Thursday, 16 April 2020

What I'm reading: rewriting the Book of Genesis

Dan Brown: ORIGIN


The Da Vinci Code is where most of us first encountered Dan Brown, although his first Robert Langdon thriller Angels and Demons is in my opinion a better thriller and slightly more plausible (the book rather than the movie). The Lost Symbol was clunky (similar to but not as good as the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure), and Inferno was seriously daft.

Now comes Origin, which in some ways is more daring than Da Vinci with its descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a challenge to Christians everywhere, especially Catholics. Now Mr Brown flings mud in the eye of followers of every faith by offering, he claims, scientific proof of the origins of life in the universe. Evolution is also redefined, so Brown sets out to upset Darwin’s disciples almost as much as those (half the population of the USA, we are reminded) who insist that the Six Days of Creation in the Book of Genesis is the only true version of How It Happened.

Dan Brown
Edmond Hirsch, the techno-geek author of this new theory, is murdered to block its presentation, in Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum where Robert Langdon is among the audience. Langdon, like Indiana Jones, is soon on the run again – yes, with a beautiful distressed damsel, of course – and trying to sort out which of the suspects is the real villain. A Catholic bishop is one, the (fictionalized) Crown Prince of Spain is another. We are also introduced to a breakaway Catholic sect – the Palmarians (Google them!) – who have their own cathedral in Andalusia and their own pope (fictionalized here). The Palmarians are ultra-conservative believers and bound to be ultra-offended by the novel.  

The story reaches its climax in Barcelona with its weirdly wonderful church of the Sagrada Familia. Langdon’s ability to decipher codes and symbols is under-used in this adventure. He and his companion are helped by an AI computer voice inspired by Hal in 2001, a borrowing the author acknowledges and perhaps overdoes. As thrillers go, this one, like Inferno, is pretty daft, but – plus or minus the pseudo-science – it’s an undeniable page-turner. The goods are sometimes shoddy, but Dan Brown always delivers.

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