I have been a big fan of Dan Brown’s books, all the way back to Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Origin, the latest book in the Robert Langdon series, is no exception. Even though the books follow a fairly predictable structure, i.e. “middle aged professor saves the world from a shadowy foe with attractive young woman against backdrop of old buildings and paintings”, I still enjoy them.
What I enjoy most is the way that a crucial real-world question of philosophy, science or religion is woven into what appears on the surface to be a low-reader-investment thriller. With this approach, I think Dan Brown has managed to reach an audience which would otherwise never pick up a book on the ethics of genetic engineering, comparative religious studies, ancient architecture or synthetic intelligence.
I won’t go into the plot here, you should go and read the book yourself. What I did find, was that I was stopping every 10 pages to look up a painting, building or religious cult on the internet. In order to save you some time, I have created a list of links to some of the key elements of the book. Some of them I had heard of before, others were entirely new to me. There are no real spoilers in the list, hopefully it will save you some googling.
One day I hope to make it to Spain to do an Origin tour, as I was able to do in Rome and Washington D.C. focused on the content of Angels & Demons and The Lost Symbol. Let me know what you thought of the book, and if you think I have missed anything.
(this post has no association with Dan Brown or Penguin/Bantam, links are all to external sites)
Works of Art
Leap into the Void: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1992.5112/
Monotone Silence (nudity): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkHoWUwxEFM&t=5s
The Matter of Time: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/21794
Signs and Meteors (not specifically mentioned, but Joan is referenced):
Where do we come from what are we doing where are we going?:
Vala or the Four Zoas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vala,_or_The_Four_Zoas
Guggenheim – Bilbao
Dohany Synagogue in Budapest
Local photos, plus weeping willow sculpture: https://www.budapestbylocals.com/budapest-great-synagogue.html
Catedral de la Almundena
Royal Palace of Madrid
Palacio de la Zarzuela
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Basilica of Palmar De Troya
(visit by former nun) http://www.mariahallwriter.com/basilica_visit/
Casa Mila (by Gaudi)
video mentioned in book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utaTcNq2mHs&t=5s
La Basilica De La Sagrada Familia
Must be seen to be believed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lYdrhYYWpg&t=733s
Plan for completion by 2026: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ8NcKNlZzg
Barcelona Supercomputing Center
Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen)
Organisations or People
Palmarian Catholic Church:
(totally real) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmarian_Catholic_Church
Spanish Royal Guard
What is a Whiffenpoof?
Symbols of Franco