My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Nobody will suggest that Dan Brown is a great writer. At a technical level, his work is fine (which could just as likely be his editor’s doing), but at the higher levels of storytelling, it has its weaknesses. Origin is no different.
Among other issues, there is a seeming lack of consideration for narration and POV–ineffective use of limited point of view, too many characters given POV that we don’t care about, times when the story is in the POV of a character that has access to important information that we are conveniently not given, too much telling and not enough showing. The writer has a full toolbox of tricks to keep the reader turning pages, such as constant (and unnecessary) POV jumps that drag the narrative out and make the story seem longer than it is. But these never amount to more than tricks, the sort of thing that would get an up and coming author labeled as amateur. Brown always comes off as an art history professor who writes novels on the side.
I finished Origin in record time, for me at least. This is par for the course when it comes to Brown’s books. There is certainly something to a Dan Brown book. However, Origin is not as compelling as previous Langdon novels. For one, this story is a lot more passive than the others. Things just seem to happen around Langdon, and he goes along for the ride. There are far fewer puzzles for the renowned symbologist to solve, and even those feel less significant. And there’s the grand reveal at the end, the basis of a Dan Brown book. I will not spoil this ending, but will say it was not surprising. It “reveals” an idea that has been in public discourse for years, adding relatively little to the discussion. And the reveal of the culprits behind the shenanigans in the book is also unsurprising and easy to predict.
And yet, I did finish the book, so I cannot help but give it three stars. Not the best writing, no, but somehow compelling nonetheless. What that says about how we define good writing, I’m not sure. Take that as you will.