Origin: What I Thought

Have I had a major falling out with Dan Brown?

I’ve been a huge fan of Brown since I started taking reading seriously – a good fifteen years ago, perhaps. It wasn’t until my late teens, early twenties, that I became a binge reader of his: seeing the dawn rise whilst polishing off one of his books. So, at long last, when Origin was announced for pre-order, I jumped on it.

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This begs the question: why didn’t I post this review a little over two years ago?

It’s clear from my blog posts that I’ve finished various other reads between October 2017 and now.

Guys, I just could not get into Origin no matter how hard I tried. Not until around the Chapter 90 mark, anyway. It took some dedication and convincing myself not to give up on it.

One of the main reasons for this, I think, is that since October 2018, I’ve been heavily into the study of creative writing itself, through my BA and now my Master’s. This means that I’m learning various techniques that contribute to “good writing”. “Good writing,” I’ve realised, can sit questionably poles apart from a “successful writer”.

Dan Brown isn’t a bad writer, per se. For the most part, I was noticing techniques and titbits that perhaps his editor should have picked up on (the repetition of words and unnecessary waffle being just two examples). His writing had become very predictable to me, both due to my study and due to being generally familiar with his structure and use of character.

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For example, Ambra. The female characters used in his novels seem only to serve the purpose of adhering to Langdon’s ego. Everytime Robert Langdon is called on/finds himself involved in a little mission, he attracts the attention of a woman. Not so bad if you’re reading a Brown novel for the first time, of course. But then again, why are we still at the point where this needs to happen?

The subject matter of the dangers of AI was written convincingly – great – but what was the use of Ambra (especially her drab hint at feelings upon her exit)? The story could have taken less of a predictable turn had Robert taken Prince Julian along with him, instead. Commander Garza, even. I’m not sure female sidekicks are needed anymore: less so as love interests. Eye-roll inducing, to say the least. Will Langdon not marry any time soon?

I will say I enjoyed the use of Winston. Without revealing too much, I feel Brown treated his character with just the right amount of human, though who’s to know the future of AI? Only AI itself will truly know.

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Through reading Origin and other mysteries/thrillers, I feel I’ve become too accustomed to the genre – the structure of plot specifically. The more I read of them, the more ‘meh’ I feel. As I say, I never became properly ‘hooked’ until around the Chapter 90 mark – a couple of twists and turns finally drew me in. But I think it was the combination of the predictable structure and Brown’s use of characters – would I go as far as saying caricatures? – that bored me overall.

The element that lifts up Brown’s writing, for me, is the obvious level of research he puts in to his novels. Yes, the facts can become a little waffly, yes it sometimes feel he’s bulking out the story with them. However, I feel they add a level of depth to his novels that we simply wouldn’t find anywhere else. Of course, without them, there wouldn’t be much of a plot to follow: just a man and woman running aimlessly across an interesting European city. Private jets, also. Always private jets.

Has Origin put me off a future Dan Brown purchase?

I mean. No. I’ll likely be a lifelong fan. I like how he incorporates contemporary issues, blending them with history lessons of sorts. I’ll just remain hopeful that the next female he features doesn’t make my eyes roll into the back of my head.

***/*****

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