to have in-person conversations. I thought it was very impressive that each guest could have a personalized guided tour through the museum, and be able to discuss the artwork with the automated docent, even ask questions! In Rome, we went to a few museums, and while we were able to rent headsets that connected to pre-recorded information, it would have been nice to have someone to talk to and ask questions.

Edmund Kirsch himself utilizes the most spectacular technology. He has a personalized oversized smart phone that he designed himself to meet his needs. It connects to Winston, (which, as mentioned had access to every aspect of his life), it had the program that was to be launched to announce his discovery, and it acted as a key to his apartment. Kirsch designed a computer with excessive processing speeds that would allow science and technology to further advance at an unprecedented rate, which he called E-Wave. He drove a Tesla car with an E-Wave vanity plate, that could self-drive…not just park but drive! It could follow a pre-programmed route that he programmed from his front door to his parking space, and could sense obstacles in its path such as people and cars!

While our unknown killer may have silenced Kirsch’s discovery, his very death further heightened it. The world over witnessed his murder, and now everyone wants to know what he discovered. It opened up communication with religious, scientists and atheists alike. His death probably garnered more curiosity than had Kirsch been able to announce his discovery. To further compound it all, the media was constantly updated with information being fed to a website called Conspiracynet.com, which stirred up interest and conspiracy theories even further.

Finally…the discovery. Kirsch used his computer program to find that we did not come from an all-encompassing creator, but from the primordial ooze created by the big bang. He was able to show how we developed, how long it took, and how we formed to the fabulous beings we are today. As to where we are going, that was far more predictable…sort of. The prediction was that by 2050 homo sapiens would no longer exist, but rather a new species would take our place, a species that would still be humanoid, but one that would not be able to exist without technology. Technology would absorb us, and we would have a symbiotic relationship with it; one could not live without the other. While the discovery would be crushing to those that are religious, and cause terror in anyone, Kirsch wanted to remain hopeful. He believed that the technology discussed would be able to eliminate the gap between the haves and the have nots. Technology would help grow food, and provide clean drinking water to everyone. It would allow access to clean energy, further protecting our environment. It would help eradicate disease the world over. It would create new jobs, jobs we have not even thought of yet. Overall, a very hopeful and encouraging picture!

I will leave you with a quote from the novel, one that I found very fitting.

“May our philosophers keep pace with our technologies. May our compassion keep pace with our powers. And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.”

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