On Origin: A Book Review

I’m not an avid reader of fiction, but after watching two interviews on his book promotion tour, I was interested. Knowing my interest in the interchange between science and religion, my wife (who also saw the interviews) returned from Costco with a copy of Origin by Dan Brown.

For the record, I’ve have not read any of Dan Brown’s other books, so I am not going down the rabbit hole of comparing Origin to any of the others.

Origin is a tale involving science and religion revolving around two fundamental questions that humans have thought about for many years: Where do we came from? Where are we going?

Professor Robert Langdon, a character in other Brown novels returns, As an invited guest, he is attending an event where a former student, well-known futurist and anti-religion atheist, Edmund Kirsch is to announce a major finding that (according to him) will disrupt the foundation of world religions.

Most of the story takes place in three different Spanish cities: Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona – with a small portion in Budapest, Hungary. Having been to Barcelona, I greatly enjoyed Brown’s use of La Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera (Casa Mila). These both unique structures from famed architect Antoni Gaudi are local treasures. We also visited the Abbey at Montserrat outside of Barcelona.

The fast-paced story held my attention. Given the different locations and the story’s short time frame, Brown dedicates each chapter (which are short) to a specific setting with different characters. This format indicates of simultaneous events.

Brown combines adventure, history, present-day thoughts, religion, a royal family, Artificial Intelligence, and real-life settings to engage readers in the storyline. Being curious, I researched some of the organizations and places in Origin – and yes – they are legit.

There is enough science within Origin to engage readers – but not enough to require a science background. The religion side is small, while the science-religion interrelationship is (at best) shallow. As with any topic, generalizations provide the broad thought, but that can also lead to misconceptions. One incident caused me to cringe, but (at the time of this writing) I can’t find it.

Whereas Origin creates an atmosphere for discussions on the creation topic for readers, some consider Origin to be another God vs Science situation where one must make a choice. The actual wider range of thoughts is not part of this novel – which also reinforces the choice notion. I also note that the religious conservatives in this story do not seem to promote the same type of creationism as the Young Earth Creationists and organizations as Answers in Genesis and their Creation Museum.

Whereas some may take Brown is publicizing an anti-religion view – and possibly his – I did not take his text that way. Professor Langdon’s final conversation with a priest shines light on those who see how religion and science do coexist.

Origin centers around Edmund Kirsch’s big announcement. I’m not going to give it away, but I will state that it’s not what I expected – and it is worth pondering.

In closing, I enjoyed Origin and recommend it. I found it to be easy and engaging reading. Although it is based on many truths, the story is still fiction – but the two key questions are worth thinking about: Where do we came from? Where are we going?

Enjoy a few pictures of La Segrada Familia, La Pedrera, and Montserrat.

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34 thoughts on “On Origin: A Book Review

  1. Thank you for this, Frank. I did read two of his books. They were enjoyable but I probably would not have considered reading this one without your review. I shall ponder the possibility 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed this. I’ve read a couple of his books. Although he takes a lot of heat from writers out there about being too formulaic, I found them highly enjoyable. If an author makes me want to keep turning the pages, then I’m a happy camper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie,
      Great point – that is the reader continues turning pages, more power to the author! Interesting that I’m in the minority because of the commenters have read more than one of Brown’s books.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your review, Frank. I read one of his books; I think it was the most popular. It was given me as a present by a friend when I was recovering from a heart attack, and couldn’t move much.I read it to the end, and wouldn’t read another, unless it was highly recommended. After reading your review, I don’t think I’ll read this one. My biggest problem with Brown, is that I had the impression that he was leading my by the nose all through. It seemed to me like a shaggy dog story. Your description of the book reminded me of an author I read many years ago by a scientist about whom I heard from scientists, that he might not be all that much of a scientist, but they gave him much credit for his literary prowess. Then later, I heard from literary types that he wasn’t such a fine writer, but he was a well known scientist. In this case, I think the basic problem is that the writer is too shallow (as you mentioned in your review). As you know, I am a religious man. But I see the creation story as a parable, and not as a precise blue print of how the world came into being. I believe that our existence in this world is a mystery that is beyond our knowing, just as many things about the universe are beyond us. I read once something by Andre Malraux, in which he said that we could no more understand the meaning of life than a spider on a race track could understand the rules of horse and buggy races, before one of them ran over us… that description stayed with me…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Shimon,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Brown and creation. In terms of this book, so there was much going on, no author can cover everything. Although it may be shallow about the science-religion interchange, it still kept me engaged … plus he used actual thoughts and places. I like your thoughts about creation. Keep in mind that creation is not an emphasis in this book.

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    • But I see the creation story as a parable, and not as a precise blue print of how the world came into being. I believe that our existence in this world is a mystery that is beyond our knowing, just as many things about the universe are beyond us.

      I agree with this, Shimonz.

      In my life I have tried to be religious but have found that I can not. Still, the reality that we and the world exist cries out for a cause. As an engineer and rational person I think it is obvious that complexity cannot arise out of nothing. Yet, that is what the evidence seems to be, that the material universe simply derives from the very nature of the matter/energy produced by the big bang.

      Philosophically, I accept the rationale of the anthropomorphic principle: the universe is here because we exist to experience it. The “cause”, as you say, is probably unknowable. But of this I am certain: I have seen no evidence of a miracle or devine intervention that cannot be explained by natural logic, and that includes remissions of disease by the immune system. Bad things happen to good people.

      Seems I recall reading an old discussion of existence that went something like this: The student asks the philosopher what supports the Earth from falling? The philosopher replies that it rests on the back of a gigantic turtle. Then, what supports the turtle, the student asks? “It’s turtles all the way down,.” the wise man replies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jim,
        Thanks for your thoughts and I appreciate them. Although I don’t see Origin revolving much around the thought differences around creation, I’m sticking to the topic of this book review. No offense.

        Like

      • Thank you for your comment, Jim. I can understand your perspective. I have to say, first of all, that the big bang theory in my eyes is another turtle. Aside from that, I have seen miracles and in my life, and they were always explained very rationally. I consider rationality a very human trait, leading at times to the rational explanations of things, causes, and solutions that do not exist. To me, one of the great weaknesses of man is that he sees himself as the center of the universe, and likes to illustrate everything in his own image. One of my favorite stories in English Literature is the mysterious stranger by Mark Twain. My religious beliefs don’t offer me an explanation for the existence of the world, or life, but a method to deal with it in my own.

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  4. Ok, ok – based on your post, and the clear warning I got from reading the plot review on Wikipedia, AND fully remembering the P.T. Barnum “There’s a sucker born every minute” embarrassment I felt after finishing Brown’s ‘The DaVinci Code,’ I went ahead anyway and put ‘Origin’ in my public library hold queue.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m glad you shared your interest in the book, Frank. I read The DaVinci Code, but none of his others. I read a lot and enjoy picking up books recommended to me. Sometimes I’m looking for something fast paced, and I’ll put it on my list. It’s getting a little long, but I get there eventually! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I read Brown’s big blockbuster The DaVinci Code and though it was new and fresh at the time, it began to wear on me a bit towards the end…I’ve heard some good things about this one that you’ve reviewed, but I have to approach his writing with a certain kind of mindset. It’s not the religion/science thing that bothers me and I don’t think of him as being sacrilegious..it’s fiction (people need to lighten up), but the one time I did read him, it was full such detail and some that I found laborious. You have to be in the mood for his type of writing, unless it’s changed!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brigitte,
      Thanks for adding your input here. Good stuff. Great point about his work being fiction – which is one of the reasons I liked it because he weaved together many nonfiction points into a fiction story.

      Good news for you … well, if you end up reading the book. I did not find it to be laborious. Keep in mind that I don’t have other Brown books in my memory for comparison, but I have a sense of what you meant! Hope all is well with you.

      Like

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