An Exercise

in Diminishing Returns:

An 8List Review

of Dan Brown’s


By Tim Henares

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Ever since the controversy of “Da Vinci Code” propelled his name to unparalleled heights occupied only by female writers like J.K. Rowling and (shudder) Stephenie Meyer, Dan Brown has taken it upon himself to find more and more ways to keep Harvard Symbology professor Robert Langdon from actually doing his job and teaching his students.

His latest novel, “Origin,” an immediate best-seller, may be frowned upon by critics who believe the man can’t string two coherent sentences together without calling every single building or work of art “celebrated” or “renowned,” or drowning you in either exposition or adjectives, but it cannot be denied that the book remains to be a page-turner, albeit less and less gripping than those that came before it. Here’s how we found the book, with minimal spoilers ahead.

8. We open with a shaggy dog story.

If you don’t know what a shaggy dog story is, then you will be terribly frustrated with how “Origin” begins. Essentially, a shaggy dog story is a long-winded narrative that leads to a deliberately flat ending or a non-ending. Make of that what you will with a book that is entitled “Origin,” featuring a guy who is heavily into religious symbols and the like.


7. Yet another damsel.

Ah, yes. Another “strong-willed” yet ultimately pliable female character is cast alongside Robert Langdon, making them all practically interchangeable with each other by the end. This time, the potential love interest is also the future queen of Spain. Oh, joy.


6. A quest to right the wrong done to your friend.

A friend, of course, Langdon has never thought of until this very book. With so many close friends he’s had over the years, you would think passing mentions of these people would be completely reasonable to expect, but Robert Langdon seems to compartmentalize all his significant relationships so well that you pretty much have nothing in the way of Easter eggs for future characters.


5. The height of computing intellect.

Winston, early on in the book, is revealed to be an AI programmed by Edmond Kirsch, Langdon’s former student and friend. This remarkable feat of computer engineering is an insanely compelling character and plot device in his own right, and one that any self-respecting mystery fan should quickly recognize.

4. The atheists have their moment.

Edmond Kirsch, the futurist, is also a prominent atheist. In a novel called “Origin,” you can be sure that whatever he discovered would not sit well with the world’s religions, who originally laid claim to the monopoly of “knowledge” on the world’s origins.


3. Yet another mysterious sect.

Who the heck are the Palmarians? Well, you’re going to be sick of them by the end of the novel.


2. Yet another convenient set of twists.

Dan Brown’s novels always point you to obvious suspects who never turn out guilty, and expect you to be caught by surprise by a sudden twist in the end that is so predictable, even Stevie Wonder can see it coming.


1. And yet, you can’t put it down.

Amid all of Dan Brown’s idiosyncrasies and shortcomings as a writer, you can’t help but respect his ability to spin a gripping yarn about things he clearly knows next to nothing about, including Uber. If for his ability to engage you so long as you’re willing to turn off your brain and not still have your intelligence insulted by his writing, you are in for a pretty entertaining read that will 66% of the time be better than the eventual movie starring Tom Hanks.


Final Verdict: This is a serviceable addition to the ranks of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon-helmed novels, albeit inferior to the heights accomplished by “Angels and Demons.” Let’s call it a 4.75/8.


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